From Rekha To Rhea – The Media’s Obsession With The ‘Black Widow’
Long before Instagram and #MeToo and cancel culture, the iconic Rekha often found herself in the news for her alleged innumerable connections with her leading actors. Of course, while her alleged romance with Amitabh Bachchan still continues to dominate media discourse (remember when Rekha would get on stage to present an award at a ceremony and the camera would always cut to Bachchan’s face?), she has been linked to Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, and Kiran Kumar, among others.
And then came Mukesh Agarwal, a Delhi businessman.
For whatever reason, the couple decided to tie the knot and got married immediately. But, as author Yasser Usman writes in his book, Rekha: The Untold Story, in October of 1990, a mere seven months after their wedding, Agarwal hung himself to death using Rekha’s dupatta.
Now, mind you, Rekha was not one of your cookie-cutter actresses who hid behind her pallu – she had gone through a major transformation in the ’70s and had emerged as the glamorous woman we now know her to be.
Soon, the country was baying for Rekha’s blood. Agarwal’s mother is alleged to have let out a wail (“Woh daayan mere bete ko kha gayi”) which triggered outrageous headlines from the press like ‘The Black Widow’ and ‘The Macabre Truth behind Mukesh’s Suicide’.
Not only were posters of the actress’s film vandalized, but the Hindi film industry also washed their hands off one of its most successful stars.
“Rekha has put such a blot on the face of the film industry that it’ll be difficult to wash it away easily. I think after this any respectable family will think twice before accepting any actress as their bahu,” said director Subhash Ghai, at that time according to media reports.
Subhash Ghai and Anupam Kher’s quotes, circa 1990 on Rekha if reported verbatim, is how some men are made.
It is unbelievable how Rekha survived and thrived. pic.twitter.com/GWlSUt3Zzh
— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) September 13, 2020
“She’s become the national vamp. Professionally and personally, I think it’s curtains for her. I mean I don’t know how I will react to her if I come face to face with her,” actor Anupam Kher had allegedly added.
Ring a bell?
Even as actress Rhea Chakraborty (who was arrested a few days ago), in her bail plea, states that she was ‘coerced’ into making incriminating statements during her interrogation by the NCB, media channels have competed with each other on who can set the lowest bar. Insinuations range from her being a witch, a slut, having more than an intimate relationship with director Mahesh Bhatt to a murderer.
While those with critical thinking abilities and a conscience have constantly pointed out that calling out the media vilification of Chakraborty does not equate to not wanting #JusticeForSSR, trolls on social media have sent rape and death threats to actors who posted the now-viral message on Chakraborty’s t-shirt: “Roses are red, violets are blue, let’s smash patriarchy, me and you”.
In July this year, late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s father had filed an FIR against Chakraborty accusing her of abetment to suicide. Even as the CBI, the NCB, and the ED are still probing the case, netizens have already declared her guilty.
Guilty of what? Well, that keeps changing from day to day.