On October 10 Rekha turns 64 hard to believe. Even harder for her to believe, I am sure

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The first time that I metRekhashe was this gorgeous apparition in spotless white. Hair tied in a casual bun, facecompletely free of makeup, sitting behind an over-sized glass-top table with the sun setting behind her with painted perfection,Rekhalookedlike a vision out ofSanjayBhansalis cinema.

Unfortunately,the interview didnt go according to her satisfaction. Perfectionist that she is,Rekhaasked metodropthe interview.I did. But promptly wrote anacidic column on her.

To my surprise,Rekharemembered every detail of our meeting and its somewhat disastrous aftermath.

Eccentric? I wonder who labeled her that, and for what purpose!Rekhais one ofthe mostgrounded andunassuming persons Ive encountered inBollywood.Whats more, shescompletely self-made. She may have plenty of blemishes as a human being. But vindictiveness and vanity arent among her short-comings.

Once we were discussing how frequently she meets her good friends. Oh, about once a year! And going by my track record, thats quite a lot,Rekhadeadpanned.

I remember once she had told me she doesnt get affected by changes in atmospheric temperature.

Cool as a cucumber,Rekharemains hot to this day. Nothing shakes her, not outwardly instead.

Rekhaonce told me, It isnt as if I dont want to reach out to people Of course, I do. Im a normal healthy woman. But to me, reaching out to people, making demands over their time and attention is an encroachment. Id rather connect once in while. Thats enough to keep me going. Ive accepted everything in life. My mother taught me to take everything in life from age to criticism with humility.Youve to have the confidence to carry your age withoutself-consciousness. Im proud to even of that wrinkle which appears on my face. Its a symbol of all that life has taught me for years. Aging is so inevitable. All the choices Ive made, all the people Ive met, all the hurt and all the happiness theyve all carved every contour on my face. And Im proud of them all.

Such beauty can only mean a life well lived. Dont be too sure. Besides, I dont give that much importance to physical beauty. My looks are only a small part of my personality. Looks are just a reflection of who you are from within. No amount of expensive saris, diamonds, and makeup cannot make you look beautiful unless you at peace inside. Lots of worldly wrongs have happened to me. But I didnt wallow in them and let them affect me in a negative way. Every day I go through the bad and the good. Theres an angel and devil within me. Its up to us to choose who rules our lives. We all have a choice in life. We can make something positive happen in every situation. Thats the key to my life. Im always asked why Im so calm all the time, is it afaade? I agree Im a great actor on screen. But no one can live a lifetime of lies.I dont believe in living a lie. But I know a lot of people think I live a lie. If thats how they feel about me, so be it.

Stunningly poised,Rekhais perched at a place in her life where very few celebrities have been. Neither age nor rage ever wrinkles her soul. Immaculate and unspoiled impervious to the blows of mundane irritants,Rekhais arguably Bollywoods most exclusive female icon.

I havent been able to figureRekhaout. But then no one else has, not evenRekhaherself.

Shes unarguably the most enigmatic star inBollywood. No one knows her well. And anyone claiming to do so is a liar.Rekhalives alone in a home where no visitors are allowed. Hernextdoorneighbour isFarhanAkhtar. And hes never visited her place. 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 Im lonely? Thats your view. It neednt be the truth. From the little that I know ofRekha, Ive found her to be extremely sharp and compassionate. Not many people in theselfservingworld ofmakebelieve(a.k.aBollywood) have that quality.

Rekhanever retaliates. No matter what the hurt she keeps it within herself and she always remains in control over her emotions. This is something she haslearntto do over the years. The earlier phase of her career and life were pretty turbulent. Wild stories about her mercurial behaviour kept the Page 3 writers active long before Page 3 was invented.

Then something happened in and to her life. Whatever it was it changed her completely. Mellowed her down, smoothed out all the rough edges, transformed the wild child into an enigmatic enchantress.

A lot of people thinkRekhais 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.Rekhanever raises her voice, never loses her temper. Its as though she belongs to acoffee tablebook rather than the realm of flesh and blood.

But under the veneer of flawless hauteurRekhais as vulnerable as the next person. I believe she lives in a world that she has created in her mind. Its a lovely world of enchantment and mystery, mirth and mysticism, fun and heartbreak. In that oyster she has created a spiral ofpossibilities, none of them crystallized or obtainable, but nonetheless real enough for her to believe in them.

Theres only one way to reachRekha. You leave a message on her answering machine on thelandline. If she wishes to connect she calls back personally.

Once aftera long silence, I threw my coin in the wishing well. I left a message on her answering service. My phone rang. And I heard the mythic husky voice on the end. Subhashjihain. MainRekhabolrahihoon. I remember howVivekOberoicouldnt stop rubbing his ears when the same voice had congratulated him after Company was released.

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 knewRekhadoesnt call too many people. I knew I had the rare privilege. And I cherished it.

Rekhahas a rare star quality. The aura IS all-crucial to her personality. Over the years she has mastered that aura, honed it to a fashion statement. By maintaining an exclusivity, not making herself incessantly accessible to the press, not appearing on every channel each time a film of hers is on release,Rekhahas shown us why shes what she is.

Nothing inher life is open to scrutiny. Nothing about her stardom is uncommon. And when people say, Rekhaisnt 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 isnt as though she doesnt make friends. She does but only on the sets. After thearclightsare switched off she heads home to live another dimension of that spectacular subterfuge which we give the name of life.

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