It must have been a twisted tabloid-obsessed mind that planned this serendipity. For no house has been big enough to accommodate both Rekha and Jaya Bhaduri. Well, we were wrong about that. It turns out that the Rajya Sabha is indeed spacious enough to have them both under the same roof. Last week, when Rekha was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the media went into a tizzy with all sorts of speculation, the worst being whether Amitabh and Rekha will work again (they won’t, they can’t, even if he said it would depend on the ‘script’).
Read: Amitabh says ‘yes’ to Rekha
No sooner than this announcement was made than Mrs Bachchan formally requested that her seat in the Rajya Sabha, in which she represents the Samajwadi Party, be changed. Jaya Bhaduri has seat number 91. Rekha had been assigned seat number 99. This made Jaya Bachchan squirmy. It turned out that with this arrangement they would be too close for comfort. Mrs Bachchan therefore requested that she be moved to seat number 143, which is also reserved for the Samajwadi Party. The request has been sanctioned. The official excuse Mrs Bachchan has given is that she wants to be closer to other Samajwadi Party members. But the truth, as we all know, is something else.
Also read: Three cheers for Sachin, Rekha: Bollywood
Rekha’s alleged affair with superstar Amitabh Bachchan remains a national obsession. This obsession peaked in 1981 when in an art-imitates-life casting coup Yash Chopra sacked Parveen Babi and Shabana Azmi eight days after commencing the shooting schedule for Silsila. In came Rekha and Jaya Bhaduri. Rumour has it that Amitabh Bachchan had them both so wrapped around his finger that neither could refuse this ‘order’. In fact, so impromptu was this decision that the same plane that had Parveen Babi and Shabana Azmi stepping in after them getting the boot also had Jaya Bhaduri and Rekha stepping out to act in their last film together.
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Parveen Babi had a nervous breakdown, went missing for many years, and then returned in 1989 a paranoid schizophrenic who claimed that Amitabh Bachchan, FBI and Ronald Reagan had commissioned her assassination.
After Silsila, the alleged affair between Amitabh and Rekha went thanda. He also fell grievously ill when injured on the sets of Coolie, when punched in the stomach by co-star Puneet Issar, who still unfairly bears the brunt of being tagged as ‘the man who almost killed Amitabh Bachchan’. Rekha was the only member from the Bollywood fraternity who did not visit him at the Breach Candy hospital when he was battling for his life in 1982.
Amitabh even officially quit Bollywood, acting in barely a handful of films from 1984 until 1989. He was helping his dear friend Rajiv Gandhi helm the government. He accepted a post as an MP and moved bag and baggage to New Delhi. He resigned after three years in 1987. Yet, with the Bofors scandal behind him, the Bachchans didn’t entirely snap all ties with Delhi and continued to flit in and out of it well until the early 1990s. It is only last week that the former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom gave Amitabh Bachchan a clean chit, 25 years after his name came to be associated with what was then the biggest kickbacks scandal in Indian history.
This RS nomination will be a haunted homecoming of sorts for Rekha. She moved to New Delhi in 1990, after marrying industrialist Mukesh Agarwal, the owner of Nikitasha Kitchenette, a pre-globalization product that looked like it was from the future. Her move to the capital did raise many eyebrows. Some were wondering if it betrayed her aspiration to conquer New Delhi high society, into which Jaya Bachchan was well-ensconced, thanks to her husband’s short, ill-fated innings with politics.
In 1991, barely a year after his marriage to Rekha, Mukesh Agarwal committed suicide by hanging himself using her dupatta. Within the span of a few weeks, Rajiv Gandhi, who was still extremely close to the Bachchans and who was still wooing the Big B back into politics, was assassinated by the LTTE when campaigning for re-election.
Rekha wasn’t even in New Delhi when her husband killed himself. She was in New York at the time. Why she was in New York is the cause of some speculation. Who she was with in New York is the cause of a lot of speculation. A Concorde flight between London and New York, when the Concorde was still operational, took 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Rekha boarded a lot of Concorde flights on the London-New York-London route in the period 1990-1991.
Whilst the press could never prove the cause of her frequent visits to New York City, it did pelt way too many stones her way, a witch hunt that media critics still think was massively moralistic and insensitive during a difficult personal time.
The Illustrated Weekly of India, for instance, went as far as having her on the cover and pasting ‘National Witch’ in a thick nasty font.
No, it is best that Rekha and Jaya Bachchan keep a good distance when in New Delhi, even if it is the upper house that they will soon be inhabiting, together.