By Shreya Banerjee
Bhanurekha Ganesan better known by her stage name ‘Rekha’ was born in Madras on October 10, 1954. Daughter of Tamil superstar Gemini Ganesan she has left a deep impact on the Indian cinema.
It is her 65th birthday today and she has unapologetically been one of the faces in bollywood who proved that beauty lies in grace and dedication.
Rekha started her career at the age of 12 with Telugu film, Rangula Ratnam (1966). She has been a part of more than 180 films in her career spanning over 50 years. Throughout her career she has played strong female characters apart from mainstream cinema.
This journey has not been easy for the actress, both professionally and personally.
In 1990 Rekha married a Delhi based industrialist Mukesh Agarwal who committed suicide a year later after the marriage. After this she was rumoured to have been married to actor Vinod Mehra but later in 2004 in an interview with Simi Garewal she denied being married to him and called hims a ‘well wisher’.
Controversy did not end here. Rekha’s name was added with actor Amitabh Bachchan after they acted in films like Do Anjaane and Silsila. Even till now there are rumours that Rekha puts ‘sindoor’ in his name.
Her first Hindi film was back in 1970 (Saawan Bhadon) opposite Navin Nischol. The film that was supposed to be a life changing experience for Rekha rather scarred the actress for life. In Yasser Usman’s biography of the actor called ‘Rekha: An Untold Story’ mentioned that the actress was molested on the sets of the film and back then it was passed off as a funny incident.
She appeared in several commercially successful films at the time, including Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Kahani Kismat Ki (1973) and Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1974), yet she was not regarded for her acting abilities.
Her first performance oriented role came in 1976 when she was paired opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Do Anjaane.
Her first award was in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for Muquaddar Ka Sikandar co-starred again with Amitabh.
Her career bloomed with films like Gulzar’s ‘Ijaazat’ (1987), Shashi Kapoor’s ‘Utsav’ (1985), Muzaffar Ali’s ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1980) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Khubsoorat’ (1979). Umrao Jaan fetched her National Award too.
In the 2000s, Rekha appeared in relatively few movies. ‘Lajja’ directed by Rajkumar Santoshi was an ensemble piece inspired by a true incident of a woman being raped in Bawanipur. In 2003 she played the role of a mother to a mentally disabled Rohit played by Hritik Roshan in ‘Koi Mil Gaya.’
She was last seen in the multi-starrer movie ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ (2018) as a special appearance in Rafta Rafta medley song.
She has won three Filmfare Awards two for Best Actress and one for Best Supporting Actress, for her roles in Khubsoorat (1980), Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) and Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996), respectively. Her portrayal of a classical courtesan in Umrao Jaan (1981) won her the National Film Award for Best Actress.
In 2010, she was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India.