By Aashima Talwar Last Updated:
Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha’s love story is one of the most talked-about affairs of Bollywood even to date. Yet, this controversial love story of Rekha and Amitabh always remained a mystery as both the actors never accepted their relationship in public. While the two themselves have said very little, everyone else seems more than certain about the affair.
Their silsila of love made it to the headlines of every newspaper and magazine and jolted many ardent fans of Mr Bachchan, who was regarded as a perfect family man before the affair. Amitabh and Rekha- the two legends of the Indian film industry, how did it all begin and how it ended? Here is unfolding the secret behind the decades-old love story.
Before meeting Rekha, Amitabh Bachchan was happily married to his co-star, Jaya Bachchan and was a family man with two kids, Shweta Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan. Amitabh Bachchan got married on June 3, 1973, to Jaya in a hush-hush wedding, right after the success of Zanjeer. Theirs was a love marriage which had the blessings of their parents also. Amitabh Bachchan married Jaya Bachchan because they wanted to visit London! In the superstar’s own words recently, he explained:
"47 years.. today .. June 3, 1973..!! Had decided if ‘Zanjeer’ succeeded we, with few friends would go to London, first time, to celebrate.. Father asked who you going with? When I told him who he said, you will marry her then go.. else you don’t go.. I obeyed! (sic)."
Reminiscing an incident from the day of their marriage, Amitabh said:
“I dress up in formal marriage Indian .. get into my car and want to drive to Malabar Hill where her friends lived and where the ceremony was to be done .. my driver Nagesh, pushes me out and insist he would drive me to the wedding .. the substitute for the tradition horse .. Waiting all set at Mangal, the name of the house on rent on the 7th road JVPD Scheme .. and it begins to drizzle .. neighbours rush out to me .. leave for the wedding now .. the rain is a good omen .. off I went .. wedding over in a few hours .. done .. Mr and Mrs proclaimed .. over!!”
It was only after a few years into the marriage that Shahenshah became 'the man with an affair outside marriage' and Amitabh Bachchan's girlfriend, Rekha became the other woman in this infamous relationship.
The notorious story of Amitabh and Rekha’s affair began on the sets of the film Do Anjaane in 1976 when Amitabh was a married man. During the initial days of their secret relationship, the couple used to meet in a bungalow that belonged to Rekha’s friend. Nobody knew about this affair between already married Amitabh and Rekha. Everything was a smooth sail until an incident happened.
During the shoots of Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978), Big B reportedly lost his temper on a co-actor who was misbehaving with Rekha. After this, their affair came into the limelight and grabbed the media attention. The two denied the affair, but it was loud and clear that the two were dating each other. In one of the interviews, Silsila director, Yash Chopra confirmed their relationship!
The gossip mills started churning out juicy headlines out of Rekha and Amitabh’s story of an extra-marital affair. Many newspapers and magazines even carried out headlines saying that Rekha and Amitabh have secretly got married.
These speculations of this affair caught more fire when Rekha made a sensational entry at Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh’s wedding, wearing sindoor and mangalsutra. The attention of everyone present at the wedding shifted to Rekha and her much-married look! People started whispering that is Rekha married?
Not only this, she also went up to Amitabh and started talking to him formally, raising more eyebrows! Talking about how Amitabh Bachchan's wife, Jaya felt at that time, one of the sources revealed:
"Jaya tried to keep a stoic front for a long time, but eventually she had to bend her head and let the tears roll down.”
After a few minutes of conversation, the controversy queen of that time left the wedding venue! Many questions about this jodi’s affair were answered with this bold step taken by Rekha.
It was reported that after this incident, Jaya Bachchan invited Rekha home for dinner and told her candidly that she would never leave her husband whatever may happen. And likewise, Jaya kept her promise till the very end. Rekha finally realised that she either wants to be Mrs Bachchan or stay single!
Amitabh Bachchan always denied having a romantic relationship with his co-star, Rekha and portrayed himself as a one-woman family man. So, did Mr Bachchan’s denial hurt Rekha? In an interview given to Filmfare magazine in 1984, Rekha spoke about Amitabh’s denial of their relationship. She said:
“Why should he have not done it? He did it to protect his image, his family, his children. Why should the public know of my love for him or his love for me? I love him and he loves me- that’s it! If he’d reacted that ways towards me in private, I would have been very disappointed. Mr Bachchan is still old-fashioned. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody, so why hurt his wife?”
Amitabh Bachchan despite the superfluous love for Rekha, never admitted it in public. On the other hand, Rekha boldly admitted her love for him. Silsila released in 1981, was this enigmatic couple’s last film together. The movie was a love triangle starring Amitabh Bachchan, his wife, Jaya Bachchan and his girlfriend, Rekha.
Ace filmmaker and the trio’s dear friend, Yash Chopra offered to save Amitabh’s drowning career and offered him Silsila, a love triangle. The twist in the tale was that he wanted his wife, Jaya and his girlfriend Rekha to star alongside the actor in the movie. Mr Bachchan didn’t refuse and told Yash Chopra to ask both the ladies if they are comfortable with the idea of working together. It is said that Jaya first refused Mr Chopra but later agreed to star in the movie Silsila alongside her husband and his girlfriend. Now, you must be thinking that what changed her mind? It was the ending of the story of Silsila where the husband eventually comes back to his wife. This idea of a man coming back to his wife after having an affair appealed to Mrs Bachchan and she signed the film (with a motive to give out a loud and clear message to everyone that she is the ‘wife’ who wins in the end).
Years later, during an interview, Yash Chopra shared his experience of working with all three in the film Silsila. In an interview with BBC, director Yash Chopra confirmed that Rekha and Amitabh were very much in a relationship before Silsila. Mr Chopra said:
“I was always on tenterhooks and scared (during Silsila) because it was real life coming into reel life. Jaya is his wife and Rekha is his girlfriend and the same story is going on (in real life). Anything could have happened because they are working together.”
After the shoot of Silsila, Amitabh-Rekha’s relationship began to fade. Rekha wanted to marry Amitabh and did not want to settle down with the tag of the ‘other woman’ in Amitabh’s life. She realised she has no future in this relationship as Amitabh was not in any mood to leave his wife Jaya for Rekha. With this, their passionate love story came to an end, both on and off-screen. After Silsila, Amitabh is said to have ignored Rekha altogether. Though the two came quite close to starring together in R Balki’s Shamitabh, they did not share any screen space together. This shows that the wounds may have healed with time, the scars never disappeared.
Well, even though Rekha and Amitabh went their separate paths afterwards, but it is well-known that Rekha is always seen making appearances, dressed as a married woman, wearing sindoor on her forehead. While most people for long dismissed it to be Rekha’s unique style statement, Deepali Issar, actor Puneet Issar’s wife believes it to be otherwise. She once revealed:
“Rekha wears sindoor for Big B.”
In one of her previous interviews, while receiving an award, Rekha said:
“In the city I come from, it’s fashionable to wear sindoor.”
She has been wearing sindoor for more than two decades now! In a candid interview in 2008, she was again asked about the reason behind wearing sindoor. She said:
“I don’t worry about people’s reactions. By the way, I think it looks rather nice on me, sindoor suits me.”
Rekha belongs to a huge family of siblings and half and step-siblings. For the uninitiated, Rekha is an illegitimate daughter of South superstar, Gemini Ganesan and his mistress, Pushpavalli. Bhanurekha Ganesan, better known as Rekha was born on October 10, 1954, in Madras, out of wedlock and had a difficult childhood. Her father, Gemini Ganesan refused to accept Rekha and her sister Radha as his daughters. She always sought a legitimate surname and maybe this was the reason why she went on to marry Mukesh Agarwal, after only a few meetings, after having her heart broken by Big B.
After Amitabh and Rekha’s relationship had an unfortunate ending, she moved on in life and got married to a Delhi-based businessman, Mukesh Agarwal in 1990. In her recently released biography, there is a chapter that gives clear details of her marriage to Mukesh Agarwal. The excerpts read:
“Rekha was finally getting married. After a lifetime of seeking, Rekha, born out of wedlock, had finally got what she most desired: a legitimate surname.”
Life after her secret wedding to Mukesh wasn’t a bed of roses. The excerpts from the book further revealed:
"The initial days in London were beautiful. That was the first time that Rekha and Mukesh had spent so much time together. But it took only a week for Rekha to realise that they were very different people. She was also shocked to see Mukesh taking several pills a day. Still, she thought, now that they had to spend the rest of their lives together, such matters would have to be overlooked. ‘I’ve to make [a] success of it,’ she told herself. ‘Can Rekha fail in anything she attempts?’ They had been in London for more than a week. Rekha could see that something was troubling Mukesh. And then, one day, a gloomy Mukesh looked deep into her eyes and said, ‘There’s an AB in my life too’."
Three months into the marriage, Rekha was devastated to know that her husband was mentally ill. She decided to take some time out and think about what is wrong with her husband and marriage. But when she was not able to find a solution to solve her marital problems, she decided to distance herself from Mukesh and his family. She left his home and stopped taking his calls. On one unfortunate day, when her distressed husband was not able to take all this, he decided to take away his life. Mukesh Agarwal’s death’s reason was suicide that left everyone shocked, including his wife Rekha. In a very dramatic style, he hanged himself to the ceiling fan of his room, using his wife’s dupatta. Rekha’s married life lasted for only seven months!
She was blamed by Mukesh’s family for being a bad wife and taking away his life. She was projected as the ‘Vamp’ by not only the media but also by many people from the film fraternity. That was indeed a dark time for Rekha. Seems like, Rekha has always been very unlucky in love!
Some say that Rekha is still smitten by Big-B. In one of her interviews with the Hindustan Times in 2008, when the journalist asked her if she would like people to stop connecting her to Mr Bachchan, she immediately replied:
“Why? I hope not. Mr Bachchan is one of the best things to have happened in my life. The best teacher, the best guru. Well, I’ve chosen to learn as much from his off-camera.. as from his on-camera demeanours.”
We have seen at various award shows and reality shows that how much love and respect she still holds for Amitabh Bachchan, even though the man never acknowledged his relationship with the actress.
This is a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love which never saw the light of the day! The actress never fell in love with anyone else and at the age of 66, Rekha has no children and is happily single. We still cherish Rekha and Amitabh’s relationship as one of the most controversial love affairs of the era.
Rekha’s lonely life has seen many rumours and some truth. Even her marriage to Delhi-based businessman Mukesh Aggarwal did not last long. But whatever the circumstances had been for Amitabh and Rekha’s breakup, the heavy aura of this sad love story still lingers on! After so much happened in Rekha’s personal life, her zeal towards life has still not ended. She is truly a diva!