Meet Rekha the artist
The enigmatic actress talk about her interests like photography, writing, sketching and singing
She guards her privacy fiercely. Although unauthorised books have been written about the twists and turns in her life, she has neither approved nor contradicted them, including the persistent buzz linking her with once-upon-a-time screen hero Amitabh Bachchan. The plain fact is that the 65-year-old actress continues to arouse public curiosity and has been consistently described as 'an enigma'.
Over the decades, I must have interviewed Rekha a countless number of times. Why? Simply because she can be smartly evasive and on occasion, teases you to read between the lines.
Even when she makes it a point to go under the radar, Rekha, who is often associated with her National Award-winning portrayal of a lovelorn courtesan in Umrao Jaan (1981) continues to fascinate anyone interested in the star power - or should I say star magic? - of Bollywood heroines.
Here's looking back at some little-known facets of Ma'am Ray, as she likes to be called by those who attempt to probe her in the course of conversations. Over then to choice excerpts, in her own words, starting off with the revelation that she has an artistic side to her. For instance, if the sketches by her were ever shown in an exhibition, they would be sold out instantaneously.
On Sketching: The sketches I do are a reflection of me. I have no intention of ever displaying them in a gallery, though. Whenever I work on self-portraits, somehow they are not direct, like the one in which I am tying my hair into a knot or the one in which I am in deep thought. Strangely, I have never used colours while sketching. It's either charcoal or a black felt pen. Perhaps that's because my life has been black and white, which, in any case, is longer-lasting. It has more character. Black and white have shades that are like relationships. One has to experience the greys, whites and sepia tones.
I associate colour with happiness, which is momentary. Pain gives me strength, it does not thrill me to be happy anymore. After a low phase, I feel relieved, not necessarily elated. Pain has helped me handle life in difficult times and prepared for more difficult times to come.
On Photography: It has been my most faithful ally. Photo-sessions are like therapy, like a visit to the spa. Every time I feel restless, I fix up a photo-session. In fact, my best photos have been clicked when I was at my lowest.
When I am acting, I am at the mercy of the director, the script and the cameraman. But during a photo-session, I am the boss. I can go crazy deciding the concept, colour schemes and clothes. I enjoy the ritual of choosing the matching lipstick or nail polish, a hair-do and my attitude.
I also enjoy clicking pictures and have several cameras. I record memories on video and stills. My friends do get exasperated and tell me that I should forget about taking pictures and enjoy myself. But they don't realise that I am storing moments for them to remember and relish in the future. As long as I live, I won't ever show those photographs to the world either, they are not for pubic consumption.
On Writing: At times, I have felt tempted to write my autobiography - not a tell-all as you might suppose but about the many beautiful people who have influenced me, particularly my mother (Pushpavalli) and a certain person whom I will not name. But then I wonder, "Am I a writer really?". I have tried to write poetry but the poems are childish, the ninth standard sort of stuff. Prose is simpler to handle. When I'm in the mood, I write about the way my life could have been if certain people hadn't behaved the way they did. I never write to complain or out of sheer frustration. After all, I am not alone. I always have myself to communicate with.
I recall the phase when I fell deeply in love. Then there was a major gap. Between 1990-94, I lost too many people who were close to me - my mother, brother, makeup man Dada, music teacher and dear friends like Vinod Mehra, Amjad Khan bhai, Panchamda (R.D. Burman), Manji (Manmohan Desai) and (dance director) Kamal Masterji. It was as if all my dearest ones were dropping dead on me. And I wondered, "What crime did I commit to get such punishment?"
On Singing: I'm often told that I should record an album. Maybe it's high time I did, but not till the day I'm completely satisfied with the way my voice sounds. All I know is that the end-result will be... well... quite a bit like me. Singing transports me to another world. There are times when I just hum or compose tunes, and tell myself, "Wow! That wasn't bad at all." But I guess anything sounds good when you hear it with your own echo in the bathroom.
On Mimicry: You may disagree but mimicry is an art form. I have always been a major fan of Peter Sellers, Johnny Lever and Javed Jaaferi. God has given us one face and one voice. Yet if one can develop facial expressions and voices to imitate different people, then it's truly a remarkable talent. Mind you, it isn't easy. I used to mimic babies and animals, my schoolteachers and also some of my co-stars and actresses. That said, I'm convinced it's virtually impossible for me to imitate males, except one.