Rekha was born on 10 October 1954 to Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli in Madras. Rekha did her schooling from Sacred Heart Convent for Girls in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. At the age of 13, she quit education to pursue a career in acting owing to the troubled financial condition of her family.
Rekha began her career as a child artist in the Telugu film Rangula Ratnam (1966). Rekha debuted as lead actress in the successful Kannada film Operation Jackpot Nalli C.I.D 999 with Rajkumar in 1969. She did her first Hindi film, Anjana Safar. With the film Sawan Bhadon, Rekha became a star overnight. She featured in several commercially successful films, including Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Kahani Kismat Ki (1973), and Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1974). Her success followed with movies like Do Anjanne (1976), Ghar (1978), Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978), Silsila (1981) and Umrao Jaan (1981). She also featured in women-centric films like Khoobsurat, Khoon Bhari Maang and Mujhe Insaaf Chahiye. She has won four Filmfare Awards; two Best Actress Awards, one Best Supporting Actress Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award. She became the recipient of the National Film Award for Best Actress in 1982. Rekha was awarded the Padma Shri in 2010. Some of her other wins include International Indian Film Academy Awards, Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, Star Screen Awards, Zee Cine Awards, Stardust Awards and Bollywood Movie Awards.
Some of her notable films include:
- Sawan Bhadon
- Haseenon Ka Devata
- Double Cross
- Namak Haraam
- Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye
- Do Anjaane
In 1990, Rekha was married to Delhi-based industrialist Mukesh Aggarwal, who later committed suicide. She was then rumoured to have been married to actor Vinod Mehra in 1973, but she denied being married to him during a chat show in 2004. She was also rumoured to have been romantically involved with Amitabh Bachchan. During Rekha’s childhood, her father never acknowledged his fatherhood, which led Rekha to rankle and she disregarded his efforts at reconciliation.