Punnagai Mannan is one of the biggest hits of K Balachander. The movie had multiple stars who then went on to rule the industry and one of them is Rekha who was just 16 back then.
In the movie, there were intimate scenes and now, it seems as the kissing scene happened without Rekha is consent. In an interview with The News Minute, here’s all that Rekha recently stated:
“I’ve said this a hundred times. They shot the scene without me knowing about it. People ask me the same question and I’m fed up with answering it.”
Rekha, however, said that the addition of the kissing scene impacted the audience more.
“The kiss didn’t look ugly or aggressive on-screen. There was a need for it, but I was a very young girl and I didn’t know about it. He (director K Balachander) said, ‘Kamal, close your eyes! You remember what I told you, right?’ and Kamal said that he did. Then we had to jump when he said 1, 2, 3… we kissed and then jumped. It was only when I watched it in theatres that I realised it had such a huge impact,” she said.
“They continued after that shot also, we had a location shift. Suresh Krissna and Vasanth were associate directors and I told them I wasn’t informed about the kiss and that I wouldn’t have agreed to it. But they told me to think of it as a big king kissing a small child. They told me it wouldn’t be passed by the Censor. I asked them what the Censor was!” she recalls.
Adding that these days an onscreen kiss isn’t a big deal, she said, “Whatever has happened has happened. It’s been many years now, but this question keeps coming up again and again.”
“The audience still doesn’t believe that it happened without my permission. Only he (Kamal Haasan) and the unit that was there can confirm what I’ve said. Balachander sir is no more. Only those who were there at the shoot know that the kiss happened without my consent,” said Rekha. When asked if the director or the actor apologised to her for the act, she said, “Why would they apologise, the film was a superhit! I got many films after that too, with Ramarajan and Ilaiyaraaja, like Namma Ooru Pattukaran. We were all so busy in those days, going from one schedule to another.”
She believes that Punnagai Mannan was the reason her career kick-started. “I don’t know about getting an apology but it is a fact that I wouldn’t have said yes to the kiss at that time. They just did the scene suddenly. It’s over now and I don’t want to revisit it,” said Rekha adding that she was more cautious after that.
Asked if she feels there should be a greater awareness in the film industry about such issues, she says, “I’ve been in the industry for a long time and I can’t say that I’ve had a bad experience as such. I’ve been here for the last 28 years. I believe in ‘give respect and take respect’. Nobody has ill-treated me, whether it’s an actor, director or technician. I haven’t had the kind of #MeToo experiences that people have talked about. This is work for me – I go and finish it, that’s it. I just focus on what I have to do.”
“I’ve been asked if I’ll wear a swimsuit, sleeveless or shorts and I’ve said no. I’ve told them that shorts won’t suit me and that I’ve done only homely roles, not sexy ones. I’d tell them this in advance. If we have to shoot a rain scene, we’ll wear a black skirt or a thick sari,” she says.
“I want to stay positive,” she says. “Kamal sir himself is 65 now. What’s the point of talking more about this now?” she concluded.