Rekha, the eternal diva of Bollywood turned 61 today (October 10). Over a career that spans over four decades, the actor has appeared in more than forty films. Besides leaving a mark in commercial cinema, she has also produced a huge body of work in arthouse/parallel cinema. Winner of one National Award for her performance in the 1981 period romance Umrao Jaan, three Filmfare Awards and a Padma Shri in 2010, Rekha is without a doubt one of the most evergreen actors of Indian cinema.
However, as much as she was known, appreciated and respected for her talent, her personal life was always under scrutiny because of the patriarchal film world’s prudishness and the media’s incessant curiosity. She has had a tumultuous romantic life – all the more reason for the Indian janta to always speak of her with a certain kind of reservation because she never fit into moralistic, middle-class ideas of who and what a woman should be.
Nevertheless, till kingdom come, Rekha’s life will always be a mystery to one and all, especially because she is so reluctant to give interviews to the press.
1. Rekha (birth name: Rekha Ganesan) was born in a Chennai household to Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actor Pushpavalli. Gemini Ganesan and Pushpavalli were not married at the time of her birth and Gemini did not acknowledge that he was the father throughout Rekha’s childhood. In fact, it was the poor financial state of the family that forced Rekha to turn to acting.
Rekha has one sister, five half sisters and a half brother; all from the same father, Gemini Ganesan. Even though Rekha and her cousins have different mothers, the actor is closely attached to them. The Umrao Jaan actor did not reveal her parentage for a long, long time. In the early ’70s, when she was beginning her career in Bollywood, she revealed the truth about her origins
3. Rekha started off as a child actor in the 1966 Telugu film Rangula Ratnam. She made her film debut as a heroine in the 1969 Kannada film Operation Jackpot Nalli C.I.D 999. That same year, she made her Hindi film debut with Anjana Safar.
5. On the sets of Anjana Safar, a clueless 15-year-old Rekha was forced into a five-minute long smooching scene by star Biswajeet Chatterjee and the director Raja Nawathe.
6. Rekha was a fish out of water in the first ten years that she spent in Bombay. Coming from down south, she did not know Hindi and thus struggled to communicate with her cast and crew. She constantly missed her mother who was critically ill. She also had to maintain a strict diet.