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Rekha is the Mona Lisa of Bollywood. Enigmatic, seductive, and iconic—Rekha, in her four-decade-old career, has drawn more ‘ohs' and ‘ahs' from the audiences than any other actress. Although, she has already celebrated her fiftieth birthday, but the charm of her personality and glow of her face, refuse to fade. She is the same charming enchantress, who had once weaved her magic spell on the greatest superstar of India—Amitabh Bachan.
Rekha was born as Bhanurekha Ganesan, to the doyen of south Indian cinema, Gemini Ganeshan, and Telghu actress Pushapavalli in 1954. The unfortunate separation of her parents brought Rekha to Mumbai, with her mother. The ways of nature are strange. A gloomy, flabby, clumsy looking child of the 60s groomed into the most beautiful Indian actress of 70s and beyond.
She debuted in Sawan Badhon in 1970. Regular regimen of exercise, yoga, and meditation brought a sudden and significant change in her figure, complexion, and beauty. Dulal Guha's Do Anjaane (1976) and Maneck Chatterjee's Ghar , reaffirmed in no equivocal terms that Rekha was here-to-stay. Call it her will or God's benevolence—by 1980, Rekha had become the most sought heroine of Bollywood. This was the time when, Amitabh-Rekha flicks like Mr. Natwarlal, Muqadar Ka Sikander (1978), Silsila (1982), Khoon-Paseenacarried Houseful banners. And the gossip mill worked overtime with Amitabh and Rekha's love tales. But alas, not all fairy tale stories reach their logical culminations. Soon the two stars were moving in different orbits. But by this time, both, with twenty films between them, had been catapulted to the super-stardom status.
There was no looking back for Rekha, who kept on mesmerising the ever-hungry Indian audiences, with one riveting performance after another. The role of courtesan played by her, in Muqadaar Ka Sikaander and Umraao Jaan (1987) are masterpieces in a genre, which can only be emulated, but not outdone. In Kamasutra (1996), she again portrayed a seductress, who had spent a lifetime, gratifying the sexual desires of the royals. In between, she gave legendary performances in art films like Utsav (1984), Basera (1981) and Ijaazat (1987) too.
Recently, she won critical acclaim for her roles in Shayam Benegal's Zubeeida and Raj Kumar Santoshi's Lajja, where she played second fiddle to new generation actresses like Karishma, Manisha, and Mahima. Nevertheless, she proved the point, that a thing of beauty is joy forever. More recently, in Koi Mil Gaya and Parineeta too the audiences saw the same charm about her that they had once relished in those ‘angry young man' starrers.
But far from the celluloid that has sparkled with her scintillating expression, the personal life of Rekha has been a tragedy that can best be described in Shakespeare's words:
"She pined in thought; And, with a green and yellow melancholy, She sat like Patience on a monument, Smiling at grief." (What You Will)
A child of a disturbed family, she would have least expected her life to be as tumultuous. She was once wooed by film stars Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, Kiran Kumar and of course, Amitabh Bachan. But none could size up to the persona, whom, she could deem as her man. Ultimately, she married a Delhi based businessman, Mukesh Aggrawal, in 1990, which not only ended in their divorce, but latter's suicide as well. Inwardly bruised Rekha leads a detached and a solitary lifestyle in her Mumbai bungalow.
A veteran of over 60 films, Rekha has won two Best Actress and one Best Supporting Actress Filmfare Awards. She also won a coveted National Award for her performance in Umrao Jaan.