SHE was just a fifteen - year - old with an enviable bust line (read forty-two), when she first landed in Bombay fresh out of the starched uniform of some convent school in Madras.
It was in the winter of '68 that Mohan Segal signed Rekha for her first Hindi movie opposite Navin Nischol: The name Sawan Bhadon. A party was thrown to introduce her to the press.
Most newcomers are shy and hesitant. Not Rekha. Her answers to all questions were bold and spoken out. And as the intake of pegs by our brethren of the Fourth Estate increased, so did their questions grow bolder. Yet Rekha was never at a loss for the quick retort.
By the time that party was over no doubts remained that she had won the journalists completely over. They had never encountered anyone, new or old, who was as frank and fearless as this brash, young girl-woman. Could this outspoken fifteen-year-old have been coached to say the boldest things? I doubt it. The girl had apparently seen life raw and lived it to the full even before catching that plane to Bombay. She knew how to speak for herself.
The Sawan Bhadon unit did not immediately leave for location shooting in Poona. In the meantime, Mohan Segal had put up Rekha and her mother at a posh hotel in Juhu. Rekha was given tuition to perfect her Hindi diction, and her dancing.
It was during this period that Sajid Khan had just returned from the States after making a big name for himself there.
Rekha spotted him one morning at Mehboob Studios.It was the blast-off for her first serious friendship,I remember Rekha's words clearly when she set eyes on him, because I was around then and saw what occurred."Oh my God!" this was said with awe and reverence. "That's Sajid Khan? He's my favourite! I'm in love with him! I have collected every photograph of his!"She scrambled out of the van in which she had driven into the studio compound and ran straight up to Sajid Khan. And that was that!
There followed a rapid succession of midnight rendezvous; midnight-to-hell drives; and nine o'clock pairs to parties. Sajid was the more experienced of the two-I mean, he'd been in permissive America and all that. Rekha accompanied him everywhere he went. How can you blame a poor girl who finds herself face to face with the idol of whom she's dreamed for nights without end? Their dosti went on strong until Rekha had to go to Poona for a month-long location-shooting of Sawan Bhadon. Sajid obviously couldn't tag along, nor was Rekha a big enough star to demand that the unit take her boy-friend along, as well.
So exit Sajid Khan and enter Navin Nischol.
Poona and Sawan Bhadon brought Rekha face to face with the handsome, sleek and suave Navin (he'd just that year finished at the Poona Film Institute). Rekha was bowled over.
Two things, however, apparently deterred Navin from Rekha. Firstly, his wife was present on location. And secondly, this brash girl was apparently more crude and earthy than the suave connoisseur's tastes would permit. And her behavior was too school-girlish. Rekha, always a frank and forthright, made it clear that she liked him a lot. But Navin coolly resisted all invitations in Poona, at least. Location shooting over, Navin and Rekha returned to Bombay where our heroine again took up the old continuity with first flame. Sajid, who had earlier once confessed that she was more than he could handle, now started to cling to her in the hope that she might be good for his career.
The second stage of Sawan Bhadon now commenced-the indoor shooting stage. So again, enter Navin and exit Sajid. Every arrow in Cupid's bow was shot at the new target, Navin, who had first resisted but now relented.
A man's a man, after all! They met mostly after shooting (most of the indoors of Sawan Bhadon were done at Roop Tera Studios) in Navin's car parked in nooks and crannies of the Western Express Highway. They also had to attend premieres and film-functions together. One pretty air-hostess who had flown them Air-India from Bombay to Delhi told me that they were very lovey-dovey throughout the flight (under cover of an open newspaper, of course!)
Did they tire of one another? Or did Rekha realize that Navin, being a married man wouldn't be able to go far with her? Whatever be the real reason for the break-up, the fact is that one night after quite a few pegs Navin con?fessed that "she drained me." The sentence speaks for itself.
Sawan Bhadon was a thumping success. It celebrated silver jubilees everywhere. It was the first non-star cast, low-budget movie to break the stranglehold of big star-cast productions. And it propelled two newcomers to stardom's dizzy heights. Both Navin and Rekha signed up movies by the dozen.
Rekha now signed up with her new friend, philosopher and guide (no, not Mohan Seghal) Kuljit Paul, who had taken charge of her affairs (read business) and consequently management of her finances too. Naturally, he starred Rekha in his own movie, a pot-boiler called Anjana Safar ( later retitled Do Shikari), and Biswajit as the leading-man. It was he who gave Rekha her first kiss-her first screen kiss, I mean-by creeping up behind her, swinging her into his arms and grinding his lips on hers.
Biswajit really must have dynamite in his lips (because his are certainly not the sexiest ones around) for poor Rekha apparently fainted off right away! And, to cap it all, LIFE Magazine did a feature showing a photograph of hers in that kiss-and-faint scene!
So enter Biswajit!
Rekha went about promoting her friendship with Biswajit very quickly. She was always at his house (Biswajit's wife was always in Calcutta) while the friendship lasted, which wasn't very long. It cooled off rapidly too-perhaps because by then Biswajit's professional career had begun its sharp nosedive-and both Rekha and Biswajit became really good friends in the most innocent sense of that term!
When producer B. N. Ghosh (he was Jeetendra's secretary) teamed Rekha with Jeetendra in his movie Ek Bechara in 1970, Rekha was a very popular star, while Jeetu had had flops all around him like nine pins, after his huge initial success in Farz. A smooth and fast worker is our acrobatic hero, Jeetendra. So when he started making advances to her, poor girl, she was easily fooled into thinking it was love. Rekha gives of her heart and her emotions easily. But Jeetu was in it for the publicity value of the romance, to help bolster his sagging star career. Luckily Ek Bechara was moderately successful, so Jeetu and Rekha were again teamed together by producer Kundan Kumar in Anokhi Ada.
Half-way through this movie, a sudden crack appeared in their relationship. The rift widened rapidly and noticeably until the chasm between them became unbridgeable. It is said that it was entirely the man's fault. The unit boys and invisible workers, who watch everything most observantly on all studio sets, reported in to say that he used to treat her like a doormat.
One day, while shooting on a huge set with about a hundred junior artistes also present, Jeetendra was heard to remark (unintentionally loud) to his hangers-on what he thought of her. Rekha heard that. And it hurt, badly. Like a wounded deer she fled from the sets into her makeup room, flung herself on the couch and sobbed her heart out. She never spoke to Jeetendra again, and she will never speak to him for the rest of her life.
Anokhi Ada was completed with the utmost difficulty. Whatever romance and love scenes you saw in that movie after the interval were just put-ons for the benefit of the cameras. During the shooting, after every take, they would not look at one another. That chapter in her life was closed for ever. The end of the Jeetendra friendship found Rekha at the height of mental suffering, misery and emotional insecurity.
The film industry is notorious for wolves on the prowl and Rekha was the easy victim. People who I know to be scum of the filthiest order exploited this gullible and ge?nerous-hearted girl and cheated her out of lakhs of rupees. It was inevitable that there be some reaction. There was. Rekha had a nervous breakdown, and when she surfaced Shatrughan Sinha was there to give her a consoling arm. It is to the credit of Shatru that though a blabber-mouth by nature, he kept very quiet about Rekha and himself, even though he needed the publicity very, very badly at that time. That news of it broke out subsequently was no fault of his.
In the movie industry people do get to know about each others affairs. Remember, movie land comprises of only about fifty news makers. In due course, the infatuation between Shatru and Rekha also fizzled out and today they're merely good friends-and also good co-workers. They're starring together in a couple of movies now on the floors.
I didn't know they were ever together until this article!
Approximately at this time the first genuine lover she's ever had entered Rekha's life -Vinod Mehra, a gentleman to his fingertips. Who spotted who is immaterial now, but neither of them could live without the other. They were seen everywhere together- holding hands, smooching, necking, driving around in Vinod's Volkswagen, having dinner in the wee hours of the morning in a cozy corner of the Shamiana. They were so close to one another that Rekha was also the unofficial hostess at Vinod's sister's marriage-and that's saying a hell of a lot!
Whenever Rekha came in for criticism, Vinod Mehra was always there to defend her, both verbally and in print.
He was the first genuine guy who loved Rekha for Rekha's sake - not for Rekha, the famous. His was the only serious concern in the vast ocean of hypocritical and money-motivated love, which lapped all around this good-hearted but foolish girl. But there was one hitch. Vinod's mother did not want Rekha as her bahu. She kept discouraging Vinod, but he was adamant. At one stage Rekha wanted him to choose -beloved or mother. I believe Vinod skirted this ultimatum by persuading Rekha to bide her time while he tried to heal the rift between mother and sweetheart.
(this is from Annual Women Leaders In India Summit June 2014)
The wait was a long wait. It appeared to stretch right up to forever-and Rekha's one hell of an impatient gal! And then suddenly this dashing young fellow called Baba appeared on the scene. He sprouted out of the Nav Ketan office one fine morning, where he had been planted by Uncle Dev Anand to look after his business affairs. Yash Kohli (for that is Baba's real name) soon became a producer and naturally -starred Rekha in his movie Double Cross. Inevitably, the Rekha-Baba romance hit sensation-hungry headlines. Yash Kohli is kind, large-hearted, ever-smiling and perfect company, and this sort of nature has always strongly appealed to Rekha.
Whenever Vinod Mehra was away from Bombay either for location shootings or to attend film premieres in other cities, Rekha could be seen with Yash Kohli at this or that restaurant, hotel, or in his black Fiat. She was soon dividing her time evenly between Baba and Vinod. Rekha must have by then given up hopes that Vinod's mother would ever agree to have her as a bahu. Rekha's outbursts against Vinod's mother continued and, as usual, Vinod maintained a discreet silence about everything and continued to defend Rekha in public. Even after that now immortal "poisoned upma" episode it was Vinod Mehra who called the press conference. Wasn't all this manifestation of the total love that he bore for her?
Did Vinod and Rekha get married secretly? Apparently they did, in Calcutta. The latest gossip indicates that they are both seeking a divorce. And the split is now final because Vinod, when he took up with Rekha, never dated anybody else. He is now occasionally seen dating Zahida, or and this or that girl. Rekha did the most foolish thing of her twenty-one years when she ditched Vinod. He was the only man who had brought some sort of stability to her stress-filled and chaotic life.
Rekha's latest is now Kiran Kumar. He, who had once declared that he would marry Yogeeta, now took Rekha's hand in his own and her head on his shoulders. Vinod Mehra and Kiran Kumar had once been on the best of terms, so much so that each used to confide to each other about their respective loves. I do not know who the villain of the piece is -if there is one-or did Rekha on the rebound throw herself into the nearest available arms? Only time will tell.
Rekha insists that her true love was always Yash Kohli and that she had been leading Vinod Mehra on as she is leading Kiran Kumar on now. "I don't even feel anything for the boy (Kiran)," Rekha says. She just did it to make Baba jealous.
"I've lived a facade," Rekha says, "and no one is more miserable than me today."
The big question is: can Rekha ever hold on to anybody for good? Why does she feel this compulsive need to flit from man to man in search of some ultimate gratification she never seems to find? Will she ever find the perfect a man? Or will her life be one long quest-always seeking, never finding?
Rekha is a nice girl. True, she never had much of adolescence, with the spotlights beckoning her at such a tender age. No doubt, she is flying high but with broken wings, regrets and memories that will make her toss and turn through countless sleepless nights.
Though the original story published then in CineBlitz ends here, but destiny was fast paving way for Rekha to find the man with whom her romance and association would be remembered for years to come. Rekha and Amitabh fell in love and still are one of the most written about couples the industry ever saw.
Lets not also forget that in 1990 she married Mukesh Aggarwal, who then later in 1991 committed suicide.
Reproduced from the original article published in Cine Blitz. Copyrights exclusively owned by VJM Media Pvt. Ltd.