The fascination persists. She has survived fads and fashion swings…and has preserved her alluring persona by the manner in which she has chosen to dress, behave and lead her everyday life…early-to-bed-early-to-rise. Thumbing down lucrative endorsement deals and TV shows galore, she is the big screen star actress. Perhaps it's impossible to know her entirely. But that doesn't prevent Khalid Mohamed from donning his interviewing uniform on a Sunday to learn some more about the heart and mind of Rekha
Venue: Sea Bird, a rigidly dusted and polished office room facing the sedate Bandra Sea.
How's your Sunday been?
No different from any day. Every day is an extension of my growth, of everything I've become and want to become. Now you'll ask me what I want to become.
What do you want to become?
The best of myself.
Why this obsession with 'myself'?
(Animatedly) I, me, myself! Tell me, why not? I've always been that way, it has worked for me. Aakhir jaan hai to jahaan hai. I don't do this intentionally, I am…that's it.
Isn't this extremely narcissistic?
It starts that way. Maybe beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, in oneself. So what? I don't care if it's said she's on some sort of spiritual trip, she's obscure, vague, not normal…she wants to be different. I am not so different…people don't want to be common or normal. They have put me on a high pedestal…or think I am alien…or…
You've known various generations of stars. Has anyone else thought this way? Tell me of three such persons.
Why just three? I know so many who have achieved a lot in many fields. Why make comparisons? Why talk only of actors? Take my bai, she had eight kids before she was 30. She's expected to be different by her family, stronger…the same way my life and experiences have taught me to be different.
Ever compare yourself with Meena Kumari?
Jeeeee? Not in any which way. I don't have her background, her culture, her body of work. She was truly a legend, truly mysterious. I've just been given titles - she's a mystery, an enigma, beautiful, inaccessible, invincible…but I'm not any of that.
So how come you never allow me into your house?
The answer's so simple. By hook or by crook, those who must…find their way. My privacy's worked better than any screenplay. Anything connected with my work, the producers meet here…no one comes into my house except family.
What's your bedroom like?
Like me! Basic, simple, real, extremely comforting, unique, warm and aesthetically attractive. Yet it's common, very normal. It just has a bed, I am a big girl, quite tall, and I need a big bed.
No somewhere between king-and queen-sized.
What kind of a bed is it?
Which is the best bed that you've ever slept in?
My mamma's gadi.
How many mirrors in your house?
Are you making me out to be a Fedora? I am not good at numbers. There couldn't be more than one in every room.
Do you remember that much-discussed magazine photograph of yours kissing a mirror?
That was an innocent moment suggested by Gautam (Rajadhyaksha). That wasn't me. That degree of self-possession could drive anyone crazy.
You've seen so much in the last four decades. Aren't you quite shyaani?
I wish I were… (pause). No I take that back. I am not shyaani. After going through so much in life, I still trust people.
What do you mean by 'going through so mush in life'...except maybe the marriage to Mukesh Agarwal that didn't work out?
What do you know? Only what is published. One goes through a private hell every day. Just because one chooses not to announce the gory details. Today, it's all about give and take, take and give…what's-in-it-for-me...networking. Throats can be cut backs can be stabbed. I don't want to sound pessimistic…but all this is more intense than ever before… (Trails off). Mostly, we create our own hells.
Hell? When did you go through that?
There was a point… when I was really in hell, in a cesspool, a dark pit… or so it seemed at that time.
In the public mind, there has always been an association with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Wouldn't you like this to end?
(Unfazed) Why? I hope not. Mr. Bachchan is one of the best things to have happened in my life. The best teacher, the best guru…
How come the best guru, when you haven't interacted with him in years?
Well, I've chosen to learn as much from his off-camera…as from his on-camera demeanors.
How come you wore sindoor in your maang at a wedding reception recently, immediately setting off a big buzz.
Ogawd!!! I was going there straight from a film shooting… and I don't worry about people's reactions. By the way, I think it looks rather nice on me…sindoor suits me.
Cool. In 2008, how is Ma'am Rekha perceived?
I've never been into yeh film usko mil rahi hai, her colleagues are doing so much now. I am not about why she's doing what on TV? Or why's she doing that endorsement? That has never mattered to me. My needs are basic but profound. Foremost, I am a woman, an actor next. I could have been a littlie puppy…who knows? I'm blessed that I have received so much adulation, unconditional respect, so many prayers. I couldn't have asked for more.
You feel you've done it all?
Never. Like Dilip (Kumar) saab said on receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, it feels as if it had all happened to someone else. Take my fun side; it was only brought out by Hrishida (Mukherjee) in Khubsurat. There's so much more about me to explore and express.
Who are your three best friends?
Farzana, Surinder Makan…she's in Delhi…and a certain friend who's obscure, a godly figure.
Ohhhhh… Mr Bachchan?
(Unfazed) He's not God. Human beings cannot be given the stature of God.
Let's go to what you are up to professionally.
I sleepwalk through everything I do I am doing Sadiyaan with Hemaji (Malini), I'm playing Rishi Kapoor's wife… the film introduces Shatruji's son Luv.
Weren't you supposed to be in a film by Hema Malini?
Yes, it's to be directed by Revathy with Esha and me. I am ready to do the film whenever they are ready.
There have been efforts to make you the Oprah Winfrey of Indian television, right?
Ogawd!!! I am not delusional. I am nowhere close to her. In any case, in my country I'd be expected to be a million Oprahs… and some more.
Would you be able to do a Kaun Banega Crorepati kind of show?
No... Though I've been offered many shows on the same lines.
Why have you avoided endorsements?
I've to still find an alternative medium through which I could give, what my fans expect me to. This is the era of tucks and nips…not my route. I don't believe in shortcuts.
What about your much-anticipated biography?
No biography can reach the real picture. See Dilip saab…he's an allah ka banda. He's never contrived anything. He has never done ads. He has been himself. That's what I'd like to be.
What about a Rekha concert?
I've done concerts twice in my life…in '87 and '97. Maybe this is the year to start planning a concert…it has to be done right. I don't want to be running all over the place like a headless chicken.
Okay, tell me…why haven't you ever tried to adopt a child?
Because it is the hardest job ever. I know what it is to be deprived of a father's love. I would want a child to have both parents. That's why I've never thought of adoption…or of having a child out of wedlock.
I believe you're promoting your nephew from San Francisco, Naveed, as a prospective hero.
Who me? He wants to be an actor.
Does he have what it takes?
I am bound to be biased about him… how can I say anything more? Personally, I'd say a gentle soul.
Any other members of your family who have acting potential?
Lots, all of them…all 14 of them. Even my grandmas have had the potential to be super-duper actors.
And so what else could I ask you? (Lightens up) Nothing. You've asked all the questions I didn't want you to ask.