Her glamorous persona still has men gawking. Rekha, who turns 57 today, metamorphosed into a diva from the overweight young actress she once was, and continues to inspire the current league of actresses.Daughter of southern star Gemini Ganesan, Rekha bagged overnight success with her debut vehicle 'Sawan Bhadon' (1970) and gradually became India's sex symbol. What catapulted her to the Bollywood zenith was Muzaffar Ali's period drama 'Umrao Jaan' (1981) that even won her a National Award.
Having acted in more than 150 films, she made her presence felt with her versatility and different avatars in films like 'Do Anjaane' (1976), 'Ghar' (1978), 'Muqaddar Ka Sikander' (1978), 'Khubsoorat' (1980), 'Silsila' (1981), 'Baseraa' (1981), 'Utsav' (1984), 'Khoon Bhari Maang' (1988), 'Ijaazat' (1988), 'Kama Sutra' (1996) and 'Zubeidaa' (2001) to name a few.
Last seen in a cameo for Shah Rukh Khan-starrer 'Om Shanti Om' (2007), industry insiders have often spoken of Rekha as a 'capable, disciplined actress with immense range, ability and mastery of precise detail'.
'She is a dreamer... she lives in her own world. She imagines a lot of things that suit her psyche as an actor. She is a very genuine, warm and a very sensitive person... And no denying the fact a very good learner. It has been an amazing experience to work with her; she is a perfect actress,' says film critic Muzaffar Ali.
'Post-'Umrao Jaan', she has kind of withdrawn herself... perhaps because that role was a very cerebral, cultural and classical one that raised her to a pedestal that cannot be surpassed ever... not by her or by anyone else,' he added.
'Rekha is nearest to the parallel of Swedish actress Greta Garbo... they both came from poor backgrounds and climbed great heights... As an artist she was first noticed in 'Ghar' and after that she was no more termed as only a voluptuous artist in Hindi cinema because then came films like 'Khubsoorat' and 'Umrao Jaan' that set her apart,' said noted film historian Gautam Kaul.
'She is enigmatic... because she is hard to get. She only moves in a small circle of senior film people and she shuns the media. That's also because she is a tragic figure with failed relationships... none of which succeeded, so she has withdrawn into herself. The only place she is now noticed is award functions, which are also picked and chosen. But she still doesn't give any interviews,' he added.
'Rekha is a diva... In fact, the term diva (in India) was coined for Rekha. The way she has metamorphosed herself from what she was when she came into the industry is mind blowing... She has worked on her language, body, diction, everything and apart from that she's a fantastic actress,' said renowned film critic Omar Qureshi. Rekha is also known for her lifestyle and glossy image.
Rekha is also rumoured to be penning her autobiography and is also tentatively to appear in the sequel to 'Krrissh'.