Diva is what they like to call her. “A clichéd image of a star, just as we have clichéd images of politicians,” she says. “It sounds very glamorous, very mysterious but it’s not something I’ve worked towards. It’s just the way journalists have presented me.” But she admits, “I can understand why people call me that. It depends on how much information they have about me.”
For that, you could place the blame at Rekha’s doorstep. Though you’d find it near impossible to access. Go down Mumbai’s Bandra Bandstand, and almost at the midpoint between Salman Khan’s house and Shah Rukh Khan’s mansion, sits Rekha’s bungalow. Everyone knows Galaxy Apartments, where Salman Khan will even make an appearance in his balcony from time to time. Mannat always has a clutch of fans outside and a steady stream of visitors making its way in to meet Shah Rukh Khan.
But not too many could point out Rekha’s bungalow to you. For, all that’s visible of it from the roadside is a thick barricade of bamboo and foliage. Few have been inside Rekha’s home; indeed, many close friends in the industry have not been granted the privilege.
“I choose whom I want to invite; that’s my prerogative,” she says, not with arrogance but firmness. “It’s not an open house.”
She tells you why. “For one, I’m a single woman. Two, I’m a celebrity; there’s a security problem there. And three, believe it or not, I’m really very shy. I don’t meet too many people. I don’t like socialising, I don’t go to so-called happening places, I’m not a globetrotter. When I get back home, I prefer to listen to some music, be with myself, do things that matter to me and get to sleep at my regular time. Even though there’s nobody to say anything to me if I want to go wild or run off to France for a rendezvous with someone special or dance till 4 in the morning.”
Naturally, I ask, have you done any of that? “I’m not about to say that in print, even if I have,” she laughs. But adds, “It’s so boring to be a saint; none of us are. I have a very fun, interesting life.”
She leans forward, her tone quickening ever so slightly. “I’ve worked very, very hard to be in this situation. No one has ever provided for me. I’ve been the sole earning member of the family since I was 13 and my independence is the most powerful gift I’ve given myself. I don’t have to be answerable to anyone except myself. Just imagine someone with a whip dancing on your head all the time.”
I find myself laughing involuntarily at the imagery her words conjure up; she laughs too. The mood is broken, the moment changes, she sits back. Re-ties her hair in a topknot.