Presenting Persis Khambatta

From Miss India to Star Trek—The Motion Picture and Beyond

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About the Book

In 1965, 18-year-old Persis Khambatta became the third woman to be crowned Miss India. After moving to England and then to the United States, she found worldwide fame in the first Star Trek movie in 1979, and in 1980 she became the first Indian presenter at the Academy Awards. The American film industry seemed never to forgive Khambatta for being a non-white woman who refused to do nude scenes. After failing to sustain a career as either a producer or a performer, she achieved a triumph before her sudden death in 1998 with the publication of her book Pride of India: A Tribute to Miss India. Based on contemporary news articles and primary sources, this first biography examines Khambatta’s Hindi and English-language film and television work, and demonstrates the many ways she was ahead of her time as a filmmaker, feminist, and humanitarian.

About the Author(s)

Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer and librarian.

Bibliographic Details

Sherilyn Connelly

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 237
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8195-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4293-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Introduction 1
Prologue: The Minneapolis Panic 5
The Early Years
• 1946–1965 9
Today Bombay, Tomorrow (Miss) Universe 9
• 1966–1969 14
From Bheegi Raat to Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein 14
The Seventies
• 1970–1973 19
From Beloved India to Frozen England 19; Her First Flight 24
• 1974–1977 26
Khambatta in Kenya 26; Khambatta in Kohl 29; Siri, the ­­Power-Adjacent Princess 30; The Eternal August, Part I: The Screening of Persis 32
• 1978 34
The Eternal August, Part II: The Shave of Singularity 34; The Eternal August, Part III: Ilia Is Introduced 41; The Eternal August, Part IV: Rush Hour on the Event Horizon 47
• 1979 60
The Eternal August, Part V: The Blinding of Persis 60; The Eternal August, Part VI: Persis Is Presented 62
The Eighties
• 1980 67
Studio 54 on Parallel 42 67; The Trouble with Exotic Angels 71; Lovin’ that cali lifestyle!! 75
• 1981 79
Denny, Khambatta, and Oui 79; Release the Nighthawks 82; The Esquireman Weekend 85; Birds of a Feather Cannot Always Cohabitate Together 89; The (Mega)force of (Tri)illusion 92
• 1982 95
Persis vs. Soup 95; Hunter vs. Khan 97; The Megafudging of Major Zara 103; The Whitewashing of Octopussy 109; The Prime Minister of India Meets the Pride of India 112
• 1983 115
Devi, Coelho, and Khambatta 115; I Visited the Lost World and All I Got Was This Lousy Hairline Fracture 118; The Perils of Persis on the Idiot Box 119
• 1984 122
The Saints of Imperfection 122; The Battle of the Bandit Queens 124; First Strikes and Last Resorts 128
• 1985 132
The Pride of India’s Perils in the Lost World 132; Waiting for Gandhi 136; Back to Bombay, for Now 140
• 1986–1988 142
MacGyver vs. Hunter 142; The Blinking Eye 143; The Flameout of the Phoenix 145; This Is a Lowe 150
• 1989–1990 154
The Triillusion Dissolution 154; Exile on Main Street: Des Moines 155
The Nineties
• 1991–1993 159
Exile on Main Street: Los Angeles 159; The New Old School 160; Persis Reaches Out 162
• 1994–1995 164
Persis Punches Back 164; Her Journey Through the Past 166; Another Dream Deferred 168
• 1996–1997 170
Pride of India Is Begun 170; India’s Pride Is Serenaded 173; Pride of India Is Published 174
• 1998 177
So Long, It Has Not Been Nice to Know You 177; The ­­Pre-Mortem 179; Persis in the Tower, When the Birds Came 181
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 205
Index 219

Book Reviews & Awards

Winner, Best Nonfiction of the Year—International Association of Working Women Award