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‘Rekha was glamorous, wild she wanted marriage’

Published : Sep 11, 2016, 6:45 am IST
Updated : Sep 11, 2016, 6:45 am IST

After Rajesh Khanna, why did you choose to write a book on Rekha

Yasser Usman
 Yasser Usman

After Rajesh Khanna, why did you choose to write a book on Rekha

After I wrote the biography of Rajesh Khanna, I received numerous mails with people confessing their ignorance about Rajesh Khanna’s loneliness.

While working on Rajesh Khanna’s biography, I also knew the story of Rekha but I was hesitant to talk about it. Rekha is mostly talked with relation to her association with Amitabh Bachchan — as if she has only one aspect to her personality. This one-sided narrative had to be changed. It took me three years to think whether I should write this book or not.

Like Rajesh Khanna, Rekha is also defined by superstardom and seclusion. There’s an intriguing contradiction that the most loved stars of the film industry are also the loneliest.

What were the difficulties you faced while doing research What was the industry’s response Firstly, I knew that it would be difficult to get Rekha talking about herself as she shuns media and is known to not talk about her life at all.

While I tried getting in touch with her manager Farzana, all my efforts ended with the beep of an answering machine.

So I started with people whom Rekha had worked with — co-stars, filmmakers and producers. There was an odd reluctance in speaking about Rekha. Some even went said: “what’s there to write about ” Some very famous filmmakers didn’t speak about her work and talent but only ridiculed her affairs in a sexist way. Some of the things they said are not fit for print.

It is filmmakers like Gulzar saab, Khalid Mohamed, Shyam Benegal, Muzaffar Ali and some co-actors to name a few who shared great anecdotes that gave an insight into Rekha as a person, as an actor.

Rekha refused to talk about herself. Do you think Rekha’s contribution to the book would have made a considerable impact Honestly, initially I thought Rekha would speak with me because I wanted to give an honest account of her life. For the current generation, she is a diva but for a child of the 70s, she was an actor who spoke her mind. However, in 1990, with the suicide of her husband Mukesh Agarwal, Rekha was labelled a murderer, even a witch. This “witch-hunt” changed her completely. I wanted to put things in perspective, if possible change this narrative and was eager to write a balanced story.

When I got a chance to talk to Farzana, her manager, for about 10-15 mins, she was polite and promised to call back. But that call never came. Whatever I have written in the book is not hearsay; it is based entirely on what Rekha said during her numerous interviews. In that manner it is actually her version.

Which is your favourite chapter of the book and why The one on Delhi — her marriage to Mukesh Agarwal and his suicide. It forced Rekha to change from being an outspoken actress to a recluse. Being Gemini Ganesan’s illegitimate child, Rekha always saw her mother being called as the “other woman”. She herself said she craved acceptance from society. While she was glamorous and wild, she wanted marriage. She had numerous affairs and never shied away from accepting them, but it was marriage that she wanted. And only Mukesh was the one who proposed marriage. But his suicide changed everything.

Rekha acknowledges that except Shashi Kapoor no one sent her condolences after the death of her husband. The industry turned away from her.

Do you think other actresses were jealous of a fiery, independent Rekha There was a witchhunt and the industry has always been a closed group and a scared one. Here people are not known to speak their minds. Rekha was an open-minded girl who spoke what she felt and did. She gave fiery statements that were often considered controversial by those who themselves flouted all codes of decency.

Take for example, Nargis Dutt who is known for her closeness with Raj Kapoor was sermonising on Rekha, “She gives the impression to men that she is easily available...” Isn’t this hypocrisy Double standard

Describe Rekha in one word. Eternal fighter.