Bollywood’s eternal beauty, diva and award winning film actress, Rekha, turns 60 today. Born in Madras (now Chennai), in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu; to famed Tamil film actor, Gemini Ganesan, from his love affair with, Telugu film actress (from Andhra Pradesh), Pushpavalli; Rekha made it big up north in Bollywood (Hindi Film Industry), back in the 1970’s, and never looked down again.
Rekha 60Rekha is one of the rare Bollywood actresses to make it big in both fields, of the Commercial (mainstream) Hindi Cinema as well as Art House Films (Parallel Cinema). She started her career as a child actress in 1966 in a film in her mother’s mother-tongue, Telugu, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Telugu film industry of Hyderabad, is also nicknamed Tollywood. Then she appeared in a Kannada film, from the Bangalore Film Industry, in the state of Karnataka. After having appeared in these South Indian languages, soon she got a chance to act in her first Hindi Film (the national language of India), up in Bollywood, located in Bombay (now known as Mumbai), in the State of Maharashtra. Bollywood is the most internationally acknowledged Indian Commercial/mainstream Film Industry, that too made in the national language. Bollywood to India is what Hollywood is to the world, one of the greatest famed commercial outputs in the cinematic planet. Once a person makes his/her mark in Bollywood, they rarely bother acting in any other regional, comparatively smaller scale, industries that exist around the country, in various other languages, such as Marathi, Punjabi, Guajarati, Assamese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu etc etc etc… Of course when it comes to Art Cinema, Bengali Art films; from Calcutta, in the state of Bengal; happen to be the most well recognised internationally, much like European and Japanese Art Cinema, and American Independent Films. Hindi Art Cinema and most Indian English language movies, too happen to be of a very high standard.
Rekha turns 60I have been watching Bollywood movies, ever since I can remember. Here is a list of some famous movies Rekha has appeared in, along with some of her greatest roles ever, to the best of my memory (in order of year released).

Gora aur Kala (1972) – I watched it as a kid in the 1980’s, and my memory is extremely vague on this one. But the film is about India’s own racism against dark skin, that exists even today, quite openly, promoting bleach skin creams. The movie, with a historical setting, is about a pair of twins, one fair, one dark. The partially paralysed disowned dark child, turns into a dacoit when he grows up. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film. 

Namak Haraam (1973) – Another movie I watched as a child, but luckily got to re-watch it about a decade or so ago. A very socialist film, dealing with social injustice towards poor workers in a factory. A very plump, teenage Rekha, has an insignificant role in this, yet her acting is pretty good, and the film is really good, with a great social message. Watch out for actress Simi Garewal’s minute but effective role of a kind hearted, sophisticated, social activist. Also see Amitabh Bachchan play the ever suffering hot tempered hero. Very Good – 8/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Nagin (1976) – Yet another movie I watched as a child, but I remember it pretty well, as I watched it in the latter part of the 80’s. This fantasy film dealt with a female snakes revenge on the men who killed her male partner. She takes on the avatar of the men’s love interests and kills them off one by one. Rekha has a minute but very relevant role as Sunil Dutt’s love interest. When the snake takes the human form as Rekha, the seduction scene is scary as much as it is a brilliant performance by Rekha. Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. Watch out for those big kohl filled seductive vengeful eyes, in a black slinky number. OK Movie – 6/10. Hindi Commercial Film.        

Aap Ki Khatir (1977) – Watched this somewhere in the 90’s. Hilarious comedy about a foolish middle-class wife, played by Rekha, who borrows money from a moneylender to invest in the stock market, unknown to her husband, Vinod Khanna. Soon the stock market crashes, and so does her ordinary stress free lifestyle. Pretty Good – 7/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Alaap (1977) – Another socialist venture, where a son, played by Amitabh Bachchan, disowns his unfair rich father, Om Prakash, and resides among slum dwellers, to help them. Rekha plays his love interest. Luckily I re-watched this as a young adult, a decade or so ago. Pretty Good – 7/10. Hindi Commercial Film.  

Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) – The last time I watched this was as a teenager back in 1994, 20 years ago. A very tragic movie about many a suffering souls and tragic misunderstandings. Almost Shakespearean. The bewitchingly beautiful Rekha gives an equally beautiful performance of a modern day suffering courtesan who sacrifices for her unrequited love, Amitabh Bachchan. Near Excellence – 9/10. Hindi Commercial Film.   

Suhaag (1979) – Watched it some years ago. An OK movie, watchable thanks to the great cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rekha and Parveen Babi. OK Movie – 5/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Kali Ghata (1980) – Watched this thriller as a child, thus my memory is pretty vague. Rekha does a double role playing twins. One sister travels abroad, another gets engaged to her lover, Shashi Kapoor. As they are having a romantic evening, in a house boat, during a stormy night, Rekha is pushed off from the boat. Suspecting her seemingly innocent fiancé had something to do with it, she fakes her own death, and comes back in the guise of her sister, to find out the truth. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film.

Khubsoorat (1980) – Watched it as child, then again earlier this year. Rekha plays a young beauty who brings laughter and merriment to her sister’s in-laws strict household ruled by her sister’s mother-in-law, the authority figure. Rekha won her first ‘Best Actress’ Filmfare trophy for Khubsoorat. Excellent Comedy!!!! 10/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Saajan Ki Saheli (1981) – Another movie I watched as a child, thus hardly remember it. Rekha plays an illegitimate daughter of a classy sophisticated lady, Nutan, who’s unaware that her daughter from a previous one night stand, before she married, is still alive. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film.

Kalyug (1981) – An excellent art movie by Shyam Benegal, watched few years ago. A modern day Mahabharata dealing with two business families. Excellent. 10/10. Hindi Art Movie.

Silsila (1981) – Watched this over a decade ago. Reel life aping real life. Rekha was having an adulterous affair with the very married Amitabh Bachchan in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This movie deals with two married people who have a secret love affair. Very Good – 8/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Baseraa (1981) – Rekha plays a widow who ends up marrying her mentally insane sisters husband Shashi Kapoor, to disastrous results, when the sister, Rakhee, comes back home from asylum, some fifteen years later. Re-watched this some years ago. Very Good – 8/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Umrao Jaan (1981) – An aesthetic commercial epic, based on a true story, about a 19th Century courtesan. Watched this some years ago, but the DVD got stuck in the middle. Thus I’ven’t watched the whole movie. But the half that I got to watch showcased a masterpiece of excellence. Rekha bagged the ‘Best Actress’ National Award for her role of Umrao Jaan. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film.

Vijeta (1982) – Watched as a little child. A story dealing with a son of a Sikh. I don’t remember this Art House movie that well. (Unrated) Hindi Art Movie.

Zameen Aasmaan (1984) – Watched as a teenager. A movie dealing with a woman (Rakhee), who brings up her late husband’s (Shashi Kapoor) child, from his one night stand with a nurse (Rekha). OK Movie – 5/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Utsav (1984) – Watched about a decade or so ago. This very adult comical art house movie, produced by Shashi Kapoor, deals with a courtesan, in the 5th Century B.C., Vasantsena (Rekha), on the run, while a man, Vatsyayan (Amjad Khan), does his research for the Kama Sutra (Vatsyayan is the author of The Kama Sutra). It’s a hilarious parable. Excellent!!! 10/10. Hindi Art Movie.  

Faasle (1985) – Watched as a child and later again. Rekha plays the secret lover of a widower, who doesn’t wish to marry her for the sake of his children. OK Venture – 5/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Jhoothi (1985) – Watched as a kid, but remember loving it back then. A story of a good hearted compulsive liar, played by Rekha. I would like to re-watch it sometime. Near Excellence – 9/10. Hindi Commercial Film.   

Locket (1986) – Vague memory of watching this as a child. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film.

Insaaf Ki Awaaz (1986) – Again watched as a child, about a female cop, who juggles her duty to work with her duty to family, as a daughter-in-law, a wife/later widow and a mother of a teenage daughter. OK Film – 6/10. Hindi Commercial Film.  

Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988) – Watched in the late 80’s, a comedy about a daughter-in-law who drives her narrow minded cruel mother-in-law insane, by not folding to her pressure. Very Good – 8/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) – Watched in the early 90’s. A film about a mother of two who becomes a fashion model and plots revenge on her husband who tried to murder her. Very Good – 8/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996) – Watched this Adult movie, back in the late 90’s, on the big screen, and some years ago as well. Mira Nair’s controversial take on the famed ‘Art of Lovemaking’, The Kama Sutra. Set in 16th century India, Rekha played the teacher of the Kama Sutra. Very Good – 8/10. English Art House Movie.

Aastha: In the Prison of Spring (1997) – Watched in 97’ itself, on the Big Screen. Yet another erotic movie for mature audiences, about an ordinary housewife and mother, who is entrapped into prostitution and performing in weird sexual styles, which she later teaches her surprised husband. Pretty Good – 7/10. Hindi Art House Movie.

Zubeidaa (2001) – An excellent commercial venture from Art film director, Shyam Benegal. A real life bio-pic of a tragic Princess, based on a book written by her son, Khalid Mohamed. Rekha plays Zubeidaa’s (Karishma Kapoor) husband’s (Manoj Bajpayee) first wife, Mandira Devi. Watched at the turn of this century. Excellent !!!! 10/10. Hindi Commercial Film.
 
Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachaao (2001) – Watched about a decade ago. A silly comedy, watchable thanks to the cast, including Naseeruddin Shah and Rekha. OK Venture – 5/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Lajja (2001) – A feminist film about the ill treatment of women in India. Watched at the beginning of this century. Near Excellence – 9/10. Hindi Commercial Film.      

Dil Hai Tumhaara (2002) – Enjoyable enough melodrama. Typical modern day Hindi movie. Watched a decade or so ago. Pretty Good – 7/10. Hindi Commercial Film.      

Koi… Mil Gaya (2003) – Watched a decade ago. A Bollywood take on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Watch out for Hrithik Roshan’s  superb performance as Rekha’s brain damaged, child-like, adult son. He carries the entire film on his shoulders. OK Movie – 6/10. Hindi Commercial Film.        

Parineeta (2005) – Watched in 2006, on the Big Screen. Rekha only has a cameo in this excellent movie based on a Bengali novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. She sings with her own voice and performs an elegant cabaret number in a red hot saree. It’s worth it. Excellent !!!! 10/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Krrish (2006) – Watched in 2006. Bollywood’s take on a super hero sequel to Koi… Mil Gaya. What Crap was that??? 2/10. Hindi Commercial Film.

Rekha in her latest movie SUPER NANI (2014)

Rekha in her latest movie SUPER NANI (2014)

Super Nani (2014) – Haven’t watched it yet. In her latest comedy, she plays a neglected ‘Nani’ (Maternal Grandmother), who takes up modelling in her old age, with the help of her grandson. I plan to check it out just because Rekha is in it. (Unrated) Hindi Commercial Film. 

Besides acting, Rekha has dubbed, with her trademark throaty voice, for a few other heroines, in a few Hindi movies.

Wishing Madame Ré all the best for her 60th Birthday.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense.

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