The unique combination of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha

Amitabh Bachchan turns 81 today on October 11. Here’s looking at his hot pairing with Rekha, who was born October 10. Photo: Trailer Video Grab 

As Amitabh Bachchan completes 81 years today, October 11, and continues to maintains his celestial chimera, let us look at one of his most popular screen pairings—with Rekha, born coincidentally on October 10, just a day before in the calendar.

Amitabh has had very fruitful professional associations with other actress as well, like wife Jaya Bachchan nee Bhaduri, Raakhee, Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and Hema Malini. But none made more news than Rekha, because the ‘masala’ (spice) of a reported love affair sparked attention and controversy. So much so that when Yash Chopra cast Amitabh, Jaya and Rekha as husband, wife and ex-flame in seemingly real-life roles in his Silsila, it had to be justified (cleverly, no doubt) by showing that Amitabh was compelled to marry Jaya as she was pregnant with his brother Shashi Kapoor’s child before they wed after Shashi died in a plane crash! Rekha later weds Sanjeev Kumar and rekindles her affair with Amitabh when they meet.

The unromantic start!

Of course, the duo had an unromantic start! Their first film, Namak Haram (1973), saw Rekha cast opposite Rajesh Khanna, playing Amitabh’s closest friend. The team took off with Do Anjaane (1976), in which Rekha played his wife, who is discontented with their lot and gets inveigled by the manipulative villain (Prem Chopra).

In Imaan Dharam (1977) again, Rekha was teamed with Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh with Helen. In the same year, however, Rekha and Amitabh got a hit together in Khoon Pasina, and a flop in Alaap, in which Hrishikesh Mukherjee cast her in a de-glam role with Amitabh as a classical musician.

The romantic high!

It was in the tail end of the 1970s that the team got their biggest blockbusters—Muqaddar Ka Sikander and Ganga Ki Saugandh (both 1978) and Mr. Natwarlal and Suhaag (both 1979). 1980 saw them in Ram Balram, but though the mediocre film did well, it could not recover its high investment and was declared a flop, just like Silsila.

Working with big names like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Dulal Guha, Rakesh Kumar, Prakash Mehra, Sultan Ahmed, Manmohan Desai, Vijay Anand and Yash Chopra, was a sign of the team’s standing, even if most of the films were ensemble-cast movies, or multi-starrers as known then.

Amitabh Bachchan with Rekha in their biggest hit, Muqaddar Ka Sikander. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

The genres too were varied—social, romance, crime, action, musical—and the songs were a rage in many cases.  Their standout duets were Kishore Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar’s Salaam-e-ishq (Muqaddar Ka Sikander), Mohammed Rafi-Asha Bhosle’s (with Shailendra Singh)’s Teri rab ne bana di jodi and Rafi-Lata’s Atthara baras ki tu (Suhaag), Kishore-Lata’s Pardesiya and Rafi-Usha Mangeshkar’s Oonchi oonchi baaton se (Mr. Natwarlal), Kishore-Asha’s Yaar ki khabar and Accha kaho chahe bura kaho (Ram Balram) besides the Silsila score of Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum (Lata with Amitabh himself) and its Lata-Kishore hits, Pehli pehli baar and Dekha ek khwab. Of course, Rekha and Amitabh also enacted separate versions of Neela aasmaan so gaya (Lata and Amitabh himself singing solo).

Of course, music essayed a major role in their films, as was the norm then. And Dekha ek khwab remains a benchmark first Hindi song to be shot in Amsterdam amidst tulips—a trend of sorts followed in some films later.

On a personal level, the duo refused to work with each other after 1981, and Rekha has largely quit work now, while Amitabh is a different phase as a powerful character artiste who is often the protagonist. Rumors of antagonism between Jaya and Rekha fizzled out when the two met a few years back at a film event and were involved in a friendly conversation captured by the paparazzi.

And that brings us to some really fascinating trivia about this hot team.

The first film that wasn’t!

The first film they had signed, as newcomers (Amitabh appeared on-screen, after being narrator in Bhuvan Shome, in Saat Hindustani in 1969, while Rekha made her debut in Sawan Bhadon, a big hit in 1970. Of Rekha’s next lot of films, Elaan did well, and she was signed for Duniya Ka Mela with Amitabh, who had only had a hit in the Rajesh Khanna-dominated Anand and Pyar Ki Kahani, a tepid success.

When all his other films collapsed, Amitabh was replaced by someone considered more saleable—Sanjay (as Sanjay Khan was known then) in Duniya Ka Mela, even after he had shot for the film! As luck would have it, by the time this would-have-been first film of the team released in 1974, Amitabh had done a bevy of hits, while Sanjay Khan’s fortune as a star had hit rock-bottom! Proof of this is available in the shape of videos of the song Tauba tauba on the ‘Net, with Rekha romancing both Amitabh and Sanjay Khan in these separate versions!

…And those cameos!

Rekha made a guest appearance in Kasme Vaade, featuring in the mujra, Pyar ke rang se, with Amitabh that teamed ‘two’ Amitabh’s in a dual role with Raakhee.

Both Amitabh and Rekha made cameos in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol Maal, comedian Jagdeep’s Soorma Bhopali and Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om without sharing any frame.

Rekha made a guest appearance in the Abhishek Bachchan production, Shamitabh, featuring Amitabh in the title-role. They shared no scene together!



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