Bollywood actress Rekha, who turns 64 today, has been a part of more than 180 films. However, her journey so far hasn't been so easy.
Rekha started her Bollywood career as a child actress with Telugu movie 'Rangula Ratnam' in 1966. Her first film as a lead actress was 'Sawan Bhadon' (1970). For the initial few years of her career, Rekha was criticised for her looks. It was in the late 1970s that she went through a transformation and emerged as a sex symbol.
During an interview Rekha said that because of her dark complexion and south Indian features she was considered an ugly duckling in Bollywood. However, she was determined to change people's perception about her and she did. She started choosing her films carefully. 'Do Anjaane' (1976) was her first performance oriented film and her fans loved her in the new avatar.
Rekha is the daughter of Telugu actress Pushpavalli and Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan. Her parents were not married and her father didn't acknowledge his paternity during her childhood days. She didn't dream of becoming an actress, but because of the financial state of her family, Rekha had to quit school and take up films. (Rekha with her family)
Her 1978 film 'Ghar' in which she played a rape victim, became an important milestone in her career. The film follows the struggle of a rape victim and how she recovers with the help of her loving husband played by Vinod Mehra. She received her first Filmfare best actress nomination for the same.
Rekha developed a very close bond with filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He especially wrote a film for her, it was titled 'Khubsoorat'. Rekha was appreciated for her comic timing in the film. She also won her first Filmfare award for 'Khubsoorat'.
Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan starred together in many films. While their onscreen chemistry was working for their careers, their off screen bonding became a regular feature in the gossip columns. Rekha was highly criticised for being in a relationship with a married man.
Rekha was once again seen with Amitabh Bachchan in 1978 film 'Muqaddar Ka Sikandar'. The film became one of the biggest hit of the decade and brought her into the top league of actresses.
Their relationship ended in 1981. Their last film together was Yash Chopra's 'Silsila'. Apart from Amitabh and Rekha, his wife Jaya Bachchan was also a part of the film.
Released in 1981, Rekha played the title role in 'Umrao Jaan'. The actress, who couldn't speak Hindi properly in the beginning of her career, learnt Urdu for the film. Thanks to the songs and her brilliant acting, 'Umrao Jaan' is considered as a major milestone in her career. She also won the National Film Award for Best Actress for it.
After the success of 'Umrao Jaan', Rekha featured in a lot of arthouse films. Films like 'Kalyug', 'Vijeta' and 'Utsav' further proved her acting abilities.
Rekha won her second Filmfare award for the film 'Khoon Bhari Maang'. She is among the first few actresses who starred in the female oriented films. During an interview she said that the award gave her a kick and she considers it a turning point in her career.
In the 1990s, actresses like Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi took centre stage, and Rekha slowly stepped aside. In this period she starred in films like 'Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love', 'Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi' and others. She is mostly seen playing supporting characters now. She was last seen in Bollywood film 'Sadiyaan' (2010).
In 1990, Rekha tied the knot with industrialist Mukesh Aggarwal. He committed suicide after a year of marriage; she was in the United States at that time. People close to her explain this as the toughest time of her life.
Rekha was also said to be married to actor Vinod Mehra. However, in an interview in 2004, she denied being married to him and just called him a well wisher.