Mumbai: There are cinematic icons. And then there is Rekha. Ageless, timeless incandescent beauty, Rekha is the saving grace of Indra Kumar’s Super Nani. It’s impossible to imagine any other Indian actress playing the role of the 60-plus grandmother who transforms into a supermodel.
“That isn’t true,” says Rekha as we chat on life, music, cinema and beauty a day after her film released. “Dimple, Sridevi or Madhuri could have done the part. It is just your perception that the role was tailored for me. I took the part because I loved the idea of a housewife who sublimates her own identity for her family, only to be taken for granted by her husband and children. It’s a situation prevalent in households across the country in smaller cities and villages. That’s the audience I wanted to reach out to in this film.”
The iconic actress feels she has made a connection with women at the grassroots with Super Nani. “The last time we reached out to that audience was when I did Phool Bane Angaaray. Earlier even Basu Bhattacharya’s Astha had reached out to a very wide spectrum of women.”
Astha had become mired in a lot of controversy because of its volatile theme of a housewife moonlighting as a sex worker to buy herself the good things in life. But Rekha shrugs off the sensationalism saying, “Never mind why it succeeded. It at least paid off Basuda’s bills when he was in hospital.” Rekha, who is known to have a bleeding heart for people whom she comes in contact with, adds, “I believe in being true to myself. I believe in being true to my work. I can’t cheat on my performances. For me my films are like my babies. I nurture them and look after them like a mother. I can’t play truant from shooting even for a day. When I agree to do a film I am with it all the way.”
And she never ceases to surprise. She reveals that she wore her mother’s saris in Super Nani. “I was playing a mother. And for that I wanted to bring in my own connectivity with my mother. I wore all her saris in Super Nani. It did bring a bit of her amazing personality into my character, though I’d like to believe I have inherited a lot many other qualities of my mother than just her dress sense.”
Rekha is happy that all her siblings are well settled. “They are all doing very well in life, touch wood. My sister Radha, who lives in the US, has discovered her craft in painting. She is by far the most beautiful among us sisters. If only Radha had been as tall as me she’d have been the actor in the family.”
Her fans and admirers were pleasantly surprised to see Rekha going all-out to promote Super Nani on television and through media interviews. Sighs the super-diva, “I never hired a PR agency in my life, nor do I believe in promoting and marketing my films. But this time I felt my fans wanted me to reach out to them. There was this constant complaint that I was hardly visible, that I was locked away in my house, away from prying eyes. Arrey, I am very happy doing my own thing. Besides gardening, I love to sketch and to sing.”
Audiences even got to see the iconic actress sing on Kapil Sharma’s show. She explains, “There was no grand plan to sing, it just happened. As I told you, I love to sing. I don’t care whether I am fully in sur or not. It just comes from the heart.”
Elaborating on the exceptional media interaction for her film Rekha says, “They actually gave me a list of about 30 interviews that I was supposed to do. From these I chose a few. I spoke from my heart and left the rest to God.” She isn’t sure if she’d do the same media interaction again. But what she will do is her own television show. “Yes, I am now looking seriously at doing my show. I’ve been toying with the idea for 10 years. But now it’s happening seriously. At the moment all I can tell you is that my TV show would be a reflection of my own personality. The only problem is the language. I am not as fluent in Hindi as I’d like to be. I think in English.”
Remind her that her TV show needs to live up to the benchmark created by Big B’s Kaun Banega Crorepati and Rekha says, “That’s a tall order. Even if I can draw up a creative stool and reach to that height I’d consider myself lucky.” Thirty-six years in the film industry and she is still iconised by generations of new actresses. Says Rekha modestly, “I don’t know what they see in me. Maybe I am the last of a certain group of actresses. I had so many actresses including Meena Kumari to look up to. Maybe the new generation of actresses has only poor little me to look up to.” She doesn’t deny her iconic association with the new generation of actresses. “Whether it is Vidya Balan or Katrina Kaif, they are all very beautiful, very talented actresses. I will be working with Katrina in my next film Fitoor. She’s someone I’ve known from the time she had dropped in to meet Salman, who is my neighbour.”
Speaking of Fitoor, Rekha says, “I’ll be busy with that from January to July. The director, Abhishek Kapoor, is a very talented boy. I am looking forward to seeing how he has interpreted the original novel (Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations). I’ve done a screen adaptation like Khoon Bhari Maang before. It will be interesting to see where the director takes this adaptation.”
Fans crib about seeing very little of Rekha on screen while filmmakers find it difficult to connect with her. She laughs it off, saying, “That excuse is not valid. I am right here and very open to acting offers. But I am happy with my life. I am doing exactly what I want to do. I hold no grudges against anyone. I always try to understand the mind of those whom I connect with. That makes life so much simpler. There are so many natural calamities in the world. Why create your own private tsunami?”
She also has plans to tell her own story in a book. “Yes, I’ve been writing down my thoughts. Not a memoir or autobiography. Just random jottings on life. I also do a lot of sher-o-shayari and these reflect my inner thoughts.” Talking about how she is still a mystery to her admirers, Rekha says, “It’s not cultivated. I am constantly getting to know myself. Maybe when I have as many wrinkles on my face as Mother Teresa, I’ll reach a point of actual self-awareness.”
We point out that wrinkles and Rekha are as far removed from one another as can be. “Ah you will be surprised what good make-up and the correct camera angles can conceal,” she quips.