In 1990, she married Delhi-based businessman Mukesh Aggarwal, who committed suicide in 1991. She was rumored to have been married to actor Vinod Mehra in 1973, but in a 2004 television interview with Simi Garewal she denied being married to Mehra referring to him as a “well-wisher”. Rekha currently lives alone in her Bandra home in Mumbai
Rekha appeared as a child actor (credited as Baby Bhanurekha) in the Telugu film Rangula Ratnam (1966). Rekha made her debut as heroine in the successful Kannada film Goadalli CID 999 with Dr. Rajkumar in 1969. In that same year, she starred in her first Hindi film, Anjana Safar (later retitled Do Shikari). She later claimed that she was tricked into a kissing scene with the leading actor Biswajit for the overseas market, and the kiss made it to the Asian edition of “Life” magazine. The film ran into censorship problems, and would not be released until a decade later. She had two films released in 1970: the Telugu film Amma Kosam and the Hindi film Sawan Bhadon, which was considered her acting debut in Bollywood. She had to learn Hindi language, as her naturally spoken language was Tamil. Sawan Bhadon became a hit, and Rekha — a star overnight. Despite the success of her films, she was often scorned for her looks. She subsequently got several offers but nothing of substance. Her roles were mostly just of a glamour girl. She appeared in several commercially successful films at the time, including Kahani Kismat Ki, Raampur Ka Lakshman and Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye, yet she was not regarded for her acting abilities. Rekha recalls, “I was called the ‘Ugly Duckling’ of Hindi films because of my dark complexion and South Indian features. I used to feel deeply hurt when people compared me with the leading heroines of the time and said I was no match for them. I was determined to make it big on sheer merit.
Her first performance-oriented role came in 1976 when she played an ambitious woman in Do Anjaane, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan. The film became a hit as well as a critical success, and she was widely noticed for her performance.
Her most significant turning point, however, came in 1978, with her portrayal of a rape victim in the movie Ghar. She played the role of Aarti, a newly married woman who gets gravely traumatised after being gang-raped, and the film follows her character’s struggle and recuperation with the help of her loving husband, played by Vinod Mehra. The film was considered her first notable milestone, and her performance was applauded by both critics and audiences. She received her first nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards. In that same year, she attained fame with Muqaddar Ka Sikander, in which she co-starred once again with Amitabh Bachchan. The movie was the biggest hit of that year, as well as one of the biggest hits of the decade, and Rekha was set as one of the most successful actresses of these times. The film opened to positive critical reception, and Rekha’s performance as a courtesan earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare.
Rekha went on to star opposite Bachchan in a number of films, most of which were hits. She also had an alleged off-screen relationship with him, which was widely reported in the media, as well as sharply criticised, as he was a married man.This relationship ended in 1981, when they starred in Yash Chopra’s drama Silsila. The film was the most scandalous of their films together; Rekha played Bachchan’s love interest, while Bachchan’s real-life wife, Jaya Bhaduri, played his wife. This was their last film together.
The film-column gossip may have contributed to her success. However, even critics had to admit that she had worked hard to perfect her Hindi and her acting, and that she had transformed herself from a “plump” duckling to a “swan” in the early 1970s. Rekha’s credits to this transformation were yoga, a nutritious diet, and a regular, disciplined life. In 1983, her diet and yoga practice were published in a book called “Rekha’s Mind and Body Temple”
In 1981, she starred in Umrao Jaan, a film adaptation of the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada (1905), written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. Rekha played the title role of a courtesan and poetess from 19th century Lucknow. For the role, Rekha, who at the beginning of her career did not speak Hindi, took the task of learning the finer nuances of the Urdu language. The film follows Umrao’s life story right from her days as a young girl named Amiran when she is kidnapped and sold in a brothel. Her portrayal is considered to be one of her career-best performances, and she received the National Film Award for Best Actress for it. She played a courtesan with a heart of gold in several of her films; Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Umrao Jaan were followed by a number of films which had her playing similar roles.
Rekha’s post-Bachchan era marked a new stage in her career; it was the time when she turned her career professionally. She was willing to work with independent and art film directors, and throughout the 1980s, regularly worked in parallel cinema, a term that refers to the new wave, realistic cinema in India. Her venture into this particular genre started off with Umrao Jaan, and was followed by other releases such as Shyam Benegal’s award-winning drama, Kalyug, Ramesh Talwar’s Baseraa, which saw her playing a woman who marries her sister’s husband, after the latter loses her mental balance and the commercially successful Ek Hi Bhool, opposite Jeetendra, with Rekha playing the role of a betrayed wife who leaves her husband. Her performances in these films were highly praised by critics. Other notable arthouse films during the 1980s included Jeevan Dhaara, Utsav and Ijaazat. For her portrayal of Vasantsena in Utsav, she was acknowledged as the Best Actress (Hindi) by the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association. Maithili Rao wrote for “Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema”, “Rekha — forever the first choice for the courtesan’s role, be it ancient Hindu India or 19th-century Muslim Lucknow — is all statuesque sensuality.
Apart from parallel cinema, Rekha took on other increasingly serious, even adventurous roles; she was among the early actresses to play lead roles in heroine-oriented films, delivering films such as Khubsoorat, Khoon Bhari Maang and Mujhe Insaaf Chahiye. She won Filmfare trophies for her roles in Khubsoorat (1980) and Khoon Bhari Maang (1988). One critic wrote of her performance in Khoon Bhari Maang, “Rekha as Aarti is just flawless and this is one of her best performance ever! In the first half as the shy and not so sexy Aarti she is excellent and after the plastic surgery as the model and femme fatale she is excellent too. Some scenes show that we are watching an actress of a very high calibre here.
The 1990s saw a drop in Rekha’s success and she began gradually losing her stardom. She was part of several commercially and critically unsuccessful films, in spite of doing even more challenging roles. Critics, however, noted that unlike most of the actresses of her generation, like Hema Malini and Raakhee, who began playing supporting parts as the mother or the aunty in their films, Rekha was still playing leading roles, at the time when heroines such as Madhuri Dixit and Raveena Tandon rose to fame.
Some of her most notable films during the decade include the foreign film Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and the commercially successful Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996). The former, which was directed by Mira Nair was known for its controversial topic and many felt it would damage Rekha’s career, as Rekha played a Kama Sutra teacher in the film. On the other hand, the latter was a major grosser and earned her several awards, including the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award and the Star Screen Award for Best Villain for her role of a gangster woman.
In recent years, she has appeared in relatively few movies, usually as a mother or a widow rather than a glamour queen. She was praised for several of her performances. In 2001, she starred as Ramdulari, a simple village woman, in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Lajja, along with an ensemble cast that included Manisha Koirala, Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor. She received several nominations for her portrayal; critic, Taran Adarsh, wrote of her performance, “… it is Rekha who walks away with the glory, delivering one of the finest performances the Indian screen has seen in the recent times.In that same year she acted alongside Karisma Kapoor in Shyam Benegal’s Zubeidaa. Upperstall.com wrote, “Rekha has a stunning screen presence exuding grace and comes up with an expertly adept performance leaving her stamp on the film. She next starred alongside Preity Zinta in Kundan Shah’s Dil Hai Tumhaara, playing the role of Sarita, a betrayed woman who takes under her custody her husband’s illegitimate duaghter after his death. In 2003, she played Hrithik Roshan’s mother in Rakesh Roshan’s Koi… Mil Gaya, a performance which won her the Bollywood Movie Award – Best Supporting Actress. The film was the biggest hit of that year.
In 2006, she was seen in the sequel to Koi… Mil Gaya, Krrish, one of the most successful films of the year In 2007, she once again portrayed a courtesan in Gautam Ghose’s Yatra. Unlike the initial success she experienced in playing such roles in the early stages of her career, this time the film failed to do well. In 2010, Rekha was awarded the Padma Shri, the 4th highest civilian award given by the Government of India.
Rekha was born in Chennai to renowned Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli. Her father enjoyed considerable success as an actor and Rekha was to follow in his footsteps.
Her parents were not married, and her father did not acknowledge his paternity during her childhood. It was in early 1970s, when she was looking for a footing in Bollywood, that she revealed her origins. Later, at the peak of her career, Rekha told a magazine interviewer that her father’s neglect still rankled and that she had ignored his efforts at reconciliation.
Bhanurekha Ganesan better known by her stage name Rekha (born 10 October 1954) is an Indian actress who has appeared in Bollywood films. Noted for her versatility and acknowledged as one of the finest actresses of Hindi cinema, Rekha started her career in 1966 as a child actor in the Telugu movie Rangula Ratnam, though her film debut as a lead happened four years later with Sawan Bhadon (1970). Despite the success of several of her early films it was not until the mid-to-late 1970s that she got recognition as an actor. Since the 1970s she has been featured as a sex symbol in the Indian media.
Rekha has acted in over 180 films in a career that has spanned over 40 years. Throughout her career, she often played roles in female-oriented movies and took part in both Indian mainstream and art cinema, known in India as parallel cinema. She has achieved commercial success, as well as critical praise for numerous performances. 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 won her the National Film Award for Best Actress. Though her career has gone through certain periods of decline, she has reinvented herself numerous times and has been credited for her ability to sustain her status