Ever enigmatic Rekha turns 50
I have not been able to figure out Rekha. But no one else has -- not even Rekha herself who turns 50 Sunday.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
She is unarguably the most enigmatic star in Bollywood. No one 'knows' her well. And anyone claiming to do so is a liar.
Rekha lives alone in a home where no visitors are allowed. Her next-door neighbour is Farhan Akhtar. He has never visited her place. In fact I know of no one who has visited her at home.
When I ask her about this startling solitude, she brushes it off as my "biased" opinion.
"You think I'm lonely? That's your view. It needn't be the truth."
From the little that I know of Rekha, I've found her to be extremely sharp and compassionate. Not many people in this self-serving world of make belief (a.k.a Bollywood) have that quality.
Rekha never retaliates. No matter what the hurt, she keeps it within herself and always remains in control over her emotions.
This is something she has learnt to do over the years. The earlier phase of her career and life were turbulent.
Wild stories about her mercurial behaviour kept page three writers active long before page three was invented.
Then something happened in and to her life. Whatever it was it changed her completely. Mellowed her down, smoothened out all the rough edges, transformed the wild child into an enigmatic enchantress.
A lot of people think Rekha is an epitome of cultivated elegance. If she is, then all the more power to her! And I wish more actresses would follow her style and grace.
Rekha never raises her voice and never loses her temper. It's as though she belongs to a coffee table book rather than the realm of flesh and blood.
But under the veneer of the flawless hauteur, Rekha is as vulnerable as the next person. I believe she lives in a world that she has created in her mind. It is a lovely world of enchantment and mystery, mirth and mysticism, fun and heartbreak.
In that oyster she has created a spiral of possibilities, none of them crystallised or obtainable, but nonetheless real enough for her to believe in them.
I thought our first meeting had gone off well until at the end she said she wanted to have a look at my interview with her. Reluctantly I complied. She then asked me not to print the interview because I did not "understand" her.
Childishly I retaliated by writing a scathing piece saying I didn't want to "understand" her, just wanted to interview her.
Typically, she read the damning piece. Rekha does not miss anything. Though she claims not to read newspapers or watch the news, she knows exactly what is going on in any part of the world.
She read my sarcastic piece but she didn't react. She didn't forget but she forgave. Our next conversation took place after a long time. In the interim I had made an effort to connect with her after her truly tranquil performances in Raj Kumar Santoshi's "Lajja" and Shayam Benegal's "Zubeida".
Each time her faithful companion and secretary Farzana responded on Rekha's behalf.
Recently after her first and only appearance on television on "Rendezvous With Simi Garewal", I called her again. There's only one way to reach Rekha. You leave a message on her answering machine on the landline. If she wants, she will call back personally.
After that I threw my coin in the wishing well. My phone rang. And I heard the husky voice on the end: "Subhashji hain? Main Rekha bol rahi hoon!"
I remember how Vivek Oberoi couldn't stop rubbing his ears when the same voice had congratulated him after "Company" was released. Now I know what Vivek meant when he said: "So many people called me after 'Company'. But Ma'am calling was something else."
Even after dealing with stars of every hue and weight for so many years that voice had the power of turning me into jelly. I knew Rekha doesn't call too many people. I knew I had the rare privilege. And I cherished it.
Rekha has a rare star quality. The aura is crucial to her personality. Over the years she has mastered that aura, honed it to a fashion statement. By maintaining exclusivity, not making herself incessantly accessible to the press, not appearing on every channel each time a film of hers is on release, Rekha has shown us why she is what she is.
Nothing in her life is open to scrutiny. Nothing about her stardom is uncommon. And when people say, "Rekha isn't for real" they mean to pay her a backhanded compliment.
What they mean is in a world where stars have lost their sheen by dancing at weddings and attending birthday parties for a price, she refuses to step out of her ivory tower.
It is not as though she doesn't make friends. She does, but only on the sets. After the arc lights are switched off, she heads home to live another dimension of that spectacular subterfuge, which we call life.