Did you say Umrao Jaan?
From the times when women were not even allowed to act to the time when there’s probably no movie made without a female depicts how the time has changed so far. Indian cinema is incomplete without its heroine’s. There were some flawless, spectacular and talented females who have ruled the industry for ages. Among them a name stands out the most and that’s the name of Rekha! She is indeed India’s own Umrao Jaan. She is the eternal beauty queen of India. From being a child prodigy to being top rated heroine, Rekha has always managed to be on news. Whether it’s a role of mother, independent women or even armed queen- she never failed us. But her success to this stunning fame didn’t came overnight, it was followed by number of failures.
Bhanurekha Ganesan was born on 10th October, 1954 in Madras. Her father was a Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and her mother was a Telugu actress Pushpavalli. Though her parents were separated just after. She studied till she was 13 and later quit to find her place in Bollywood. Rekha didn’t aspire on becoming a heroine but it was her family’s weak financial status that pushed her into this profession. When she first came to Bombay it was so hard for her to adjust as she couldn’t speak hindi which made her even more vulnerable to fell prey of several hunters. She had a problem to communicate properly with her co-workers and found herself surrounded by unknown people. She never wanted to be a part of this profession and cry every night at her state as she couldn’t choose to go back to her ill mother. She first entered the Industry as a child actress in a Tamil movie ‘Rangula Ratnam’. She made her debut in Kannada film ‘Operation Jackpot’ and in the same year she made her debut in a hindi movie ‘Anjana Safar’ as well. This was the first time the actress claimed that she was sexually harassed as she was tricked into a kissing scene. In 1970, she starred in Hindi film Sawan Bhadon, which was considered her acting debut in Bollywood. The film was a hit and Rekha became a star overnight. But this didn’t affected much to the people as she was considered as ‘Ugly Duckling’ for her dark complexion and South Indian features. She was constantly forced to change her looks and her choice of roles. But this didn’t demoralized and she started paying attention to her make-up, dress sense, and worked to improve her acting technique and perfect her Hindi-language skills. Her sudden transformation stunned the audience when she appeared beside Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Do Anjaane’. The turning point of her career was when ‘Ghar’ was released. Her acting of rape victim was appreciated widely and this bought her first Filmfare nomination. And the same year she gave another hit ‘Muqaddar ka Sikander’ once again with Amitabh Bachchan. This movie turned out to be the biggest hit of the decade. She also received the best supporting actress nomination at Filmfare. With her first comic movie ‘Khoobsurat’, Rekha was the name on everybody’s mind. It won the Filmfare Award for Best Film and Rekha won her first Best Actress award. By the time she has given numerous hits. But soon she found herself trapped between another scandal where her name was joint with Amitabh Bachchan. This relationship ended in 1981, when they starred in Yash Chopra’s drama Silsila. Silsila too was a hit despite being a scandalous film. In the same year, Rekha starred in ‘Umrao Jaan’ and turned the tables upside down by her flawless and incredible portrayal of a courtesan with the golden heart. The film is considered her best work till date and which also made her won the National Film Award for Best Actress. In 1982, she received another Filmfare nomination for Jeevan Dhaara. Apart from this Rekha also worked in numerous arthouse productions also known as the parallel cinema. Her notable work was Gulzar’s ‘Ijaazat’ released in 1987. She was among the early actresses to play lead roles in heroine-oriented films, one such film being Khoon Bhari Maang in 1988. She won her second Filmfare Award for her performance in the film. The film was a great success and Rekha won the reputation of Independent women. She was praised by the critics and media for her performance.
Later in 1990, when many of her co- actresses were choosing roles of mothers, Rekha continued working as a lead actress. This brought a shift in her career as her films were going unsuccessful. Her career declined as bit but it was only until her next hit ‘Phool Bane Angare’. The film was a box office hit and she attracted many more similar roles. Rekha was once again in news as she was back with numerous hits. In 2001, Rekha appeared in Rajkumar Santoshi’s feminist drama Lajja, which was again a super hit and she received several nomination for her role in the movie. Later Rekha’s portrayal of a mother in ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ is another memorable role of her. Since then she has been doing several mother figure roles and is continuously praised for her divine beauty.
In 1990 Rekha was married to Mukesh Agarwal who a year later committed suicide leaving a note behind- ‘don’t blame anyone’. The actress was in London during the time. In 2010, Rekha was awarded the Padma Shri, the 4th highest civilian award given by the Government of India. She is also the member of Rajya Sabha. Rekha has three Filmfare Awards, two for Best Actress and one for Best Supporting Actress awards in her pocket! Her fierce, sensual, and took up a man’s job personality praised with several awards and acknowledgements. Her glamourous roles and tremendous acting made her today one of the finest star the Indian cinema ever had.