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March 16, 2000


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

Rekha and Vinod Mehra in Ghar Teenie-bopper films are the trend today. You started your career when the heroines had more mature roles to play, right?

Heroines looked mature even in the generation before me and the generation before that. I was 13 when I started acting. People have not realised that I have been around for that long. They think that I am probably 50 plus, which I am not. But I am 45 and that is a lot. I don't look my age because maybe I have taken care of myself and my attitude has been extremely futuristic.

I have learnt to adapt and adjust to my environment and make the best of the changing times and still keep my old world values. So I have got the best of both the worlds. I have also learnt to use my basic intelligence to know how much I must adopt from the new world and how much I must retain from the old.

So, I think when I starting acting, I was 13. But I didn't look 13. In Sawan Bhadon, I looked 18. Look at Meena Kumari. She began acting at a very young age. But she had the face of a woman. She was never a girl. I too, was never a girl.

But having said that let me talk about a strange combination: I like to believe, and my family and friends certainly think so, that I have retained a certain amount of innocence and vulnerability. I must be worldly and wise, but I am very vulnerable. You reflect what you do.

People call me a recluse. They say I don't give interviews. But that is a myth. I have come such a long way that I believe that God has given me the good fortune to choose the people I want to interact with. And that I would have done even if I weren't an actress. As an individual, as a person, you have the liberty to choose the person you want to talk to or meet. That's your privilege and prerogative. But if I don't want to talk, it's always 'Oh Rekhaji doesn't want to talk.' That doesn't make any sense.

So coming back to the stars of yesteryear, whether it was Meena Kumari or Nargis or Madhubala, everyone was so womanly. Madhubala wore ponytails, wore short skirts, was impish, but there was something so womanly about her. There was something sensuous about her. There was nothing sexy, impish or girlie about any of the heroines.

Today, everything is about being a teenie-bopper; which is fine, which is great. I think today they have much more confidence, much more experience and much more assertiveness. Today they know exactly what they want to do. They know how to invest their money. They know how to do many things at the same time. Put all their eggs in one basket. They have arrived.

We didn't know about these things. We were told to do certain things, we abided by rules and we were doing what was expected of us. Which was good and yet bad in a way.

But I was lucky because at an early age, I was over and done with all that. And then I had a choice of doing whatever I wanted to do. I could have misused that freedom but I didn't.

You did many offbeat films like Ghar and Ijaazat. Such films are still being made. But you haven't done many of them again. Why?

It depends on the individual's point of view. What do you view as intelligent cinema? For me Umrao Jaan was intelligent. It was the so-called art cinema. But then it did so well commercially. So where do you draw the line? Personally, I don't like this segregation that people divide films into.

For me a movie is a movie. Every kind of a movie is my baby and I give it equal amounts of attention, blood and sweat and my soul and my intelligence. I never think that this baby is handicapped so I must give it less attention.

Yes, I have been privileged to work with filmmakers like Muzzafar Ali and Shyam Benegal and many such veterans. In fact, I am doing a film with Shyam Benegal called Zubeida. And that is supposed to be a non-commercial project. But then you have Karisma Kapoor and Rekha and Manoj Bajpai. So what difference does it make? A good film is a good film.

I thought Kaagaz Ke Phool was a good film, I thought Mera Naam Joker was a good film. If a film does well then you label it a commercial film and if it doesn't, then it is automatically an art film.

In a film, I am only concerned about what I am portraying. Unless you are directing the film or producing it, you should not be concerned about the whole film. That is because we do not have control otherwise.

My motto in life is that if you do not have control over any element in your life, then you must learn to let go. But give your best to whatever is in your control. Because if you worry about what others are saying or what others are doing or why is the climate lousy or why are your clothes not okay, then you are spending too much energy on outer elements.

Rekha in Umrao Jaan I have practised this over the years. I do well whatever is in my control. As far as my profession goes, whatever is in my control -- like my makeup, my clothes, my mood -- I make the best of them. Things like the climate or the dust or the gossip that is written about me or the publication of a book about me, none of these things affects my performance in the least. The camera is on and I have to go and deliver my dialogues.

Since nothing exciting has been coming your way lately, why haven't you directed or produced your own films?

Because I do not have the bone in me to be a producer. I am not money-minded. Also I am a very delicate, tender, easygoing, fun-loving person. The commercial aspect of making a film is too much of a strain. There is too much begging to be done, dates to be set, sets to be made and then finances to be raised.

People say that it won't make a difference because anybody would be willing to finance my film. But I think it is a huge responsibility. I haven't really thought about it. But I would love to direct some day. I do have that great urge to direct, which I can do at any age, I guess. But I haven't done with acting yet.

What kind of films would you like to direct?

I think it would be an extension of me. I am still discovering myself, so the film I would make would be discovering myself through direction. I really don't know.

I guess to begin with, it would be romantic because I am a very romantic kind of a person. And it would be very honest. It would be very thought-provoking. I hope. And it would be aesthetically and visually very beautiful. And it would be a silent message and I am not talking about sound. It would reach your soul visually. It would be able to communicate silently. I don't know whether you understand what I mean.

'I have never taken stardom seriously'

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