The daughter of actors Pushpavalli and Gemini Ganesan, Rekha started her career as a child actress in Telugu films Inti Guttu and Rangula Ratnam.
65 Facts About Rekha
Rekha followed it with roles in Baseraa, Ek Hi Bhool, Jeevan Dhaara and Agar Tum Na Hote.
Apart from acting, Rekha has served as a member for the Rajya Sabha since 2012.
Rekha is reluctant to give interviews or discuss her life, which resulted in her being labelled a recluse.
Rekha was born Bhanurekha Ganesan in Madras on 10 October 1954 to South Indian actors Gemini Ganesan and Pushpavalli, when the couple were unmarried.
Rekha rarely met both of his children with Pushpavalli, who subsequently married K Prakash, a cinematographer from Madras, and she legally changed her name to K Pushpavalli.
Rekha gave birth to two more children, Dhanalakshmi and the dancer Seshu.
Rekha recalled that her mother often spoke about him and added that despite never having lived with him, she felt his presence all through.
Rekha was one year old when she played a small role in the Telugu-language drama Inti Guttu.
Rekha was enrolled at a kindergarten when she was at the age of three and next joined the Presentation Convent School in Madras during her adolescence.
Rekha met Narayani, Ganesan and Aramelu's second daughter, at the school when the latter was around nine or ten years old.
Rekha, describing herself as a "firm believer" in God and destiny, used to spend her time at the school's chapel.
Rekha spotted Rekha at the studio and cast her as the film's second female lead after Vanisri.
Rekha gave her a five-year contract to star in four films from him and his brother Shatrujeet Pal each.
Rekha moved to Bombay in 1969 and rented a room at the Hotel Ajanta in the city's neighbourhood Juhu, with Pal paying off the fee.
In later years, Rekha complained at having been tricked into the scene.
Rekha cast her as Chanda, a village girl who does not receive approval from her parents to marry her lover.
Rekha was not fluent in Hindi at the time and most of the film's crew mocked her for having South Indian background.
Manoj Das believed that "embarrassment" was shown on Nischol's face in every scenes with Rekha, and Film World magazine noted the film's success was a breakthrough for her career.
Rekha subsequently got several offers but nothing of substance, as her roles were mostly just of a glamour girl.
Rekha was highly prolific during the decade, working on average in ten films a year, most of which were deemed potboilers and failed to propel her career forward in terms of roles and appreciation.
Randhir Kapoor's Dharam Karam is a drama about a hoodlum and Link magazine noted that Rekha's part is the most pathetic part in it.
Rekha started paying attention to her make-up, dress sense, and worked to improve her acting technique and perfect her Hindi-language skills for three months.
Rekha's first performance-oriented role came in 1976 when she played Amitabh Bachchan's ambitious and greedy wife in Do Anjaane; it would be her first of many appearances with the actor.
Rekha's role is Rekha Roy, the wife of Bachchan's character who becomes an established actress.
Rekha remarked that it was difficult to stand in front of Bachchan, speaking of how she felt paranoid after she knew that he would star opposite her in the film.
Rekha stated that he contributed to "dramatic changes" in her life and was a big influence in her adulthood, and described him "[someone] I'd never seen before".
Cine Blitz praised Rekha for proving her talent in acting.
In that same year, her another release, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, emerged as the biggest hit of that year, as well as one of the biggest hits of the decade, and Rekha was set as one of the most successful actresses of these times.
In Mr Natwarlal, an action romance set in Calcutta, Rekha portrays the simple, village woman Shanoo to good reviews.
In 1980, Rekha starred in the comedy Khubsoorat by Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Rekha said she easily identified with the bubbly nature of her character, calling it "quite a bit me".
Khubsoorat, and Rekha's performance in it, were well received by reviewers, and the film was a financial success.
At the Filmfare Awards, the film was named Best Film and Rekha won her first Best Actress award.
Rekha's alleged love affair speculation with Amitabh Bachchan culminated when they starred together in Yash Chopra's romantic drama Silsila.
India Today Sunil Sethi saw that Rekha was "as synthetic as [Amitabh Bachchan's] tiresome chauvinism".
Rekha received another Filmfare Best Actress nomination for Jeevan Dhaara, in which she played a young unmarried woman who is the sole breadwinner of her extended family.
Rekha was widely applauded for her performance, which has since been cited as one of her best work.
Rekha was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress.
Rekha later claimed that the film was a turning point.
Rekha has since described the role as one of her favourite.
Apart from parallel cinema, Rekha took on other increasingly serious, even adventurous roles; she was among the early actresses to play lead roles in heroine-oriented revenge films, the first of which was Khoon Bhari Maang in 1988.
Rekha won her second Filmfare Award for her performance in the film.
Critics did note that unlike most of the actresses of her generation, like Hema Malini and Raakhee, who succumbed to playing character parts, typically of mothers and aunts, Rekha was still playing leading roles at a time when younger female stars rose to fame.
The first year of the decade saw four releases featuring Rekha, including Mera Pati Sirf Mera Hai and Amiri Garibi, all of which went unnoticed.
Rekha followed with a dual role of twin sisters in Shakti Samanta's Geetanjali opposite Jeetendra and the title role in the box-office disaster Madam X, in which she starred as a young woman hired by the police to impersonate a female underworld don.
Halfway through the decade, Rekha managed to halt her decline when she accepted several highly-controversial films, including Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi.
Rekha's portrayal earned her several awards, including the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Star Screen Award for Best Villain.
Rekha started the decade with Bulandi, directed by T Rama Rao.
Mil Gaya, Rekha played Sonia Mehra, a single mother to a developmentally disabled young man, played by Hrithik Roshan.
Rekha received another Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare for her performance, which Khalid Mohamed described as "astutely restrained".
In 2005, Rekha guest starred in an item number in connection with the song "Kaisi Paheli Zindagani", in Pradeep Sarkar's "Parineeta".
In Bachke Rehna Re Baba, Rekha played a con woman who, along with her niece, uses one scheme to rob men of their property.
Mid-Day remarked, "why Rekha chose to sign this film is a wonder," noting that she is "riddled with bad dialogue, terrible cakey makeup and tawdry styling".
In 2010, Rekha was awarded the Padma Shri, the 4th highest civilian award given by the Government of India.
Rekha has been nominated as a Rajya Sabha member in 2012.
Rekha starred in the 2010 film Sadiyaan alongside Hema Malini and Rishi Kapoor.
In 2014, Rekha was working on Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor, but left the film due to unknown reasons and later Tabu was signed as her replacement.
Rekha is believed to have had a long-standing struggle with depression and according to Rekha's biographers, she only found out about his mental health after marriage.
Rekha was rumoured to have been married to actor Vinod Mehra in 1973, but in a 2004 television interview with Simi Garewal she denied being married to Mehra referring to him as a "well-wisher".
Rekha was famously rumoured to have been in a relationship with Amitabh Bachchan, who was married, after they first acted together in Do Anjaane, and later in Silsila.
Critics noted Rekha for having worked hard to perfect her Hindi and acting, and media reporters often discussed how she had transformed herself from a "plump" duckling to a "swan" in the early 1970s.
Hindustan Times described her physical change and loss of weight as "one of cinema's and perhaps real life's most dramatic transformations," arguing that "Rekha morphed from an overweight, dark ordinary girl into a glamorous and beautiful enigma".
Hindustan Times argues that Rekha has shrouded "her life in an intriguing Garbo-like mystery".
Rekha was referred to as the reigning Queen of Indian Cinema at the 2012 IIFA Awards held in Singapore, where she was given the "Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema " award, referred to as the Lifetime Achievement Award.