Rekha who epitomises grace and lasting beauty was born on 10th Oct 1954. She was the “illegitimate” and unacknowledged daughter of the polygamous Tamil film star Gemini Ganesan. She was unrelentingly teased in school as a “lotta”, Tamil for the bastard. Such cruelty was to be her fate for years to come. Rekha revealed her secrets in her autobiography released in 2016.
At a shoot for the film Anjana Safar, which later renamed as Do Shikari, producer Kuljeet Pal, director Raja Nawathe and lead actor Biswajeet conspired to force Rekha into a kissing scene. This kiss had never been mentioned to her...The director didn’t call “cut” for five long minutes. Unit members were whistling and cheering. Her eyes were tightly shut but they were full of tears. Rekha couldn’t protest for fear of the consequences...
In this Blog I am bringing some revelations
Rekha started her career in 1966 as a child actress in the Telugu film Rangula Ratnam, though her film debut as a lead happened four years later with Sawan Bhadon. Her first Hindi film was Anjana Safar but this film couldn't release.
She had no interest in acting and was basically forced to work to sustain her family financially, this was a difficult period in her life. Still, a teenager, acclimatising herself to her new surroundings was an uneasy process. Coming from the South, she did not speak Hindi and struggled to communicate with co-workers, and was constantly missing her mother, who was critically ill.
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. In fact, when Navin Nischol found out that Rekha had been signed as his co-star for Sawan Bhadon, he complained to the producer: “From where did you pick out this namoona [character]? Itni kaali-kalooti [So dark and ugly]!”.
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.
Rekha transformed her body and started paying attention to her make-up, dress sense, and worked to improve her acting technique and perfect her Hindi-language skills. To lose weight, she followed a nutritious diet, led a regular, disciplined life, and practised yoga, later recording albums to promote physical fitness.
She began choosing her film roles with more care; her first performance-oriented role came in 1976 when she played Amitabh Bachchan's ambitious and greedy wife in Do Anjaane. The audience was floored when there was a swift change in her screen personality, as well as her style of acting.
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. 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.
In that same year, she attained fame with Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, 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 a positive critical reception, and Rekha's performance as a courtesan named Zohra, noted for a "smouldering intensity", earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare.
In 1980, Rekha appeared in the comedy Khubsoorat, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, with whom she had developed a strong father-daughter bond during their previous collaborations. It won the Filmfare Award for Best Film and Rekha won her first Best Actress award.
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 poet from 19th century Lucknow. Her portrayal is considered to be one of her career-best performances, and she was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress for it.
Rekha has acted in over 180 films in her career spanning over 50 years. 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.
Earlier in her career, she was very bold, Rekha’s sexual openness, too, was revolutionary, even by modern standards, and won her yet more ire. It is impossible to imagine a young starlet today saying some of the things Rekha said four decades ago: “You can’t come close, really close, to a man without making love”, “It is a sheer fluke that I have never got pregnant so far” and “Premarital sex is very natural. And all those prudes who say that a single woman should have sex only on her suhaag raat are talking bull”!
Rekha had multiple linkups but none beside her at the age of 64. One of the first prominent affairs of Rekha in Bollywood was with the superstar Jeetendra. Jeetendra was known for his casual flirting with his female co-stars. Both Rekha and Jeetendra had done in numerous films with each other. It is said that Rekha was quite serious about him but the superstar was already married to Shobha Kapoor when he had met Rekha. When rumours about their alleged dating started doing rounds, Rekha was termed as a 'home-breaker' by many. Thus, their relationship died a bitter death.
Her next affair was with Kiran Kumar but it was a short fling. Kiran was also Vinod Mehra’s best friend, whom she had fallen for later. Their relationship went on for a small time before they decided to call it quits.
Next was Vinod Mehra. There was a rumour that they married at a secret wedding ceremony but it did not last long. Rekha however, had denied having any marital relationships with Vinod Mehra in an interview with Simi Garewal in 2004.
Rekha’s affair with Amitabh Bachchan is the most talked about romantic relationship that has ever brewed in Bollywood.
Rekha married Delhi-based business tycoon, Mukesh Agarwal. According to the book, Rekha: The Untold Story, Mukesh was suffering from acute chronic depression and was not at all happy with Rekha’s acting career. To add to that, was their post-divorce trauma. All this led to Mukesh Agarwal’s suicide.
Rekha on her book says I do not invite people into my house. By hook or by crook, those who must find their way in. In fact, my privacy’s worked better than any screenplay. Anything connected with my work, the producers meet me in my office, no one comes into my house except family.