When the Angry Young Man fell for the Femme Fatale, it gave rise to a blazing trail of affairs (pun or no pun) that threatened to reduce both Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha to ashes, dragging families in its wake. So much so that even thirty years down the line, the two are never reluctant to offer an ice-cold shoulder to each other. Of course, the many intricate layers of the fabric called society nipped that romance in the bud which could have blossomed to what extent, only the realm of speculation now knows.
Amitabh was a married man, and he had married a woman of his choice. Jaya Bhaduri was not thrust upon him by dictatorial parents and he wasn’t stuck in the marriage. Enter Bhanurekha Ganesan. A woman deprived of father’s love all her life, an ugly duckling who was severely castigated for being dark in complexion and fat, a person who could hardly speak Hindi. And once the caustic incisive tongues of critics lashed out at her, Bhanurekha worked on her appearance with en
ormous zeal, and shed those extra kilos and the first part of that first name of hers. The Hindi film industry played witness to a colossal makeover as Rekha forayed into it, and all of them who had earlier wrote her off, went ahead and embraced Rekha with their sugar-laced words of praise and awe.
When Rekha was cast across Amitabh in ‘Do Anjaane’, little did they know that the nomenclature of that first film would be the only thing left for them once they would part ways after ‘Silsila’. In 1981, tongues had already started wagging with fierce enthusiasm. One of the leading actors of the industry was supposedly in a clandestine extra-marital relationship with the gorgeous Rekha. Some say Rekha’s transformation from her dull avatar to the swashbuckling epitome of beauty was a by-product of her affair with Bachchan. And many others beg to differ. But what was once a tight-lipped speculation whose only abode was the gossip-mongering part of the minds of people received a concretised stamp with Yash Chopra speaking out about the affair.
In an interview with the BBC, Yash Chopra was heard saying that Amitabh and Rekha were very much in a relationship before ‘Silsila’ rolled on to sets. And once the script was made public, it was as if the trio of Amitabh, Jaya and Rekha were enacting a snippet out of their real life – a life fraught with marital disharmony and coloured with the hues of the impossible. On the one hand Amitabh had his loyal wife, and on the other he had the ‘other’. The tension was palpable, the delicate bubble called relationship pulsated with a ferocious intensity; the scandal, like a canker, had the potency of consuming all the participants completely.
Rekha’s lonely life has bred many rumours and occasional truths. Her marriages did not last, and many a times she has been heard proclaiming her love for ‘The Man’. No wild guesses there, we all know who the beauty was hinting at. And as far as Amitabh is concerned, he might have sought for escape from the affair, he might have acted in a manner that his Amit Malhotra of ‘Silsila’ did in the end. All said and done, it was evident that even many years down the line, the two present a nauseating sight to each other. The Bachchan family’s dismissal of the affair and Amitabh’s nonchalance regarding the same has only cemented what was once just a speculation. And of course, Yash Chopra’s famous revelation is another prong of this many-pronged snippet of the actors’ past.
Cut to April 2012. It has been thirty one long years since Amitabh and Rekha have been cast opposite each other. After what ensued once ‘Silsila’ was released, nobody in the industry dared ask any of the two to act together in their film. Rekha did not get her Amit, and the husband returned to his abode and spent his days steeped in domestic felicity ever after. Reminds me of those famous lines from ‘Silsila’, “Har kisi ko mukammal jahan nahi milta; kisi ko zameen, kisi ko aasman nahi milta.”
However, come contemporary times, and there are several chinks that have started appearing in the stifling silences that Amitabh has maintained regarding his relation with Rekha. Amitabh’s candid confession that he is open to working with Rekha has exorcised yet another facet of the Hindi film industry that has, to be very honest, never really been laid to rest. If the script demands Rekha, he has no inhibition in acting opposite to her. The million dollar question now remains, who will bell the cat? Will we actually have a script courageous enough to cast the two together in a film again? It is still time till that one is answered, it seems.
The once lovers, and then estranged Amitabh and Rekha – will we be spectators to yet another ‘Silsila’? One of the ‘Do Anjaane’-s have gone forward with a bold statement. That he has no qualms in working with Rekha. Will the mesmerising-eyed beauty respond? Will we see their sparkling romance on the silver screen yet again? Will the two be heard saying, “… dil kehta hain duniya ki har ek rasm utha de … deewar jo hum dono mein hain aaj gira de … kyu dil mein sulagte rahe, logon ko bataa de … haan, humko mohabbat hain, mohabbat…”? We are all ears!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)