Biographies of celebrities have proven to be one of the greatest discoveries for the hard-core Bollywood junkies. For them, a biography is not merely a book but it is the most reliable record of everything they ever wanted to know about their favourite star.
Yasser Usman’s Rekha: An Untold Story, which elaborates on Rekha’s journey to fame, is probably the greatest gift her fans could ever get. This fictional piece of writing is a complete package of suspense, drama, secrecy and love. Anyone who reads the book with utmost interest without forsaking the intricacies would deal with the constant urge to go up to her and ask her that how could she – in spite of such harrowing and heart-rending experiences all through her life – maintain such a strong and stoic front? How did she gather this brick-like strength to fight all the battles without a single assuring hand on her shoulders?
If you rethink, it almost seems impossible to sail through but Rekha did it. She not only fought her own battles but always evolved as a winner. Every battle just prepared her more for the ones that were yet to come.
Born with a tag of illegitimacy, she could never really become the legitimate owner of any relationships in her life. A marriage that ended in suicide and the other that went unnoticed, hidden and unaccepted. Now a denied fact but Rekha married Vinod Mehra in her initial days but that nuptial bond was on its last leg as soon as it began. Vinod Mehra’s mother didn’t accept her as the daughter-in-law of the house. She was humiliated and belittled when she went to his house just after the wedding, a shattered Rekha ran towards the lift with tears brimming out of her eyes and a helpless Vinod torn between the prejudices failed miserably at sustaining his relationship with her.
Her identity as a bold and sexy actor became one of the prime reasons of her miseries. She was regarded as the ‘sex-kitten’ because of the kind of roles she did in the beginning of her career. A racist Bollywood called her derogatory names because of her un-immaculate skin colour. But a transformation was soon in the offing. Rekha changed. She changed not only in terms of her outlook but her choice of roles also took a dignified turn.
From being a mere “sex object” she soon became the most respected actress in Bollywood. Her non-serious attitude on the sets was replaced with punctuality and dedication. The whole fraternity was shocked and thrilled with this sudden metamorphosis but only Rekha knew who brought all these changes that changed her life forever. The shenshah of Bollywood, the shenshah of her heart; Amitabh Bachchan.
Rekha gave her heart and soul in every relationship but this was the closest to her of all. She always referred to Amitabh as ‘him’ because he was a married man and she never wanted to stagnate his image. He was someone she not only loved but was devoted to, with all her heart. There were instances in the book of Jaya’s discomfort with their secret love affair. During the shoot of Silsila (1981) when Jaya asked for a bottle of glycerine, one of the crew members asked her if an actor of her calibre needs glycerine to cry, to which Jaya replied that she had already cried so much that no tears are left to shed. Jaya brought an end to their much-speculated relationship when she barred Amitabh from doing any more films with her.
An image-conscious Amitabh never admitted being in a relationship with Rekha but he always maintained a very callous attitude towards this relationship. He ignored her in all the social gatherings and maintained a safe distance from anything that was related to her. The prying eyes of media couldn’t scoop out much from his side.
However, on a talk show with Simi Garewal she completely denied being personally involved with him ever. She said whatever she had for him was all in her mind. She even praised Jaya for remaining unaffected by the rumours. On the same show, she disclosed how she saw her father for the first time when he came to drop his other kids at the same school. She was hurt by his indifference but never felt the need to go and talk to him.
The book also discloses the repercussions of Rekha’s psychotic husband Mukesh Agarwal’s suicide. Though Mukesh’s illness and his long time affair with his therapist Akash Bajaj were hidden from Rekha before she got married to him, she was blamed and held responsible for his suicide by his family members. Even the people from her industry Subhash Ghai and Anupam Kher held her responsible for his death. Kher even went as far as to call her the “national vamp” but it was only Shashi Kapoor who had sent her a condolence note after Mukesh comitted suicide. A string of blames accompanied her always, whether it was in the case of her marriage or her affairs with the leading men of the industry, she was always made the scapegoat.
Recently, in an award function, Jaya and Rekha were seen exchanging pleasantries when Amitabh went on the stage to collect the best actor award for Piku (2015). Both stood with their eyes glued to Amitabh, one rejoicing what she has and the other remained contended with the part of him that she once had...