At 53, Rekha is still Bollywood's style diva
Rekha, who can be arguably termed India's Greta Garbo, continues to be Bollywood's ever-graceful style diva and still sets many a heart aflutter even as she turns 53 Wednesday.
"She is a true style diva when it comes depicting the Indian look. She looks fabulous in the traditional Indian saris. I would say that she brings out the best of Indian outfits. She carries them very well. But I wouldn't like to see her in a western outfit," Shantanu of designer duo Shantanu and Nikhil told IANS.
The actress, who is synonymous with style and beauty for her fans, surprised many when she bagged the MTV Lycra Maha Style Icon Award in 2004. In 2006, British magazine Eastern Eye listed her as one of "Asia's Sexiest Women" in their September issue.
A rare blend of beauty and talent, Rekha also hogs the limelight for her timeless beauty and mysterious lifestyle. She is quite secretive about her personal life, lives alone with her secretary Farzana and doesn't socialise much except to attend award functions.
She manages the media's prying eye tactfully and always keeps her cool.
"I'm a very shy person. Unlike what has been insinuated, it's not a strategy to retain my aura. I'm not trying to live up to any mystery woman image.
"People might think that I am not married and have no children, the conventional lifestyle you know, but I see it this way - as long as you are alive, you have a chance to have a future. At least there is hope," she was quoted as saying.
As an actress she evolved with each role she played. Be it a courtesan in Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan or a housewife in Ijazzat or a fun-loving girl in Khubsoorat, she has always proved her mettle.
After watching Umrao Jaan, nobody could believe that she could barely speak Hindi when she came to Bollywood as her enunciation of Urdu in the period film was flawless. She won the National Award for it.
"As a performer, she is inspiring. It's not only Umrao Jaan but her entire career and characters that she essayed through her performances that are extremely inspiring," Aishwarya Rai said in an interview.
Rekha gave memorable performances in Ghar, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Khubsoorat, Silsila, Vijeta, Utsav, Khoon Bhari Maang, Zubeida, Bhoot and Krrish.
But she disappointed her fans and critics in Mira Nair's controversial Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love in 1996 and as a wife who turns to prostitution in Aastha: In the Prison of Spring the following year. Many felt it was the end of her career.
But Rekha remained unperturbed by the criticism.
She said: "After Aastha: In the Prison of Spring people had a lot to say about my role of a wife who moonlights as a prostitute. I don't have problems playing anything. I've reached a stage where I could do justice to any role that came my way. It could the role of a mother, a sister-in-law, negative, positive, sensational or anything."
Born Bhanurekha Ganesan to well-known Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli, Rekha's personal life has been quite tumultuous. She was born out of wedlock and was disowned by her father. Her mother later forced her to work in films.
She made her first appearance as a child actor in 1966 in a Telugu film Rangula Ratnam. Three years later she made her debut as heroine in hit Kannada film "Goadalli CID 999" with Rajkumar.
In 1970 she forayed into Hindi films with Sawan Bhadon, paired opposite Navin Nishchol. The movie was a huge hit and Rekha became a star overnight.
Despite being overweight, she got many offers and gave hits like Kahani Kismat Ki and Raampur Ka Lakshman and there was no looking back.
In her heyday she scorched headlines for her link ups with co-actors like Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, Kiran Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.
Rekha continues to work and some of her recent releases include Kudiyon Ka Hai Zamaana, Bachke Rehna Re Baba, Yatra and Krrish.