Mumbai: Parmeshwar Godrej, philanthropist and socialite wife of Godrej group of industries chairman Adi Godrej, died on Monday night at Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai at the age of 71.
A Page 3 regular, Godrej was also recognised for her work on spreading awareness of HIV-AIDS and as an art aficionado and fashion diva.
She was suffering from a lung illness and breathed her last on Monday, the Press Trust of India reported. Godrej is survived by her husband and three children, Nisa, Pirojsha and Tanya Dubash.
One key cause that Godrej took up was spreading awareness about AIDS. In 2004 she co-founded the Heroes project with Hollywood actor Richard Gere to raise awareness about it in India. She also partenered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropy arm of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, through its Avahan programme to combat the spread of HIV.
Godrej also made “significant personal donations to victims of the Gujarat earthquake, and has, at various points, contributed to charities that benefit cancer pateients, or provide education and medicines to the underprivileged, or work in disaster-prone areas," wrote Gunjan Jain in her book She Walks, She Leads: Women Who Inspire India.
She started a musuem in Hyderabad with renowned painter MF Hussain, called Cinema Ghar — a repository of art and theatre.
As a fashionista, Godrej opened a boutique called Dancing Silks at the Oberoi chain of hotels with capital borrowed from her husband. She also designed clothes for Hindi movie star Hema Malini at the insistence of her director friend Feroze Khan for a film in 1975, according to PTI.
“She was a style icon in many ways," said Wendell Rodricks, a fashion designer. “I felt that I had truly arrived when Parmesh bought my saree for the first time."
Her association with the film industry extended beyond style. In 1988, Godrej co-produced the film The Perfect Murder along with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. Later, in 2000, she started a production company along with director Shekhar Kapur to produce commercial and advertisement films.
Godrej took a keen interest in the businesses of the Godrej group, having been a non-executive director of Godrej Properties Ltd since 1989. She also served as a director of Indian Hotels and Health Resorts Pvt Ltd. Besides, she served on the boards of the Gates Foundation, Gere Foundation, American India Foundation, Palace School at Jaipur, Sir Elly Kadoorie School, Sir Anthony Bamford’s JCB, and Ananda Hotels.
In her book Jain says that Godrej’s brief stint as a flight attendant with Air India in the 1960s helped her in various consumer and marketing projects at the group.
She was instrumental in bringing movie stars Kabir Bedi and Zeenat Aman in their first commercial together for Cinthol, the soap brand from Godrej Consumer Products Ltd.
“She was the greatest hostess Bombay ever had," said Kabir Bedi, who knew her from his early days as a model and filmmaker . She had “this great talent for gathering beautiful people in every sense of the word."