Editor's Note: The Magic That Is Rekha

by | October 10, 2023, 13:05 IST

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Editor's Note: The Magic That Is Rekha
You could say the ingredients of her life had the makings of a classic Greek tragedy: All of which has been chronicled in the purple pages of film rags and unauthorised biographies. Which is perhaps just as well because people need to know what goes into the making of a great actor.

The Rekha performances

The Rekha performances are from largely forgotten films like Dulal Guha's Do Anjaane. Her total recall as an actor to reckon with came once again from Ghar. Directed by Maneck Chatterjee who passed away during the making of the film, the film was completed by Gulzar. Ghar is a Gulzar vehicle right from its dialogue to song sequences. Just like Khubsurat was a delightful Rekha show.

Delightful Rekha show

Ever after Ghar, she flounced around in several commercial chartbusters until Prakash Mehra's Muqaddar Ka Sikandar happened. A last minute addition to the script, an adaptation of Devdas. Rekha's Zohrabai, a modern Chandramukhi, is the entire spice rack in this eminently watchable masala. This same decisiveness she showed in Shyam Benegal's adaptation of Mahabharata. That she's a changeling is also best seen when she switches from cold and calculated in her dealings with her husband Raj Babbar and her warm bordering on sensual with brother in law Ananth Nag.

SEE ALSO: Birthday Special: Celebrating Rekha's timeless charm on the Filmfare Awards stage

Rekha's Zohrabai

The early 80s were her annus mirabilis. After specialising as the other woman or the courtesan, the opportunity came in the form of Yash Chopra's Silsila. Perhaps too dangerously close to real life, people looked for drama. Despite being saddled with an unsympathetic role, Rekha makes you look beyond her glossy lipsticks and china silks.

Rekha makes you look beyond her glossy lipsticks and china silks

A reflection of her free spiritedness showed in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Khoobsurat! As the goofy Manju, Rekha was in top form. Be it in her Piya baawri classical dance or her final scene at the railway station. This was that phase where the metaphorsis of the tender gosling into the swan had truly begun.

She also nailed it in Ramesh Talwar's Basera. From a spirited young wife to a married woman, to a stepmother, to a wife in denial, it was a Rekha show all the way. Her scenes where she attempts to hide the truth of her marriage from her older sister played by Raakhee, are terrific.

Beautiful Rekha

Also, first rate was her performance in the annoyingly maudlin Jeevan Dhaara. As the sole provider to a pile-on family, Rekha pulls in a measured performance besides drawing in all the sympathy votes. Piquantly her great performances also came from the much derided south side melodramas like Judaai, Ek hi bhool, Mehndi Rang Layegi, Maang Bharo Sajna, Asha Jyoti and Prem Tapasya.

Her ascent as a commercially viable top star was punctuated with yet another great turn in Umrao Jaan. Perhaps not as tour de force as Jennifer Kendall's performance in 36 Chowringhee Lane that year, Rekha inhabited the skein of poetess Umrao and gave it the right amount of sadness and Desolation

Gulzar captured this same desolation in a railway station in Ijaazat. At close to 30, Rekha's body language of a woman with a history is note perfect. And history is often a camera's best friend.

I’m reminded of that desolate waiting in a station room of Ijaazat. Of unrequited love in Umrao. Or the forbidden love in Kalyug. In her case, you cannot separate the craft from the artiste. Happy birthday.

SEE ALSO: Birthday Special: Rekha’s noteworthy style statements in elegant Kanjeevaram Sarees