Ageless, timeless…

The other day I was browsing on the internet and came across some pictures of Rekha attending a bash hosted by Reliance big wig Anil Ambani in Mumbai. The south Indian beauty looked astoundingly beautiful in a black saree, her chiseled face glowing and her raven tresses gleamed under the lights. I read that she is fifty six years of age and I was genuinely surprised. She does not look a day older than probably forty and it would be impossible to say that she is a good sixteen years over the mark. I admire this diva who has managed to look so fabulous despite time slipping by at a rate faster than anticipated. She is also one who takes great care in dressing and the traditional sarees from Kanchipuram suit her elaborately. She has always adorned these traditional sarees in most of her outings and carries it off with unmatched elan. She is without a doubt an ageless wonder.

My favorite performances of Rekha’s have been in Umrao Jaan and Silsila. It is probably because of her seductive looks that seductive roles requiring her to play the part of a courtesan or an erring wife have suited her the most. Rekha has also acted marvelously in feisty roles in Khoon bari maang where the role of an avenging wife was dealt wonderfully. Her onscreen chemistry with Mr Bachchan is irreplaceable. Although, Mr Bachchan’s pairing with other lead stars like Rakhi, Jaya Badhuri and Zeenat Aman were equally charming, the voltage between Mr Bachchan and Rekha still lingers. Rekha’s paring with Rakesh Roshan was also delectable but not in equal measure as what she shared with Mr Bachchan.

At the time that Rekha first ventured into the film industry, she was plump and “dusky” by Bollywood standards. She metamorphosed over the years, her skin got paler and her features got a lot sharper. She may have invested in botox shots and collagen treatments or she may be following a strict regime of diet and exercise, whatever she has been doing most surely keeps her well groomed and fit.I have my reservations with the hefty demands made to keep ourselves fair, the expectation a lot more on Indian women than men. Advertisements like fair and lovely are so discriminative and burdens half-baked minds into believing that being dusky is taboo. Thankfully, the likes of Bipasha Basu, Konkana Sen Sharma and Nandita Das have proved and continue to prove otherwise. Can actors not fare in Bollywood as they existed the way nature intended them to exist? Natural beauty is a rarity. The old timers like Madhubala, Vijayanthimala, Padmini were naturally beautiful and seldom do we see anything close to their beauty now.

Rekha transformed herself through and through from the seventies to our current times. Her father and mother were both actors in tamil and telegu cinema. She is the daughter of the yesteryear actor Gemini Ganesan. Rekha’s relationship with Gemini Ganesan was an estranged one as Ganesan denied his relationship with Rekha’s mother for a long time. Rekha resembles Ganesan a fair bit and I guess Ganesan would have found it rather difficult to deny his paternity when Rekha entered the film industry.

Rekha can be a very vivacious dancer and the famous holi dance with Mr Bachchan in Silsila remains etched in the memory. “Rang  barse” remains one of the most popular folk songs of this country and it’s lyrics are gloriously delightful. The onscreen chemistry Mr Bachchan shared with the beautiful Rekha has never been replicated in any other holi song. The song remains one of the most sweetly flirtatious songs in hindi cinema. Sanjeev Kumar’s expressions in this song is one which is irreplacable along with Jaya Badhuri’s knowing smiles. What a marvelous actor Sanjeev Kumar was and it still strikes me as to how much was communicated between four people in that one song through their expressions alone. Silsila was one of Yash Chopra’s finest and not many movies after Silsila have been able to portray a myriad of emotions in troubled relationships of married couples in a more refined way.

Rekha was undoubtedly also the Queen of “mujra”, nobody could execute “mujras” like the way Rekha did. In “Umrao Jaan” Rekha danced with her eyes alone. She completely captured the essence of synchronization and was in perfect harmony with herself as much as she was with her surroundings.Rekha is like a timeless, beautiful painting that comes to life with the brush stroke of a choreographer or an able director.

We continue to witness Rekha as a diva despite her age, a feat for our times. It is a bit different to the senses to watch Rekha as Hrithik Roshan’s grandmother but she does pull off the grandmother role too with a lot of grace. Donning the role of a kamasutra teacher in Mira Nair’s Kamasutra – A tale of love was something that Rekha could carry off enchantingly as she sizzled and oozed with her trademark husky voice and perfect Indian sultry looks. Rekha is a woman who has identified her strengths quite early and she has never hesitated taking up “unconventional” roles and the roles that she chose have been justified fully by her strong performances. If Mira Nair or any other bold Director chooses to do another aesthetic movie along the lines of Kamasutra, Rekha could still be considered for a prime role. Need I say more about Rekha?


40 Responses to “Ageless, timeless…”

  1. Aishwarya Says:

    Hi Sharmila,

    That’s a wonderful tribute!

    Of her many amazing roles, my personal favorite is ‘Khubsoorat’. ‘Saare niyam thod do, niyam pe chalna chod do’- she portrayed the bubbly chirpy rule breaker to perfection.

    To the list of sultry, dusky beauties, I would like to add Kajol too. And women like Naomi Campbell, Beyonce Knowles, and Halle Berry have shattered the ‘pale is beautiful’ norm. The oomph factor rules!;)

    • Hi Aish – Thanks. Yes, Kajol most surely. Missed her name. The West have been a lot fairer with the treatment of the paler skin in their movies unlike us. How did your daughter’s play go or was it a fancy dress?

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Its in 2 weeks, Sharmila – a fairy tale based play, fancy dress, a few dances/songs, and so on. The kids are rather excited, but the parents look anxious!:P

        Loved your post on BM too and wanted to say “Atta girl, good going!”:)

      • Thanks Aish – I bet the parents are more excited about it too.:)

  2. Anand Khare Says:


    It is very generous of you, being a woman yourself,to praise other women’s beauty publicly.Yes, you are right Rekha is timeless,ageless and tending to be dimensionless. Umrao Jaan and Silsila remain my favourites too.Specially,Umrao Jaan is out and out a Rekha movie,unforgettable due to her impeccable performances and ghazals. Aishwarya Rai failed miserably doing ‘Umrao Jaan’ .She almost committed the same mistake which Shahrukh did in trying Don.

    Amitabh Bachchan and her on screen chemistry was electrifying.When it was difficult to remember who was the heroine in most of the Amitabh’s ventures no one can forget Rekha in ‘Pardesiya ye ‘ and ‘Pehli pehli baar dekha’.It is strange that they are never seen talking in any public ceremony


    • Anand – I am not sure if I should say thank you as I always praise beauty in animals and humans in the same vein not because I am a woman.:) Yes, Umrao Jaan is a favorite and a remake should never be attempted on mega blockbusters. It can never work. Even Sholay was a mistake and a daring glaring one. Re AB and Rekha,..hmmmm…;)

  3. One of my earliest and most enduring memories of Rekha was the ‘Salaam-E-Ishq Meri Jaan’ number from ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’. But ‘Rang Barse’ was something else. She literally had AB eating out of her hands. She also paired fabulously with Jeetendra in some hugely successful south Indian productions. All in all she was the quintessential diva.

  4. Kri Vasant Says:

    Dear Sharmila,
    Loved your piece on Rekha – the eternal diva! What a transformation from the raw diamond of the early 70s to the finely polished stone of around 10 years later…..thanks admittedly to the AB finishing school.
    Rekha has always been the ultimate Indian male fantasy. You could desire her as the super sexy femme fatale or happily take her home as a wonderful wife and companion – she would pretty much fit into to any mental image you wished of her.
    Yet outside of the movies and into public fora she is a picture of dignity and substance. When she stands there exuding supreme grace and deigns to throw a glance at you, we men have no choice but to swoon and submit!!! And I dare say, she could do that to us even 20 years from now – age truly is no bar. What a woman!
    A big thank you, Sharmila for fueling memories and stoking the eternal flame.
    Kris Vasant

  5. parmaatma Says:

    Hello Sharmila,

    Back in circulation. Interesting week. My BlackBerry server introduced me to a gateway that I didn’t know existed. But the mail servers were blocked by the local ISP. So while I could view and comment on blogs (at quite a substantial price!) I couldn’t check my mails!

    Fair enough. Something is better than kuch-bhi nothing.

    Read your blog on emotional blackmail. Neat.

    My view is that, emotions are strong drivers of value-based decision making. Indians in general and Jains, Zen Buddhists and Taoist in particular have developed an effective frame of philosophical reference around emotions. This makes them and their cultural descendents very smart at managing emotions. Blackmail is a dark side. There is also a flourishing social convention built around managing emotions.

    In an emotional world there are three types of people. The pessimist, the optimist and the winner. The winner is the guy who buys from the pessimist and sells to the optimist, and makes a neat packet in the process. In an emotional universe both the pessimist and optimist are losers!

    About Rekha Aunty…

    In her prime time, during her days in Navin Nischol movies, I think she was one of the main reasons why the panoramic wide angle film had to be invented. The 35 mm square piece could only capture her height!

    After Amitabh Bachchan came into the frame, they had to go for 70 MM, to get his height and her width in the same shot.

    Jokes apart, methinks, more than AB, I think it was Jane Fonda who had a more lasting impact on her physical well being! 🙂

    • Sudhir – Welcome back. Hope you had a good trip? There were a flurry of comments on AB’s blog with Ludhianvi punch lines which were very apt. Thank you for the insight into emotional beings of this world and more so who the losers are. Your comments on 70mm and 35mm are eye openers. Had no idea what the reasons were, now i know.

      What is the difference between managing emotions ( on others ) and cohercion or blackmail for that matter?

      • parmaatma Says:

        Thank you,

        Managing emotions, I feel, is to be able to detect and support it’s rationale in the achievement of a value. Like a good parent might do for a child. It requires training.

        Emotional coercion and blackmail, I think, is when they are used to exploit the cognitive inability of a person to assign rational values that the emotion indicates.

      • Sudhir – Thanks, do you think Indian parents tend to exploit value achievements in the minds of children? I find parents can be big bullies. Example – The parents who get their kids to participate in reality shows, I can see the pressure in these kids, it’s crazy. I wonder how it would impact their future positively or negatively..

      • parmaatma Says:


        Oh no. I don’t think parents in India do that. Not at all. Poor folks are as lost in the woods as their children are. And also suffer from unearned guilt when the children look up to them for ideals!

        Parents are two individuals from two different backgrounds and belief sets. The child cannot recognize that during its learning phase. Emotionally, for the child, both the parents are one entity!

        Whatever parents do, in terms of managing emotions for the child, is honestly and sincerely the best they know and the best they can.

        This, I feel, is different from emotional coercion and blackmail which is a devious distorted practice – not on children and family or such people that we love enough to wish that they live longer than us – but mostly for achieving an extreme ideological dream.

      • Lots to chew on Sudhir.Thanks. You do make a lot of sense.

      • parmaatma Says:

        Correction: The last para I wrote needs to be re-drafted properly. What I meant was:

        This, I feel, is different from emotional coercion and blackmail – which is a devious practice aimed at achieving an extreme ideological dream – like the spiteful rhetoric practiced by the reich during World War II.

        It cannot be practised on children and family or such people that we love enough to wish that they live longer than us. If that happens by accident, it is self-destructive and results in unrecoverable loss.

        In case of the parent-child emotional transaction: The child’s view that the parents are one emotional entity may last for only a few weeks. But that view eventually transforms into the desire for harmony and sometimes into good leadership qualities…

        (I need to practice my skills at getting my words right first time! 😦 )

      • Thanks Sudhir.

      • parmaatma Says:

        Re: Rekha

        I remember she even released a fitness video after her year long exercise regime based on Jane Fonda’s videos.

      • Lol Sudhir – A lot of people would have picked it up.

  6. “Pretty Woman” of Hindi cinema !
    cosmetic surgery and Botox can do wonders! However Yoga too but perhaps Yoga helps in overhauling Body not that ageless look on face though.
    Apart from “Umraojaan” and “silsila” she looked like an erotica of Khajuraho in “Utsav”. what a transformation from ugly duckling and a Fatso to an ecstatic erotica!?
    I believe AB-Rekha pair was the most loved and acceptable to the mass. They had terrific chemistry onscreen and off the screen too. I believe AB and Jaya don’t have that chemistry. I think like millions of Indian marriages they just pulling it for sake of social & family reasons.
    Is it just me who sense that regret in AB’s post very off & on or what!?? Hmm….. don’t know….

    • Monalisa – Do you sense a regret in his posts? How? I am curious now.

      • parmaatma Says:

        I don’t think there is any regret. On screen pairs are largely decided by the camera. One has to have features that can be caught by the camera. Rekha’s assets were fit for the purpose.

        I think Jaya Bahaduri understands the real world better than AB. And AB understands the celluloid in a way that Jaya doesn’t. They are a best fit for a real life marriage of actors.

      • I tend to agree with you Sudhir. AB is a man who will not have many regrets, his path has been carefully chosen.

      • Yep! the way you suspected someone to be Rekha on his blog.

  7. Oh! i thought she touched 60! didn’t know she is in her 50s yet.

  8. Dear Sharmila,

    This comment may be inappropriate, for its length AND for being three posts late for the topic, but I think animal conservation is close to your heart and I want to share some positive trends, too. Hope it is alright….

    SACRAMENTO — State wildlife officials today
    ruled that the California tiger salamander
    deserves protection as a threatened species,
    subjecting landowners to more scrutiny if they
    want to build or farm in the amphibian’s habitat.
    The California Fish and Game Commission made
    the decision after finding roughly 400,000 acres
    of the amphibian’s habitat is threatened by
    future development and the expansion of
    farming, mostly in the Central Valley. The tiger
    salamander lives in nearly half the state’s
    counties, in a region that stretches from Yolo
    County north of Sacramento to Santa Barbara
    “We have learned over the years, at our peril,
    that remoteness is no guarantee of
    conservation,” commissioner Michael Sutton said.
    “What is remote today may well be suburban
    sprawl tomorrow.”
    The 3-2 vote came over the objections of the
    wine industry, business groups and
    homebuilders, which complained scientists were
    unable to show accurate population counts for
    the salamander and had exaggerated how much
    rural land might be developed in the future.
    “This recommendation relies principally on
    anticipated loss of habitat,” Tim Schmelzer, who
    oversees regulatory affairs at the Wine Institute,
    told the commission. “That projected loss is
    considerably overstated.”
    For example, similar federal protections and
    local city and county plans that guide future d
    evelopment were not consulted, Schmelzer
    At least one commissioner agreed with the
    industry, questioning state scientists who
    predicted at least a third of the salamander
    habitat would be developed over the next 10
    years without any protection.
    “It’s insanity. It will never happen,” said
    commissioner Daniel Richards, who voted against
    the listing.
    The tiger salamander breeds in seasonal pools
    and ponds, but spends most of its 10-year life
    underground primarily in the Central Valley.
    Those key spawning habitats have severely
    diminished over the years. In 1997, only 12
    percent of the Central Valley’s 5 million acres of
    historical seasonal pools remained, said Sonke
    Mastrup, chief deputy director at the Department
    of Fish and Game.
    The remaining habitat is also at risk for being
    broken up and isolating the species, Mastrup

    • Renate – Thank you very much. Glad you shared this news with me. Things like this set countries like the US apart from the rest of the world. They do have the ability to think beyond themselves and powerful lobby groups. Happy with this listing.

  9. Sharmila, thanks for putting those songs up. Thank you, even otherwise.

  10. No absolutely not………you needn’t utter a word more.She is truly a wonderful actor and more importantly a good human being.And yes none other is paired with AB better than Rekha ji on screen.I just loved the way she perfomred in that song of Umarao Jaan…….truly danced with her eyes……

  11. masterpraz Says:

    I LOVEE REKHA! Thanks so much for this Shamz…she’s still sizzling 🙂

  12. […] Read the rest from HERE […]

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