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Bizarre but true

Oddly, there are many similarities between the lives of actors Navin Nischol and Rekha, writes Piyush Roy.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 03:29 IST
Piyush Roy

Oddly, there are many similarities between the lives of Navin Nischol and Rekha, who began their careers together making an unusual debut pair in Mohan Sehgal’s Saawan Bhadon (1970).

None other than the director had any hope from the film, which went on to celebrate a jubilee run in more than 30 centres across the country. Rekha’s career took a jumpstart (she signed 18 films in a week), while Nischol, the first gold medalist from the FTII, Pune, to make it big in commercial Hindi films gave some superhits in early 70s.

He later switched to character roles, followed by a semi-successful career on TV. Of late, both were seen in guest appearances in two of last year’s big hits (Nischol in Aashiq Banaya Apne and Rekha in Parineeta). The duo last came together in the adult romance Aastha (1997).

This courted news for its ‘shocking’ love making scenes involving Rekha and Nischol, considered rather unthinkable for Bollywood actors to enact at their age.

However, the ‘dark, plump and gauche’ Rekha, who the handsome Nischol was apparently shocked to have as his leading lady in Sawan Bhadon, went on to become the diva, enigma and Greta Garbo of Bollywood, while Nischol never really made to the big league.

Unlike their careers, Nishcol’s and Rekha’s personal lives seemed to have moved relatively in tandem with a flurry of affairs, two marriages (one legal, one alleged in case of Rekha), and, more ironically, with their last spouses committing suicide. Nischol’s second wife, Geetanjali, committed suicide at her residence on April 24, while Rekha’s hubby, Delhi based businessman Mukesh Agarwal, committed suicide by hanging himself with the actress’ duppatta in 1990. In her suicide note, Geetanjali apparently blamed Nischol’s drinking habits and indifference towards her for the depression and trauma of her last days. Agarwal’s family too ran a slander campaign against Rekha’s indifference leading to Mukesh’s suicide. In both cases the marriages had crumbled prior to the suicides of their spouses. Nischol’s lawyers have maintained that ‘the couple’s marriage had completely broken down, reaching a point of no return because of which Navin had been contemplating divorce through mutual consent.’ In Rekha’s case her insistence for a divorce and cessation of all relations with a ‘star-struck husband’ was one of the reasons attributed to abetting Agarwal’s suicide.

Incidentally, Nischol’s first marriage to Dev Anand’s niece and Shekhar Kapur’s sister Neelima ended in divorce (1976) and he disassociated himself from his two daughters from the said marriage. And Rekha never publicly acknowledged her famous ‘secret’ nuptial with Vinod Mehra in the late seventies either. Mehra remarried, while Rekha has consistently denied her alleged first shaadi. Her latest rebuttal of the same came on Rendezvous with Simi Garewal where, to Simi’s surprise, Rekha denied having married Vinod Mehra.

Both actors are on the other side of their fifties and loners now. But while Rekha seems to have found succour in spirituality and moved on in life, Nischol’s fate at the moment seems to be hanging in balance.