Fifty Years of Seduction
Fifty Years of Seduction
As the story goes, in that titillating, tumultuous and tantalizing world called Bollywood, there are actresses, and then there is Rekha. Rekha, who is by all accounts the female iconic counterpart to Amitabh Bacchan, is so much more than a gifted screen actress that it becomes hard to list her relevance, achievements, and significance in any particular order. But now that she has reached another milestone, that of turning fifty, let's at least give it a shot. rekha-1.jpg (image)
For starters, Rekha single-handedly destroyed a myriad of stereotypes that had been attached to Indian women in pre-1970s Bollywood. No longer did a woman have to cater to studio requests and mold her personality and reputation to the whim of the male arbiters of the industry. Moving on, being unsatisfied with the status quo with actresses and film roles in Bollywood, she reinterpreted what it meant to be a woman in Bollywood films, thus producing a stronger, +++ier, smarter, and more independent female screen persona that heralded a modern era of female characters in Indian cinema. She has reinvented herself on so many occasions that she is considered the Indian Madonna, and she is one of the few actresses who continues to garner prized roles – thirty-seven years after her Hindi movie debut at the age of thirteen. Throughout her career, Rekha has been the center of controversy due to her unconventional private life and attention grabbing relationships, an ordeal that continues to plague actresses in Indian cinema to date. Rekha dealt with these accusations in a revolutionary way, by not denying them or acquiescing to their validity. She is arguably the first modern actress in Indian cinema – choosing strong roles, being a fashion luminary, staying in remarkable shape through a modern diet and exercise regiment, and finally, refusing to be a safe and "manufactured" personality, long before that was the norm in a male dominated industry. She has always dared to be different.
Born Bhanurekha Gunshan, Rekha was the lovechild of golden era actors Gemini Ganesan and Pushpavalli. She starred in her first Hindi film at the age of thirteen and was instantly rejected by audiences as an unattractive and overweight actress who had apparently pulled more than her fair share of strings to appear on screen. Then, something miraculous happened. Rekha underwent a transformation that in retrospect is noting short of legendary. She immersed herself in the art of yoga and restricted her diet to non-fried or overcooked foods. The rest as they say, is history.
Rekha is part of an extremely select group of individuals – she is arguably one of the few true old-world stars left in Bollywood. While actresses like Hema Malini and Rakhee are content with playing the stereotypical "mother" roles, Rekha has not ceased to partake in mainstream roles, playing alongside today's biggest stars, including Karisma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon. Her filmography is considerable, both in number and in stature – with her most successful on-screen partnership unquestionably with Amitabh Bacchan. She has wowed generations of movie goers with her pitch perfect characterization of Umrao Jan Adha (1987) – and tantalized audiences in the uncomfortably topical Silsila (1981). She has garnered a number of Filmfare awards, for Khoon Bhari Mang (1989), and Khiladiyon ka Khiladi (1997) to name but a few.
So who is Rekha? Where exactly does the legend cease and the lady begin? What makes her tick? Surprisingly, as unconventional personalities go, Rekha's is about as conventional as it gets. She is known to be unusually friendly on the sets of her films, a disposition attributed to a childhood spent in movie studios, devoid of normal social interaction required by most adolescents. Her childhood pangs may also portend to Rekha's literature de jour: Archie and Dennis the Menace comic books. She also remembers every line of poetry and shairi she has read. Asked if she could change one thing about herself, she answers with no reservations: her hips! She holds Indira +++++i and Oprah Winfrey in the highest esteem, and her favorite recording artists are Laura Branigan, Barbara Streisand, Michael Bolton, and Sting – as well as (you guessed it) tried and true Hindi music. Her most cherished role, the one she would have killed for, was that of Madhuballa in Mughal-e-Azam, and she regards the romantic exchanges in that film as the cinematic high watermark of the century. She's an animal lover, whose pet dog Pisti (now deceased), was treated with VIP attention (normally afforded to movie stars' immediate families) and for a period was making the press circuits as often as his glamorous owner. Rekha has also elevated herself above her peers and contemporaries by not falling prey to the lure of the advertising bug – she has never endorsed a product in her thirty-year career. But it's not all ascetic living for the Queen of Indian cinema - Rekha loves Porches, Lambourghinis and Beetles – and rather than diamonds, she has a penchant for traditional pearls and bangles.
Fashion guru, screen legend, classical dancer extraordinaire, devoted friend, renaissance woman and a wonderful mentor – it seems as though Rekha has accomplished more than several lifetimes worth of achievements in her fleeting fifty years. And as you might have guessed, not only is she humble about it, she simply refuses to acknowledge her accolades. In fact there is something so tangible and real about Rekha that one does not get the sense that she ever truly belonged to the industry she has dominated for so long. She is disgusted by the crass language and crude behavior omnipresent in Bollywood today, to the extent that she would not entertain the idea of reading any of the popular filmi magazines that flood bookstores throughout India. She is not interested in liposuction or even dying her hair – she wants to remain as au natural as possible. In fact, she was even quoted as saying "I want to meet these doctors who keep claiming they have worked on me – I'm not a lippo kind of girl, I'm a hippo kind of girl – I have big South Indian hips, and I'll have to keep them that way."
Single and childless, Rekha still believes in true love. She insists that if she had a son, she would want him to be exactly like Hritik Roshan. But before that, she is still optimistic on the romantic front. She says that "Now people may think I'm not married and I have no children, the conventional lifestyle you know, but I see it this way; as long as you are alive, you have a chance to have a future. At least there is hope." Rekha's idea of love and romance is best summed up in her own words, "To look into his eyes first thing as you awaken. To be with your loved one at the dining table and not be able to eat a morsel. To be miles away from my man, and then suddenly smell his body, and be overwhelmed by memories. To speak for hours on the phone, when he's away, long distance. To shop for a gift for my special one - and the thrill of planning how to wrap it, write a card and how to present it." Yes dear readers, it turns out that deep down inside, the most romanticized actress in modern Indian cinema is just a hopeless romantic herself. It almost makes her seem that much more surreal.
Though Rekha has scaled momentous heights in her career, this does not belie the fact that there is much to be expected from her in the years to come. She has started making powerful films whose social messages carry a gravitas many in Bollywood are not used to (ie. 2002's Lajja, which dealt with class feminism and rape). When asked what she'd ideally like to do in the future, Rekha doesn't mince words "I'd like to change the world, make it a better place. Have the authority to stop wars. Change the dimensions of my figure. Create a wonder drug that can make love last. To go back into my future…not my past. I know it's a fantasy come true but I intend on doing just that. If not in real life, then via films. I hope to God to see that day." There's something about this lady, this breathless specimen of pure love, charisma, and beauty, that makes you think she can do all those things she speaks and dreams of – and for her, that will just be the beginning. Happy fiftieth birthday, Madame X – may you find every treasure your soul desires, and every happiness your heart deserves.
Last edited by shaan; 15-02-2009 at 02:04 PM.
Re: Fifty Years of Seduction
waise is bar award show mai kafi aged lag rhe thi
anyways HAppy Birthday to u