Rekha was born on October 10, 1954, in Chennai (then Madras) to legendary Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli. Her birth name is Bhanurekha Ganesan
Rekha's parents were not married. Ganesan and Pushpavalli remained friends till the end. After attaining stardom Rekha revealed that her father's absence always rankled her and hence she never reconciled with him.
In picture: With Farooque Sheikh
Rekha's mother Pushpavalli raised her and her siblings. When Rekha was in her early teens, her mother Pushpavalli fell ill and had to leave work. Rekha was forced to quit school and venture into acting to financially support her family
Rekha's first appearance on the big screen was as a child artist in the 1966 Telugu film 'Rangula Ratnama'. She was credited as Baby Bhanurekha in the movie.
In picture: With Rohini Hattangadi
Rekha debuted as heroine in the Kannada film Goa Dalli CID 999 (1969), which starred superstar Rajkumar.
In picture: With Shashi Kapoor
Though Rekha made her first appearance in Bollywood with 'Anjana Safar', the release got delayed and 'Sawan Bhadon' which was directed Mohan Segal and released in 1970 was the film in which the audience saw Rekha for the first time in Hindi movies. 'Sawan Bhadon' also marked the debuts of Navin Nischol and Ranjeet.
In 'Anjana Safar' which was shot in 1969, Rekha starred with Biswajit as the lead. The actress claimed that she was tricked into doing a kissing scene in the film. Anjana Safar ran into censorship trouble and only released in 1979 after it was renamed 'Do Shikaari'.
In picture: With Kader Khan
Rekha's earlier years in the industry were a struggle since she did not know Hindi, and had a lot of trouble conversing with co-workers.
Some of her earlier movies did reasonably well. But, Rekha was heavily criticised for her unglamorous looks.
In picture: With Rakesh Roshan
She worked extremely hard on her appearance though, and by the 80s was being referred to as a sex symbol
Rekha is noted among the most versatile actresses in Bollywood, having portrayed serious, comic as well as vengeful characters with ease.
In picture: With Rakhee
In the 1978 film 'Ghar' she depicted the character of a rape victim, which won her plenty of plaudits.
Unarguably, her most famous portrayal has been that of a courtesan in 'Umrao Jaan' (1981) for which she won the National Award.
In picture: With Utpal Dutt
In 'Kalyug' (1981), a modern adaptation of Mahabharata, Rekha played the role of Supriya, a character based on Draupadi.
Rekha also gave award-winning performances in films like 'Khoobsurat' (1980), 'Khoon Bhari Maang' (1988) and 'Khiladiyon ka Khiladi' (1996).
On the personal front, Rekha married Delhi-based industrialist Mukesh Aggarwal in 1990. However, the latter committed suicide a year later.
There were rumours that Rekha had tied the knot with co-star Vinod Mehra, but the actress denied the same on Simi Garewal's talk show.
Rekha was alleged to have a much-publicised love affair with superstar Amitabh Bachchan. However, it was too rubbished by the actress.
In pic: With Lata Mangeshkar at a function
Yash Chopra's 'Silsila' (1981), which showed Big B and Rekha having an extra-marital affair, released at a time when rumours of their real-life affair were flying thick and fast. The duo haven't acted together since.
Before 'Silsila', the Rekha-Big B duo featured in a number of hit films like 'Do Anjaane' (1976), 'Muqaddar Ka Sikander' (1978), 'Suhaag' (1979) and 'Mr. Natwarlal' (1979).
In 2010, the Government of India conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award upon her.
In picture: With Hrithik Roshan
In a career that has spanned four decades, Rekha has featured in nearly 180 films.
Rekha's Top 5 performances:
Ghar (1978) - The newly married Aarti suffers a huge trauma when she is gang-raped. Scores like Aaj kal paaon, Tere bina gave her the winning edge.
Khubsoorat (1980) - Playing Manju Dayal who transforms a suppressed family by her free spirit, Rekha is best remembered for her two plaits and the line Nirmal Anand.
Umrao Jaan (1981) - Umrao Jaan, a famous Lucknowi courtesan's love for poetry and her heart-breaks was beautifully portrayed by gems like Dil cheez kya hai, Justuju jiski.
Silsila (1981) - Yash Chopra's Chandni had the ravishing actress in her gorgeous chiffons gyrating to Yeh kahan aa gaye hum and , Dekha ek khwab alongside Amitabh Bachchan.
Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) - Cheated and defaced by her second husband, Aarti Varma returns in a glam avatar and seeks revenge. A tailor made role for the talented diva.
One of Bollywood's most elegant actresses, Rekha, turns 64 today. We mark the occasion by showcasing a collection of her beautiful pictures over the years
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