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My world is an oasis of love: Rekha
By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, June 12 (IANS) Stunningly poised, Rekha is perched at a place in her life where very few celebrities have been. Neither age nor rage ever wrinkles her soul.
Immaculate and unspoilt... impervious to the blows of mundane irritants, the actress has been reluctantly dragged into the news for all the wrong reasons.
What's the truth about Rekha's cancelled trip to Pakistan?
"Truth is too strong a word for what happened. I had already informed my dear friends the Khans (Feroz, Sanjay and Akbar Khan) that I'd be shooting for Goutam Ghose's 'Yatra' and then attending Lata didi's (Mangeshkar) function, which was a day prior to the premiere in Pakistan. They said they'd love me to join them in Pakistan and insisted on getting all the formalities for my travel - visa, passport, etc - in place," Rekha told IANS.
"I requested them not to announce my inclusion at the premiere until I was sure."
But Rekha being Rekha - in other words, unceasingly charitable to the opposite viewpoint - quickly justifies the Khans' premature excitement.
"I can understand why they announced my name. I hold no grudges against anyone. This is not an issue but it is being deliberately blown out of proportion. This is a very trivial price one has to pay for being who one is.
"I love the thought of being loved by people in India as well as Pakistan. I was very honoured when Akbar called me up and said I was the best ambassador from the film industry he could think of. I am always delighted to go to any part of the world to be with my fans."
Apparently, the gorgeous actress has legions of fans in Pakistan. Along with Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, Rekha qualifies as the most wanted Bollywood icon in Pakistan.
Her delighted laughter dismisses the claim.
"Not just India or Pakistan, I feel the whole world is a part of me. It's not just Indians and NRIs whom I connect with. I welcome an interaction with any and every section of people from that large global community. My world is not an oyster but an oasis of love and connectivity.
"From that point of view, being in Pakistan was important. It's just that I chose to abide by another commitment."
She lights up at the mention of the Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar Award that kept her away from Pakistan.
"I can't describe the experience of getting the award from Lata didi. I'm not just her fan - I worship her. When Lata didi asked me to accept the honour I didn't think twice.
"I thought it was very sweet of her to give it to me. Now it's a huge debt on me. I don't know how I'll ever repay Lata didi for this award, and for all the wonderful songs she has sung for me."
She reminisces about her special "ghost-bonding" with Lata and her sister Asha Bhosle.
"They have given my insignificant personality a whole new definition through their songs. I mean, on one hand there was the husky voice of Asha tai who has the sensuality to enhance my expressions in terms of 'bhav'.
"Then there's Lata didi whose voice brings out the girl-woman in me. There's a pristine untouched pure quality to Lata didi's voice, which lends instant grace to a heroine's personality. In many ways I identify very closely with Lata didi.
"Rekha wouldn't have been what she is if it wasn't for these two voices.
"Similarly, I attribute my performances to my directors, and my image to the way the print medium projects my photographs and thoughts. Without these support systems Rekha wouldn't have been Rekha. But Lata didi and Asha tai's contribution is indescribable.
"If I am proud to be single it's because Lata didi is so blissfully single. As for Asha tai, I'm not afraid to try new ideas, venture into the known. Like her I'm not afraid of making mistakes."
Rekha has just completed a fascinating film called "Yatra" with Ghose.
"Like every experience in my life, 'Yatra' was a beautiful experience. I have the good fortune and the basic intelligence to view all my experiences in a kind light... whether it's my producers, directors, films or the weather... I always look at them positively and always learn something from them.
"'Yatra' was an exhilarating experience. It was very interesting because I always enjoy things that are out of the ordinary. Ghose has experienced many shades of life. They are all there in 'Yatra'. The film comes from his heart rather than his imagination.
"It's very challenging for an actor to recreate the truth about the writer-director's life. All the actors in 'Yatra' - Nana Patekar, Deepti Naval et al - have something to teach me. I am a great learner."
Rekha is listening to other scripts.
"But I am not going to sign anything fresh until I'm fully convinced about them. Do I inspire others? I'm glad. Because I inspire myself all the time... Life never ceases to amaze me. Life makes me feel I'm the luckiest person on this earth.
Rekha talks philosophically about life.
"At one point of time I used to be fascinated by the thought of how this world began... how did the Creator think of making this beautiful universe and who created the Creator?
"The searching was endless. Today I have stopped questioning. I have started living. The only way to start enjoying the beauty that surrounds you is to stop questioning and start living life.
"Where's the time to keep asking questions? I'd rather enjoy the laughter of a child, or the voice of Lata didi... 'Ek pal jo abhi hai wo nikal jata hai hamesha ke liye'. I've wasted years questioning the Creator... I am 51. This year I am going to be 52. I have so much more to do."
51 and Rekha? Sounds incongruous.
"Why?" she shot back. "Are you in denial? I'm not. I've accepted everything in life. My mother taught me to take everything in life from age to criticism with humility. You've to have the confidence to carry your age without self-consciousness. I'm proud even of that wrinkle which appears on my face. It's a symbol of all that life has taught me for years.
"Aging is so inevitable. All the choices I've made, all the people I've met, all the hurt and all the happiness... they have all carved every contour on my face. And I'm proud of them all."
Such beauty can only mean a life well lived.
"Don't be too sure. Besides I don't give that much importance to physical beauty. My looks are only a small part of my personality. Looks are just a reflection of who you are from within. No amount of expensive saris, diamonds and makeup can make you look beautiful unless you are at peace inside.
"Lots of worldly wrongs have happened to me. But I didn't wallow in them and let them affect me in a negative way. Every day I go through the bad and the good. There's an angel and devil within me. It's up to us to choose who rules our lives.
"We all have a choice in life. We can make something positive happen in every situation. That's the key to my life.
"I'm always asked why I'm so calm all the time, is it a façade? I agree I'm a great actor on screen. But no one can live a lifetime of lies. I don't believe in living a lie. But I know a lot of people think I live a lie. If that's how they feel about me, so be it."
At a recent popular awards function when Rekha was given a lifetime achievement award she rattled off a long poem by Gulzar.
"I didn't know what to say! They said they were going to felicitate me. I didn't know they were going to give me lifetime achievement award. I wasn't prepared. I am against lifetime awards. I strongly believe nothing dies. Life goes on for ever."
My last question is about the death of her father, actor Gemini Ganesan.
She corrects me. "Again there's no death. Why should I grieve for him when he's so much part of me? Why should I grieve when I'm so grateful for his genes, his teachings, rich life and his sheer existence? Grieve for what? I'm happy I didn't have to share unpleasant moments with him. He existed for me in my imagination. And that's so much more beautiful than reality.
"Everything I love is unqualified by worldly time constraints. I'm just a small link in the larger scheme of things. I'm enjoying everything that comes my way... good bad or ugly. I try to make good use of what life's experiences offer. I think I've done a good job of my life, whatever others may think."
And then she goes for her next shot.