Bollywood actor Rekha celebrates her 57th birthday on Monday. Born October 10, 1954, Bhanurekha Ganesan started her career with screen-name Rekha in 1966 as a child actor in the Telugu movie Rangula Ratnam, though her film debut as a lead happened four years later with Hindi movie Sawan Bhadon (1970). Rekha has acted in over 180 films in a career that has spanned over 40 years. Throughout her career, she has often played strong female characters and, apart from mainstream cinema, appeared in arthouse films, known then as parallel cinema. Excerpts from her interview that appeared in AsiaSpa India magazine recently:
How did your journey in the movies begin?
I never planned to become an actress. My parents were actors and travelled the world. I too wanted to travel and explore new facets of myself, so I thought I would be an air hostess. But I was rejected, being underage. I grew up in Chennai, studied in a convent school with Irish nuns. I was completely fascinated by them and even wanted to become one. I was a loner. I’d spend time in the chapel, day-dreaming. Even back then I was an artiste by nature. I spent time in my own world, the one I created for myself. My favourite subjects were Moral Science, Art and Indian History – the Romance of Shah Jehan. Whenever I hear something romantic, I retain it. My mother wanted me to become a great star and to reach-out to everyone in India. Little did she know, with her blessings, I’ve managed to touch the heart of every Indian across the globe. So here I am, after four decades, connecting with four generations of fans. And I thank God for bestowing his blessings upon me!
‘Rekha’ has forever been wrapped in an aura of mystery. Why?
What mystery? You tell me. The media is the one that creates this image. It’s just that I am basically shy by nature, an introvert and fiercely private. I am just me! I live on my own terms and make my own rules. My principles of ‘Rekha-ism’, if you please, don’t feel the need to announce every incident that transpires in the course of the day. Sorry, but I am not that little birdie that ‘twitters’. But of course I’ve lived many lifetimes in one and shall share the experiences in my own unique way, all in good time.
What is truly your relationship to time, are you afraid of ageing?
In my case it is the way I’ve lived my life. I am still child-like by nature. It is in the genes. I believe I am a late bloomer, and I’ve managed to retain my vulnerability and innocence. My mom hardly had grey hair and barely needed glasses. My dad was very active and played badminton and did yoga all his life. My paternal grandmother lived to be almost hundred. I have savla (wheatish) complexion, which tends to age slower than fair skin. I am a simple, fun-loving, easy-going girl, with very strong middle-class upbringing. I’ve always chosen to focus on the things that are in my control and never sulked or brooded when things were out of control; this really helps. Time does not feature in my scheme of things!
Who according to you is your ideal man?
The ideal man is Lord Shiva – beautiful, handsome, kind eyes, graceful and a dynamic dancer. A strong, powerful force, yet gentle and tender, he exists in a variety of versions, he is equally man and woman. I wish every man tapped into his feminine side to understand women. The reason we are attracted to the other side, is because we have it within us. We just have to acknowledge that part of us. The one question I am often asked, ‘why are you still single’, to that I would say, if it is meant to be, it will. As long as there is life, there is hope. The truth is only I know how to woo me, so if and when I find someone who can read my mind, then… we shall see!
Does that mean you are over men?
I hope not (laughs). Can one ever get over nature? Without nature, there is no creation, no life. But I don’t long for a relationship or consciously think about it. When nature takes its course, all will happen… or not! Either way, I am not complaining.
What is your take on relationships these days?
Today’s woman is much more independent, self-sufficient and confident, commanding and shares equal status in society. Let me be clear, if a man and woman really want to be with each other, they will. I believe relationships should not require effort. I always keep hearing, that it takes hard-work and open communication is demanded. I believe a good relationship should not feel like hard work at all. It should feel effortless and natural. Some women are so consumed with the size of the ‘solitaire’ or the swanky cars that they lose sight of the real thing which is mutual respect – for each other’s space, their profession, families and friends. I believe in soulmates. Once a relationship is established, and there is love, respect and admiration, it is bound to last forever. If not, then it was never the real thing in the first place.