Happy Birthday, Rekha: At 64, She Is Still The Evergreen Umrao Jaan And The Fiery Madam X


They say age catches up with beauty. They say you cannot take years off your face. They say pizzazz is dispensable and a slave of time. But Baby Bhanu Rekha Ganesan is an exception, in all her mystique and glory. In times when veteran actresses and many of her own counterparts are enjoying grandmother-hood, film star Rekha is busy redefining and reversing the clock mechanism for she simply refuses to reveal her actual age. Sad for us the beauty is not on social media or we would have backed our claims with samples to call out her bluff.

[caption id="attachment_148284" align="aligncenter" width="521"] A young Rekha in her teens[/caption]

Numerically, the thespian has completed 64 years of glorious and illustrious existence today but if you ask us, she took charge of age by seize at say 25 (fine, max 30). For the fountain is never running dry, not in this lifetime. Those deep curled lashes, almond-shaped eyes, delicate digits and a bod sculpted to the dictionary definition of perfection with the help of yoga and diet are all an arrow that can still take your heart down in a jiffy leaving you battling for breath.

[caption id="attachment_148280" align="aligncenter" width="623"] Rekha for a photoshoot[/caption]

Born to Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan and Telugu actress Pushpavalli, Rekha certainly didn’t have the most luxurious living contrary to any other filmy bacha. But acting, nonetheless, ran deep in her veins and was freshly injected into the streams of cinema when the starlet was merely 12-years-old. The mesmerizing gorgeousness made her screen debut with Telugu movie Rangula Ratnam (1966), and entered Bollywood in 1969 with the film Anjana Safar (later retitled Do Shikari). However, her claim to fame came the year next with Sawan Bhadon (1970) opposite Navin Nischol. A new star was born.

[caption id="attachment_148283" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Still from Rekha's debut film Rangula Ratnam (1966)[/caption]

Over the next few years, Rekha met with unsparing attacks on her exteriors: typical ‘South Indian’ looks and her voluptuous figure met with quite a baggage of criticism until the actress turned the tables with her undivided attention to her looks. Thereafter, there has been no looking back for the timeless diva for in her career sprawling across four long decades, the actress brewed a strong romance with both commercial and critical acclaimed cinema.

[caption id="attachment_148287" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Rekha in Sawan Bhadon (1970)[/caption]

Albeit, superlatives are steadily flying off the keyboard and falling flat on face as we try to put together her iconic performances, here’s a look at the 5 best films every Rekha fan should binge-watch on her birthday. Because while she may not celebrate her special day, her fandom certainly can and should!

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Umrao Jaan

The film has been deeply engraved on the marble of the history of Indian cinema. Rekha’s portrayal of the titular courtesan poetess in the 1981 blockbuster bagged her very first National Film Award for Best Actress. The starlet’s smouldering intensity and all-fire feat is remembered till date.


The light-hearted rom-com released in 1980 starring Rekha opposite Rakesh Roshan focused on the actress’ impeccable comic timing. Her bubbling stint earned her the first Best Actress Award at the Filmfare Awards.

Khoon Bhari Maang

A complete makeover for Rekha’s onscreen image came with this 1988 starrer. In the film, she starts out as a wealthy simpleton who her husband attempts to kill. However, she returns as a femme fatale to avenge her husband and his sidekicks. It landed another Filmfare Award in her kitty!


This 1981 classic remains one of Yash Chopra’s best works for many reason but primarily for the casting coup he managed to pull: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha. She knocked it outta the park like NBD.


Dipping her toe in a new pond and testing the waters of art house cinema, this film released in 1984 only added to Rekha’s already crowded hat.

In the 90s, Rekha went on to explore the contemporary genres and rediscovered her acting finesse with Mira Nair's Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996) and the super-duper hit Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996). The success of her role of a gangster Madam Maya earned her the notorious nickname of Madam X. 2000s were the dawn of a new era but Rekha held onto her ground with powerful punches in Lajja, Zubedia, Koi Mil Gaya, Krrish, Super Nani, Shamitabh amongst others. In 2010, the then President Pratibha Patil conferred upon the honour of Padma Shri on Rekha.


On and off the screen, Rekha has lived a life worth taking inspiration from. No matter what, the grace and poise with which she carried herself through all these years is what deserves the loudest applause. Take a bow, beauty. Thank for the gems, all these years.

Here’s wishing the nation’s forever fascination, a very Happy Birthday!