x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Bollywood poised for sensational pair up: Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha

Last seen in the 1981 film Silsila, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha have been tapped for Anees Bazmee's new movie Welcome Back. If they sign up, history will be made.

From left, Rekha, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan in a scene from Silsila. Courtesy Yash Raj Films
From left, Rekha, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan in a scene from Silsila. Courtesy Yash Raj Films

Bollywood might be on the verge of the biggest on-screen reunion of all time.

The filmmaker Anees Bazmee has approached Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha - two veteran actors who haven't been seen together in more than 30 years - to star in his forthcoming film Welcome Back.

But, first, a quick flashback.

It's 1981 and Yash Chopra's Silsila has just been released, a romantic drama that tackles the subject of extramarital affairs. Except that, in this case, it's a little more than that: the film is said to mirror the lives - and love - of its three lead stars: Amitabh Bachchan, his real-life wife Jaya Bachchan (they were married in 1973), and Rekha.

Rumours about the Bachchan-Rekha relationship had already been flying around for a decade - they had starred together in about 18 films by then, nearly all of them blockbusters. Their on-screen chemistry was quite unmatchable: no other pair of actors has quite managed to bring to Hindi cinema what they did. Some of their best work together includes Do Anjaane (1976), Suhaag (1979) and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), a romantic tragedy that surely must feature among their finest films.

But Silsila, a sensitively told story that also starred the late Sanjeev Kumar (one of the best actors of his era and well known for his role in 1975's Sholay) got a lot more attention. Despite the wonderful performances by all its lead stars, especially Jaya Bachchan, the film didn't get a favourable response in India, a country that is Bollywood-obsessed most of the time and conservative all the time. And predictably, it crashed at the box office. Later in an interview, Pamela Chopra, the director's wife, made this simple observation about why the film failed: "Marriage is a sacred institution in India and when the director created sympathy for the two lovers who were willing to go outside their marriage and continue their affair, he didn't carry the audience with him."

But despite its box-office failure, Silsila attained cult status and its poetic songs remain on Bollywood's list of evergreen tracks. It also was the last film Bachchan, now 70, and Rekha, 58, did together. Gradually over time, their story became old, sepia-tinted news.

Now, three decades later, the legend has resurrected. Will they take on Welcome Back? One can only hope, because with it comes the chance to experience again the magic they brought to Hindi cinema all those years ago.