I Won't Adopt a Child: On Rekha's 67th Birthday, Ma'am Re in Her Own Words
As Rekha turns 67, she may be out of sight (mostly), as they say, but hardly out of mind.
Rekha turns 67 today (10 October). She may be out of sight – mostly, as they say, but hardly out of mind.
If there’s any update on her, it’s that she has been firmed for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period opus Heeramandi, in the company of Madhuri Dixit. They had co-featured earlier in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Lajja (2001). Apart from that, she has shown up on TV reality shows to assert that she retains her chutzpah and allure. Over a decade ago, she had strived to set up her official website. An "official rekhathediva” with the tagline ‘Journey of a Woman’, does pop up on Google. However, if it’s hers, the content leaves a lot to be desired.
And if the showbiz grapevine is to be believed, she has been beavering away on her autobiography. She has always wanted to write one but had suggested a double tome—one on the major influences in her life and career, and the other a purely pictorial one shot on location in Paris, both edited by herself. The proposal had turned out to be beyond unaffordable for leading publishers.
At some point, she had aspired to do her own TV show on the lines of Oprah Winfrey’s. One film concept which she has longed to act in is an adaptation of the Clint Eastwood-Meryl Streep’s The Bridges of Madison County. Opposite Amitabh Bachchan? “No, no, how predictable of you to say that,” she had exclaimed, with a counter-question, “Why not Jackie Shroff?” Another project, after her heart, has been an update on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
During the ongoing pandemic, her bungalow was sealed off last year for a while. Details never emerged. Her cellphone number is a national secret; her landline is picked up by an unfamiliar voice, the call is returned only if she detects that it won’t be a waste of her time.
So, Rekha will always be half-known, because that’s the way she wants it to be. A mystical diva who cannot be defined. Once I had coaxed her, come on attempt a definition of yourself. And she had surprised me by saying okay, the effort, so to say, was concluded in two sessions.
She doesn’t like being addressed as Rekha by journalists, so to stick to her stricture, here’s over to Ma’am Re in her own words:
"This is my story—the story of a woman who is considered to be a closed book—although every page of that book is open for everyone to read. Stories abound about me, that I believe in rebirth, that I believe that I was a princess in my last birth. I do not deny or confirm these stories. I don’t ask for scrutiny. It is in the questions addressed to me in fan letters. It is in the glances of those who look at me, but there is no eye contact."
"My needs are basic but profound. Foremost, I am a woman, an actor next. I could have been a little 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."
"I do not live in fantasies. I have never believed that a maharaja would whisk me away in slow motion. I’ve always been totally realistic. Friendship, apnapan, and trust are the most valuable gifts any partner could give long-term."
"For me, no day is different from the other. Every day is an extension of my growth. If I am asked, "But what do you want to become?” The obvious answer is the best of myself. Why this obsession with 'myself'? With I, me, myself! Tell me, why not? I've always been that way; it has worked for me. Aakhir jaan hai toh jahaan hai."
"I don't do this intentionally. I am, that's it. It starts off narcissistically, naturally. Maybe beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, or oneself. So what? I don't care if it's said that she's on some sort of spiritual trip, she's obscure, vague, not normal. she wants to be different, they say. I am not so different. People don't want me to be common or normal though. They have either put me on a high pedestal or they think I am an alien."
"After going through so much in life, I still trust people. About my marriage (to Mukesh Aggarwal), people only know what is published. One goes through a private hell every day. One just chooses not to announce the gory details. Today, it's all about give and take, and take and give. The 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 has become more intense than ever before. Mostly, we create our own hells. There was a point when I really was in hell, in a cesspool, a dark pit, or so it seemed at that time."
"That is not to be associated with any one personality or the person the media, and therefore, the public has in mind. On the contrary, Mr Bachchan has been one of the best things to have happened in my life. The best teacher, the best guru. I've chosen to learn as much from him off-camera as from his on-camera demeanours. Yet there’s no stopping the tongue wagging. Once, I was going to a function straight from a film shooting for which I had to wear sindoor. Immediately, there were conjectures. Not that they mattered. Sindoor looks good on me. Why shouldn’t I wear it?"
"I don’t agree with Oprah Winfrey who has said 'if you’re not happy in a relationship, then it’s not love'. It all depends on how you change and utilise the pain in a relationship. The word ‘love’ is used too frivolously. Pain is not necessarily bad; you can’t blank it out but you can rise from the situation instead of wallowing in it like some Dead Woman Walking."
"The way Rekha is and behaves – that’s in my nature, my genes, my lifestyle. I’ve never been vindictive, petty-minded, bitter or selfish. I’ve been a cool and calm soul and yet intense. Even as a kid, I’d look out of the window at the sea for hours. I was quite an obedient child. If there were negative vibes from other kids, I’d give them chocolates and ask, 'Now can I be your friend?' I’ve always loved nature with so much beauty around. There’s never been a minute to sulk. If I’m ill, I celebrate. Make the best of that time at home instead of being depressed."
"If any of my loved ones were critically ill, I’d feel helpless. Now I’ve built up enough faith to survive any crisis, with the conviction that this too shall pass. After all, God’s greatest gift to us is our ability to reason, feel, and smile."
"When I find an ideal man, maybe I will celebrate this with champagne in Paris, even though I’ve never touched a drop of it or watched a sunset while riding a camel in Rajasthan. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait."
"I was never materialistic. I’ve never cared for diamonds or fancy cars. If I pamper myself with the notion of my ideal man, it is simply in the hope that he should understand me by reading between the lines of my silences. Everything can’t be what you’ve read or dreamt about. You have to be open to unique experiences designed only for both of you. At the end of the day, it’s between the man and me. Name, social status, caste, and creed no bar. Jab tak ghanti nahin bajti hai, one shouldn’t even think of getting involved. Once a relationship is established, it’s forever! I still truly believe there’s somebody somewhere out there for me. If we meet, that’s great. If he doesn’t recognise this then too bad, it’s his loss."
"I know so many who have achieved a lot in many fields. And this doesn’t apply only to actors. Take my maid, for instance, 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. I do not invite people into my house. By hook or by crook, some must find their way in. In fact, my privacy has worked out better than any screenplay. For anything connected with my work, the producers meet me in my office. No one comes into my house except my family."
"My bedroom is a reflection of 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. Somewhere between king-and queen-sized. That said, of course, the best bed that I have slept in is my mamma’s lap."
"Since mum (Pushpavalli) was an Andhraite, there would be ten types of non-vegetarian cuisine—brain, nalli, the works! I kept my sweet tooth in check because mum had diabetes. I got my complexion, jawline, and instinct for yoga from appakutty. I adored my father but there was a distance that could never be covered. My father (Gemini Ganesan) wrote poetry fluidly, he was a man of literature. And as an actor, a heartthrob for decades. I got the twinkle in my eyes, the baby-like texture of my skin, beauty spots, and fondness for dance from mum. My height, 5’7”, is from my grandma. For the last 30 years, I’ve been my best South Indian self. I sleep at 10 pm, wake up at 5 am, have three proper meals, no snacking. This is the era of tucks and nips, not my route. I don't believe in short-cuts."
"I don’t know what it is to be like a friend, lover, wife or mother. I would never 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. Yet I do know that those who come into contact, value me. I’m not commercial. Whatever I do in the future must soothe my soul. That’s why I don’t do ads and TV. At times, I do films just for the heck of it, for peanuts. Then Aastha becomes a success. I’m even accepted as a grandma in Krrish. If that’s not a blessing, then what is."
"Now, I’m consumed by the thought of finding my medium. For a book, there has to be the right time and place. No biography can reach the real picture. See Dilip Saab, an Allah ka banda. He never contrived anything. He never did ads. He was himself. That's what I'd like to be."
"Thankfully and paradoxically, this so-called reclusive woman who is considered a glamorous ‘Diva’, can still touch everyone’s heart. Tomorrow, I could set up a fantastic ‘haven for troubled souls.’ Or as my sister says I could be the best counsellor and healer. She calls me her role model. Maybe because I’ve lived with strong, unshakeable values That I would say is what makes ‘Rekha’ me."
"I live on dosas, idlis with ghee and karapuddi. In my non-veggie days, I adored Hyderabad ka Halim and seafood, which I still binge on once or twice a year. I love anything dark in chocolates. Prashad: Banglasaheb's gehu ka halwa in ghee, in Delhi; I can eat five Tirupati laddoos at one go. Pasta, everything Italian actually, except guys. My kink is that my guy has to be 100 per cent Hindustani with a great way of speaking Hindustani. I’m quite the chaati type—paani puri, dahi sev puri, missal paav, mmm."
"There are some words that I depend on, words that have a lilt, depth and, meaning. Those words are ‘OM’, Infinity, Trust, Loyalty, Subtlety, Mystery, Music, Dance, Ma, Miracle. Us, Solitude, Grace, and any word in Bengali, French and Telugu. These words are my story."
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