Mumbai: Evergreen Bollywood Diva Rekha’s public persona was as tumultuous and turbulent as her personal life. In the new biography Rekha: The Untold Story written by Yasser Usman, published by Juggernaut, the writer chronicles her life and days and some of the excerpts from the book reveal details that are, well, have to be read to be believed.
While shooting her first film Anjana Safar, in Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio, a 15-year-old Rekha had to endure, what would today be called as ‘molestation’, in the hands of the film’s director Raja Nawathe and its star Biswajeet Chatterjee. Right before the shoot, Raja and Biswajeet had it all planned, down to the very last detail. The scene that was to be shot was a romantic scene. According to an excerpt from the book published in The Times of India, the moment Raja said ‘action’, Biswajeet grabbed Rekha and pressed his lips on her mouth. Anything about the kiss had not been mentioned to Rekha. While the camera kept rolling and the entire crew kept whistling and cheering, the director did yell ‘cut’ for five minutes, as Biswajeet kept kissing an unsuspecting Rekha for full five minutes. Rekha had tightly closed her eyes but they were full of tears.
According to a filmmaker, in an excerpt published in TOI, when Vinod Mehra, Rekha’s rumoured husband, took her to his house in Bombay, after getting married in Calcutta, Vinod’s mother was highly hostile to Rekha. She reportedly pushed Rekha away when the actor tried to touch her mother-in-law’s feet. She refused to let the new ‘bride’ enter the house. She kept abusing and humiliating Rekha who kept standing at the door. Vinod tried to keep matters under control but his mother was too agitated. She reportedly took off her sandals and almost assaulted Rekha with it. Rekha, confused and hurt, began running towards the lift, with tears in her eyes, as a crowd began gathering around the flat. Her husband, Vinod, followed her and asked to stay at his house till matters became normal.
Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh were getting married on January 22, 1980. Neetu and Rekha were close friends. The who’s who of the film industry were present at RK Studios, beautifully decked up. Also present at the wedding were Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya Bachchan, and his parents.
Suddenly, Rekha made a ‘sensational entry’, wearing a spectacular white sari, with a red bindi on her forehead, and, well, red sindoor on her hair. The cameras soon moved away from Rishi-Neetu and focussed on her.
According to a Cine Blitz report on the events of that night, Rekha walked up to the centre of RK Studios’ garden and stood there. But her eyes kept wandering towards Amitabh Bachchan who was speaking to director Manmohan Desai. Soon, Rekha walked up to Amitabh and began talking. They were seen conversing formally, but according to a report in Stardust magazine, “Jaya tried to keep a stoic front for a long time, but eventually she had to bend her head and let the tears roll down.”
Later, in an interview, Rekha said that the sindoor and mangalsutra were part of a film she was shooting. She had forgotten to remove them on her way to the wedding straight from the shoot. However, in 1982, at a National Awards function, where Rekha was being awarded for her performance in Umrao Jaan (1981), she famously said, “In the city I come from, it’s fashionable to wear sindoor”.
What led to Rekha’s husband Mukesh Agarwal’s suicide?
In an excerpt from Rekha: The Untold Story published in Mumbai Mirror, Mukesh Agarwal was apparently suffering from chronic depression and was not too pleased with Rekha’s acting career, and all of this, coupled with post-divorce trauma, led to him committing suicide.
Reportedly, it was Rekha who made the first phone call to then-rising entrepreneur Mukesh Agarwal. She was looking to get settled down while Mukesh was a die-hard fan of the star. Soon phone calls led to meeting and within a month of knowing each other, the two got married.
However, soon, Rekha got to know that Mukesh had chronic depression, which apparently, ran in his family. He was also involved with his psychiatrist ‘Akash Bajaj’. Soon, cracks appeared in the marriage as Mukesh began exhibiting erratic behaviour. He kept Rekha in the dark about his failing business, became too overbearing and started embarrassing her by leaving his work in Delhi and coming to Bombay and hanging around on her sets for no reason.
On October 2, 1990, seven months after their marriage, Mukesh, who reportedly seemed happy on the fateful day, according to his brother Anil, committed suicide. In fully filmy style, he tied one end of Rekha’s dupatta to the ceiling fan, made a noose out of it and then hanged himself to death with it.
A national witchhunt followed. People all over the country starting hating and shaming her as a cold-hearted man-eater. A furious Anil Gupta, reportedly, said, “My brother loved Rekha truly. For him love was a do or die attempt. He could not tolerate what Rekha was doing to him. Now what does she want, does she want our money?”
Akash Bajaj joined the gang as well. “I am angry at his death and absolutely furious with the person who caused this to him. I want to lash out and ask why?,” said Bajaj.
Surprisingly, director-producer Subhash Ghai also gave his piece of mind and attacked Rekha. The Karz director reportedly said, “Rekha has put such a blot on the face of the film industry that it’ll be difficult to wash it away easily. I think after this any respectable family will think twice before accepting any actress as their bahoo.”
He didn’t stop there. He added, “It’s going to be tough even professionally for her. No conscientious director will work with her ever again. How will the audience accept her as Bharat ki nari or insaf ki devi?”
Anupam Kher, Rekha’s co-star in many films around that time joined the chorus. He said, “She’s become the national vamp. Professionally and personally, I think it’s curtains for her. I mean I don’t know how will I react to her if I come face to face with her.”