Bollywood Blind Item – September 2019 – 21
There was an unauthorized biography released on this veteran actress earlier some years back. Since last year or so, there have been rumours that she was in talks to have her life story written. Now this blind item is saying that the actress herself has been writing her biography. It’s what it says so…
Naturally, with all the
fake biographies being released, everyone wants to know whether this one will be real or as full of rubbish as the Sanjay Khan’s biography was!
If she is penning it down herself, chances are it will be real. At her age, with everything that has been said and written about, why would she feel the need to hide anything. She has certainly lived a very colorful life back in the day with the top heroes chasing behind her.
Now, whether or not other people will let her publish her biography as it is, that’s another question for another day. By the way, Filmfare‘s ex-editor was in charge of writing Big B’s biography at one time. What happened was, they refused to let him write as a biography was supposed to be. What ended up being published was a rosy version of what really happened.
That’s why we have blind items!
Check out this one out from Mumbai Mirror.
CALL her a diva or The Lady in an Ivory Tower, she has for years declined to pen (or ghost pen) her life story, which spans decades in Bollywood. Now the update is that she has been beavering away at a book herself for over a year.
Will it be a tell-all or just some ho-hum compendium of those were the day selfhagiographies? The rest of showbiz wants to know. So, does this diarist… only to a degree but… because her life’s been an open book anyway.
The early years
Born Bhanurekha, the stunning actor was not enamoured by the spotlight and never wanted to be part of the industry, even though she is the daughter of two celebrated film personalities—Tamil superstar Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actor Pushpavalli.
“My mother wanted me to become a career actor. If you ask any actor, they will tell you that they wanted to become an actor from childhood, but I never wanted to become one,” said the actor in a popular chat show in 2004.
Being the daughter of a famous father like Ganesan didn’t pay much role in her career, since he refused to accept both Rekha and her sister Radha as his daughters for much of his life. With no support from Ganesan, it was left to Pushpavalli to raise her children and earn a livelihood by pursuing her acting career. A bout of ill health and rising debts proved too much for Pushpavalli, and she decided to push Rekha into films to sustain the family financially when he was barely 14.
Rekha talks about this period of her life, as excerpted from Yasser Usman’s biography Rekha: The Untold Story: “I was pulled out of the ninth class and made to work when I was 14. At that time it made no sense. It seemed to me that we were happy and certainly well-off. I was not to know how much in debt my mother was till much later.”
Films, however, were hard to come by for the teen. As Usman chronicles in his biography: “Bhanurekha did manage to bag some small roles in Kannada and Tamil films. But finding work was difficult and the pay was meagre. Pushpavalli’s hope was also showing signs of waning. She was coming to terms with the fact that her tomboyish daughter may not be typical heroine material.”
In 1969, however, when NRI Kuljeet Pal was casting for his film Anjana Safar, Pushpavalli convinced the director to cast Rekha in his film, and it proved to be her big break in Bollywood. The film, however, ran into controversy and censorship issues due to a kissing scene with lead actor Biswajit. The film was only released in 1979 retitled as Do Shikaari. The break paved the way for Rekha to get many more roles in the Hindi film industry.
“Within a week, the muhurat of Kuljeet’s brother Shatrujeet’s first film, Mehmaan, starring Bhanurekha, was held in Bombay. Then, on August 20, the film Haseenon Ka Devta (1971) was launched, in which she starred opposite Sanjay Khan. On August 30, Mohan Segal’s Sawan Bhadon went on the floors. Only a month old in Bombay and she had four films in hand,” writes Usman in his book.
An actor is born
Sawan Bhadon (1970) opposite Navin Nischol proved to be a turning point for Rekha. While the film established Rekha’s arrival in Bollywood, plenty of people constantly criticised her for her weight and dusky complexion, and that rankled the actor. In a 2008 interview to a leading publication, the actor said, “I was called the Ugly Duckling of Hindi films… I used to feel deeply hurt when people compared me with the leading heroines of the time and said I was no match for them. I was determined to make it big on sheer merit.”
After Sawan Bhadon, Rekha was part of ventures like Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Kahani Kismat Ki (1973), and Pran Jaye Per Vachan Na Jaye (1974), which were box-office successes.
The success story
During this time, Rekha also made a conscious effort to sign on better films and meatier roles. Notable among them was Dulal Guha’s Do Anjaane (1976), where she was paired with Amitabh Bachchan. An adaptation of a Bengali novel, the film featured Rekha in a negative role, and was a hit.
It was her first pairing with Bachchan who had already delivered hits like Zanjeer (1973) and Deewar (1975) at the time, but she held her own with aplomb. This was to be the start of a memorable association— she went on to do 10 films with him, and theirs is still one of the most-loved on-screen pairings in Bollywood.
In an interview to a leading publication, Rekha described Bachchan as “something I’d never seen before. I’ve never met anyone like him. How can so many good qualities be bestowed on one person? I’m not a fool… When I see a good thing, I can recognise it.”
The superstar era
In the early ’80s, Rekha consolidated her position as an actor of note with memorable films like Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Khoobsurat (1980), Muzzafar Ali’s Umrao Jaan (1981), and Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta (1982).
It was in Umrao Jaan that Rekha shone as a courtesan with her perfect Lucknowi andaaz and impeccable Urdu diction. According to Ali, who spoke to Femina for this story, it was Rekha’s expressive eyes that convinced him that she’d be perfect for the part.
“Smita (Patil) was also a contender for the role, because she had a similar look in her eyes, but I think Rekha had it slightly stronger. Today, I can’t think of anybody who could have done it better. She didn’t throw any starry tantrums, perhaps because she realised that the film was going to get into people’s blood stream.”
In 1987, she starred in Gulzar’s art-house drama Ijaazat opposite Naseeruddin Shah and also played the lead role in Khoon Bhari Maang in 1988 for which she won her second Filmfare Award.
“This was the time when she was actually a superstar and didn’t need any hero for her films to work. It was her super-stardom phase, and many films worked simply because Rekha was in it,” says Usman.
The turbulent times
While the mid-80s spanned super success for the actor, the years after that proved to be tumultuous. Rekha’s films started faring poorly at the box-office, and she started getting fewer offers with the entrance of younger newcomers like Sridevi, Juhi Chawla, and Meenakshi Seshadri.
It was against this backdrop that Rekha married Delhi businessman Mukesh Agarwal in 1990. Delhi socialite and entrepreneur Bina Ramani, who was a good friend of Rekha’s and had introduced her to Agarwal, says, “Once, Rekha stayed with me for five weeks in New York. She was so child-like, spontaneous, and free-spirited, and would easily adapt to any situation. She came to New York to lose herself and experience life as a normal human being. She hated parties and was rather shy.”
As a good friend, Ramani wanted to see Rekha settle down into a happy marriage. She says, “Rekha came to a dinner party of mine once where I secretly hoped she would like a particular bachelor friend of mine.” The shy actor, however, was uncomfortable with the idea.
By that time, Ramani had moved from New York to Delhi, and when she heard about Agarwal from a friend, she was keen to introduce Rekha to him. Ramani says, “I met him and found that there was something about him that was very nice. I called her and she asked me to give her his number. They talked to each other and he later called me in total shock.” Ramani even went to his home to do a background check and found that he led a good lifestyle and ran a successful business in home appliances.
“It was really like an arranged marriage, you know. One day, I got a call informing me that they had gotten married in a temple. I don’t think I saw her any time after or during the period they were married,” says Ramani.
Rekha’s wedding created a huge splash, and she was back in the news. While, initially, she seemed happy, it wasn’t long before the marriage unravelled due to various reasons. In October 1990, seven months after the wedding, Agarwal committed suicide.
Rising from the ashes
After Agarwal’s death, the industry shunned her; Rekha was left with only a few films on hand. One of these was KC Bokadia’s Phool Bane Angaray (1991), which she had signed on before the incident. The film, released eight months after Agarwal’s death, was a super-hit.
Rekha faced another personal setback when her mother passed away in 1991. After her mother’s death, Rekha withdrew from the public eye even more. Post that, none of her films did well, till she managed somewhat of a comeback with Umesh Mehra’s Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996). Around this time, she also featured in Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996).
In the new millennium, Rekha gave the world a glimpse of her acting skills once again in Shyam Benegal’s Zubeidaa (2001). She also played important roles in Lajja (2001), Koi Mil Gaya (2002), and Krrish (2006).
Here and now
These days, Rekha seems to be at peace with herself. A regular at award functions, she still manages to create a stir with her kanjivarams and impeccable makeup. Her presence in the industry, even today, cannot be ignored.
“I can’t say I was a great fan, but after writing this book, I respect her a lot. All of us go through tragedies in life, but the way she overcame them to emerge as someone strong and who remains a star, an enigma, and a diva is truly commendable,” said Usman to Femina.