At 64, Rekha might no longer believe in celebrating birthdays as she has reportedly said. However, ever since this Southern beauty entered Bollywood, she has lost none of the mystique and glamour that have made her a figure of national fascination over her many years in the industry. We celebrate her birthday with a journey through her life and times.
Rekha was born Bhanurekha Ganesan to Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli. With acting in her blood, it was only natural that she should took to the silver screen. However, it wasn’t easy. The actress has led a controversial life and it began with her birth.
Rekha’s parents were not married and her father Gemini Ganesan refused to acknowledge her. On her part, Rekha kept her identity secret and revealed her origins and the story of her father’s neglect much later in her career. She was famously estranged from her father after she made it big and ignored his attempts at reconciliation. Gemini Ganesan already had four daughters with his first wife, Alamelu. He had a second daughter with Pushpavalli, and another daughter and a son with second wife Savitri. Rekha has one sister, five half-sisters and a half-brother.
Credited as Baby Bhanurekha in the Telugu film
Rangula Ratnam (1966), Rekha made her acting debut at age 12. Rekha made her Bollywood debut in 1969 with the movie
Anjana Safar (later retitled
Do Shikari). She bagged her first role as a lead actress in
Sawan Bhadon (1970) opposite Navin Nischol. The film was a big hit and Rekha became a star overnight.
Despite her new-found stardom, Rekha’s first few years in Bollywood were harrowing. She struggled with the Hindi language and was bewildered by the barrage of criticism about her dark complexion, voluptuous figure and ‘South Indian looks’. It took a complete reinvention of her image, helped by a strict regime of diet and yoga, for Rekha to be acknowledged as one of Bollywood’s beauties.