Bollywood Nostalgia

How I crossed the Lakshman Rekha

Today I am going to tell you a story that I have been following up for the past one year, but with little success. I haven’t been able to make a breakthrough with it yet, which explains why it didn’t make it on the pages of a newspaper or magazines that I’ve worked with during the time.

But whatever I have got was enough to material to tell you an interesting story about a diva called Rekha here.


Rekha in a dare-bare photo-shoot for a magazine cover in 1979

The story is not a happy, happy one but interesting for sure.

The story struck me one rainy day when I was passing through Bandra Bandstand last year. I crossed the familiar route leading to Mannat (Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow), swerved my car to the right and drove towards Bungalow # 3 where Farhan Akhtar lived. As I parked my car, my eyes fixed at the bungalow beside Farhan’s — Bungalow # 2 called Sea Springs.

Curiosity took over the casual glance at the once famous address in Bandra. I couldn’t spot a soul there, save a lonely middle-aged grumpy guard sitting outside the gates wearing a bottle-green uniform that seemed to have not been washed for at least a week. The owner of the bungalow had erected tall bamboo scaffolding all across the sea-facing side to subvert unwanted attention from on-lookers and passers-by, who dared to peep into her house in the beginning. It was 3 pm in the afternoon. Ditching the idea of seeking an appointment with Farhan, I decided to go and talk to the durwaan of the bungalow. I thought I’d be able to make a breakthrough that day, but I didn’t. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

I said: ‘Madame ne bulaya hai’

Guard: ‘Ho sakta hai. Par aap aandar nahi jaa sakte’

I insisted: ‘Par Madame ne bulaya hai’

Guard unrelenting: ‘Bola na, agar bulaya bhi hai toh aap andar nahi jaa sakte.’

I persisted: ‘Par aap check to kijiye ek baar unke saath’

Guard (beginning to sound more of a house owner now): ‘Zaroorat nahi hai. Agar Madame bhi bolte hai toh main aaj kisi ko andar jaane na doon. Madame ne aaj saare appointments cancel kar kiya hai. Kisise nahi milengi’.

I countered back:  ‘Matlab?’

Guard retorted: ‘Koi matlab nahi, aap jaiye’

I continued: ‘Madam ka tabiyat kharab hai kya?’

Guard (his expression unreadable now): ‘Nahi woh bilkul theek hai. Kisi se aaj milna nahi chahte hai, bas!’

If I had stayed on for a little while more, the guard would have thrown me out. But there was one sentence that kept on ringing in my ears: ‘Even if Madame relents about meeting anyone, that person will not be allowed in.’ And that all prior appointments confirmed by this ‘Madame’ earlier stands cancelled. This got me ticking. It does seem like the guard was used to having ‘Madame’ cancelling prior appointments (not that there were many) and meet to anyone when she didn’t feel like.

I wondered as to what prompts this Bollywood actress to force loneliness upon herself. And why would she create such a strong wall around her that would finally push her into a corner of no return.

Suddenly, Bungalow # 2 transformed into the fabled ivory tower of Bollywood, where there was a queen who didn’t want to see the sun. A queen, who had grown old through her experiences, if not in body.

Yes, I am talking about Bhanurekha Ganesan, whom the world worships as Rekha. And it is this Rekha that I followed so closely over the next one year and carefully pieced a story together about a side of her that nobody gets to know. You can dismiss it (if you want) as one has to still get the subject to corroborate it.

Having said that, let’s move on to the next part of the story… But first a slideshow of some Rekha’s sensual and rare pictures ->

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bollywood ditches you when you need ‘Him’ the most

Bollywood is like a rich lover, who showers its mistress with the choicest of gifts and puts the world at her feet. She then becomes the cynosure of everyone’s attention, curiosity and talk. But it all crumbles. One day. Just like that. With a flick, it seems, of an evil witch’s wand.

Suddenly, nobody will flock around you. There won’t be a commotion when you step out on the streets or a flock behind you to tell you how beautiful and sexy you are at every step of your life. Suddenly, life seems to have pressed the ‘pause’ button. And for someone, who loathed the attention of the paparazzi, will find no one outside the window trying to grapple a glimpse of even your dress. No calls from any magazine to pose for their covers. The only one who seems to be loyal is your secretary of many years, sitting quietly at home and depending on monthly incomes that now seems like a measly pension. The phone will ring once in a three days; they are most probably a sister or a cousin from the other side of the world in US, checking to find out if all is well with you.

This is the exact moment when you realise that Bollywood has dumped you.

You have nowhere to go, nobody to meet and only a few handful of people are still bothered about you. They care about you but their numbers are also dwindling by the day.

These are usually a familiar and painful trajectory of a Bollywood heroine’s life. A handful of them re-work their careers and get into roles that suit their age. But a few others find it extremely difficult to negotiate their way out. Rekha seems to be one of them.

A lot of her friends say that Bhanurekha Ganesan is increasingly finding it difficult to be what a lot of her colleagues are — gregarious and part of the supporting actors’ club of big banner Bollywood films.

The number of appearances at award functions (and other filmi events) has started dwindling by the day, just like her appearances in movies. Rekha is increasingly becoming like the caged bird, who refuses to fly out even though she can, to see and explore the wide sky above her.

I went around asking her friends and tried to find out how she is managing her everyday life. If she does not step out of her house, then what does she do to add more meaning to her life? Who comes to see her? Who does she go to visit? And what is she going to do next?

I couldn’t find the answers to all of my questions, but I did manage to find some. In the next installment of my article I will tell you the Rekha of today as told to me by her friends. What happens in that world behind the impregnable walls of Sea Springs?

Meanwhile, as you wait for the next and the concluding part of this article, here’s a video which speaks volumes about Rekha’s sensuality in her heydays. Expect more such rare videos with the next installment of the story.

The video may seem embarrassing  and crude but those were the days when a whole concert used to be sold in her name. This concert was a sell-out, I am told.

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