A still from the film Silsila in which Rekha played Chandni, Amitabh Bachchan played Amit Malhotra and Jaya Bachchan played Shobha
New Delhi, April 26: Silsila showed that the world is not large enough for Chandni, Shobha and Amit Malhotra to rub shoulders.
The uppermost house in India now has the chance to show it can effortlessly accommodate those who played Chandni and Shobha, though the namesake who brought Amit to life on screen is no longer in politics.
The recommendation to nominate actress Rekha to the Rajya Sabha is an invitation to not only look back and marvel at one of the most enigmatic phases in Indian politics and Bollywood but also to crystal-gaze at the tantalising possibilities that lie ahead.
Dekha Ek Khwaab To Yeh Silsile Hue (I saw a dream and, therefore, this series of events happened) is said to be Rekha’s favourite song from Silsila but she is never known to have dreamt of a role in public life that is now knocking on her door.
Rekha’s biographer Mohan Deep, who wrote Eurekha, recalls how in the eighties she had developed an intense dislike for politics. “In an interview, Rekha had remarked that she detested politics so much that she had stopped reading daily newspapers. She had remarked ‘I do not wish to see ugly lungs of politicians’,” remembers Deep who has now become a grand master of feng shui.
The 1980s were both eventful and turbulent for actors who had joined politics. Rajiv Gandhi had stunned his opponents by fielding stars Amitabh Bachchan, Sunil Dutt and Vyjayantimala Bali who had demolished formidable rivals like H.N. Bahuguna from Allahabad, Ram Jethmalani from Mumbai (North-West) and Era Sezhiyan from Chennai South, respectively.
But within two years, Amitabh, a childhood friend of Rajiv, quit politics in a huff over the Bofors controversy that has found another of its innumerable fresh leases of life now. Some political analysts had felt that Amitabh’s move to vacate Allahabad at the height of Bofors was a key factor that led to Rajiv’s downfall in 1989.
In fact, Rajiv’s entry into politics had coincided with the release of Yash Chopra’s Silsila featuring Amitabh (who played Amit Malhotra), Rekha (Chandni), Jaya (Shobha) and Sanjeev Kumar. Although it was stoutly denied, many Bollywood insiders had claimed that the movie was inspired by “real-life situations”.
In Silsila, Rekha had played Amitabh’s love interest and Jaya his wife. Since Silsila, Amitabh and Rekha have not acted together.
Subsequently, Jaya and Rekha were seldom seen together. It was also said that Amitabh was discouraged by his family members from signing films opposite Rekha.
In 1981-82, when Rajiv was being groomed as Indira Gandhi’s successor, Rekha bagged the best actress award for Umrao Jaan. Some film critics had then suggested Jennifer Kendal had put in a “superior performance” in 36, Chowringhee Lane.
The last time Jaya and Rekha were seen together in public was at the launch of the late photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha’s book in June 2010 where they greeted each other. Rekha had even kissed her while Jaya grimaced. Jaya sat on the stage with Kajol, Lata Mangeshkar and others while Rekha was seen sitting in the front row in the audience.
With the Rajya Sabha nomination, Rekha now has the option to share a very public platform with Jaya for the next six years. Jaya, who recently won a nomination from the Samajwadi Party, was sworn in for a fresh term in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week.
The heady Bollywood years and the attention that swirled around Silsila have ensured that many are seeing in Sonia’s initiative to get Rekha a berth in the upper House a deft move to keep Jaya in check.
Given their star status, comparisons are certain to be made on every move the two make and unsparing glare will fall on their attire, style and performance — where some foresee an edge to Rekha.
Rekha has spoken extensively about fellow actor Amitabh. In an interview, she had said: “It’s so easy to gush about someone who has been an inexorable part of my life for over three decades now. Amitji has been a part of my consciousness ever since I saw him create magic on screen in Parwana playing the intense, silent, yet obsessive lover opposite Yogeeta Bali. Incidentally, Yogeeta was the one who introduced us at Madras airport.”
On another occasion, Rekha had commented: “Whatever I am as an actor, I owe 100 per cent to him (Amitabh). I just soaked in whatever he had to offer just observing him. And all of that comes back to me like a time release pill. Every time I’m stuck or have a mental block during a performance, I refer back to whatever I’ve learnt from him. And everything else takes care of itself.”
Speaking to another interviewer, Rekha, whose marital life was punctuated by tragedy and who is now single, had recalled: “I remember during the outdoor shooting of Ganga Ki Saugandh, he’d pine for Shweta and Abhishek (Amitabh and Jaya’s children). So he would be carrying their films shot on projector and albums with their photographs. I remember every day unfailingly, he’d write to his mother and she’d write back even if it was just two lines.”
Words were also attributed to her that needed little interpretation. Rekha was once quoted as saying: “It is a known fact that my father is Kaadhal Mannan (king of romance) of the south. But to me, no actor enacts every term in the book which concerns romance and does more justice than Amitji does. And he does all this with endearing gestures which are his sole patents and can never be duplicated ever. The world believes that Amitji and I had huge chemistry. I must confess that I am not by nature the kind who analyses or dissects every experience of my life.”
Bollywood actors sympathetic to Jaya say she spent her entire life making concessions for her husband. She had probably thought that the political arena would be one area where she would have the spotlight to herself and come into her own after years of putting her career on hold.
Now Jaya may have to share that space with Rekha.