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March 16, 2000


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'Today there is a lot of finesse, but no soul'

Rekha 5.5 per cent!

Believe it or not, that is exactly what you can know of Rekha. Career is just five-and-a-half per cent of me, she reveals in this rare interview.

Is that possible? Take three decades of colossal professional success and add to that, persistent fame and admiration. Will that only equal to 5.5 per cent of Rekha's life. Is that really possible?

Hers has been the kind of stardom that gradually matures with age. The kind of fame that in time grows to become a legend.

Yet the lady denies it. "I have never taken stardom seriously. At school my friends would get to see my film and I would get to eat more chocolates. That was it."

When we reached the sets of her latest film,Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao, we were expecting nothing more than canned responses to questions about the movie and her career and a few grudging notes on a lonely and silent life.

Instead we were caught off guard by a cathartic burst of a personal philosophy. "Now people might think that I am not married and I have no children, the conventional lifestyle you know, but I see it this way: as long as you are alive, you have a chance to have a future. At least there is hope," she tells Sharmila Taliculam.

This is Rekha: Excerpts from a life.

This film that you are shooting is called Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao. Are you playing the biwi?

Unfortunately yes. But then it is supposed to be a comedy, so it is not as bad as it sounds. The subject has been treated in a fun way and (director) Harry Baweja is very good with his technique. Not slapstick at all. Yet, he stays with the emotions and traditions of Indian movies.

A wife in India has the same sentiments about her husband as has Kamini, the character I am playing in the film. She loves her husband and wants to be loved in return. But the problem in this case is that she is very big, meaning very fat. The story is about her being kidnapped for ransom and how she discovers that her husband is reluctant to pay up because he loves her only for her money. Eventually the fallout of the drama is that she loses weight!

Kamini is not a woman of the '90s. She is a woman of the new millennium. When she realises that her husband doesn't love her she is really hurt. Yet she does not resort to revenge. But can she forgive him?

Has this film been inspired by Ruthless People?

Yeah! It has been inspired by Ruthless People. But we are not supposed to mention it. Nobody mentioned that Khoon Bhari Maang was a remake of Return to Eden. That is because Return to Eden was an Australian sitcom and nobody here was aware of it. But yes, Ruthless People is more popular and it was very difficult for us to adapt it in the Indian way. The whole concept is so Western.

But I think they have done a good job and I hope Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao does well. If people can go with the flow and have fun, then it would be no problem. If you start criticising it, then it would be difficult.

How have you managed to look fat in this film?

That is not difficult for me. I have to just eat a lot for two days and I start looking fat. Seriously speaking, the padding did it. But the difficult part was to put on weight on my face. My face is so slim that it is the most deceptive part of my body. Looking at my face, people think I am a very thin and delicate person.

Rekha, on the sets of Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao I have this A-line figure. It starts with my face being small and increases as it goes down. Actually South Indians have this problem. Small face. Big hips. Coming back to the face, it was difficult for me to make it look plump. But we have managed to match my face with my body.

It was fun working with Naseersaab (Naseeruddin Shah) and today's kids like Arshad (Warsi) and Priyanka. Mukul Dev and Suman Ranganathan. We had so much fun doing this movie that its box office performance will make a difference only to the producer. I really had fun doing this film.

You are doing a film after a long time...

I don't think I am doing a film after a long time. It's releasing after a long time. I don't know; they take their own sweet time releasing these films. And that's really not under my control. Only it always seems that I am working after a long time.

But you aren't accepting many films these days, are you?

I can't accept every film that is offered to me. Not all of them interest me. Basically, they make films for the youth today. They cater to the younger generation. Which is fine by me and I am open to playing any kind of role. Like Khiladiyon Ke Khiladi, that was different.

What is lovely at this point of my life is that I can choose to do exactly what I want to. It doesn't matter what the length of the role is, whether I am playing a negative or a positive character or whether I am playing an older woman like a mother. I don't care as long as it's food for thought and it excites me and I am doing something that I haven't done before.

Aren't you being offered anything exciting?

I do get the so-called heroine-oriented films. But then there are so many elements and factors that make me refuse them. Mostly I get offers from newcomers who either come from ad agencies or it's their first directorial venture or they are some builders who have a lot of money to finance films.

They are my fans and they just want to make a film with me. They have grown up thinking they want to make a film and they want to make that movie with me. But then I can have no guarantee whether such films will be finally made or not because you need some experience to make a movie.

The other day, a bound script was offered to me. The author had put in a tremendous amount of work. Every page had my photograph on it. He had picked up my pictures from magazines and he had done the script with computers, all very professionally. All this is very impressive.

Yet, in our days, I would be told one line and I would know what my role is like.

Rekha Today there is a lot of finesse and Western influence, but there is no soul. I get very strong vibrations about this. I feel the newcomers might manage finances because they have cast me. And we might go on and probably do one schedule too. But I don't think they would be able to complete it. I get these vibrations and I don't do it. It's not as if I want to do only heroine-oriented films. I am really open to mother kind of roles too. But something exciting is not coming my way. Really.

'People call me a recluse...that is a myth'

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