Priyanka Chopra may have been the talk of the town for becoming a presenter at the Big Oscars ceremony on February 29, but she is certainly not the first Indian star to do this.
That was Persis Khambatta, a Parsi girl born and bred in Mumbai who first emerged as the face of Indian beauty in the giant US-based film industry.
And we aren’t talking about blink-and-miss desi cameos in huge multilingual projects.
Khambatta (October 2, 1948 – August 18, 1998) created cinematic history in 1979 when she sported a bold, bald pate as the memorable Lt Ilia in the hugely successful film ‘Star Trek: the Motion Picture’.
In the sixties, she had been hailed by the American media as “the prettiest Indian girl to be seen in the US in many years” during her stint at the Miss World contest in Miami.
In 1980, she became the first Indian to present an award at the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles.
Watch the video here:
Persis’s role as the Deltan alien in Star Trek remains the highlight of her short-lived career – Hollywood and locally – despite a meaty role opposite superstar Sylvester Stallone in the gritty York cop thriller ‘Night Hawks’ (1981).
Unfortunately, Persis stopped landing top gigs, and her Science fiction films of the 1980s such as Warrior of the Lost World and Mega Force, sank without a trace. This led to her return to Bombay in the early 90s, where she executed a major project as fund-raiser for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity: an anthology of former Miss Indias (Khambatta herself was only the second.)
However, her movie career never really took off again.