In many ways, Rekha redefined the ‘Bollywood heroine’. As the timeless diva turns 66 today, we take a look at 10 of her “best iconic films” to celebrate her big day in a totally filmy style.
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Rekha had been in the industry for almost two decades when she achieved fame with ‘Muqaddar Ka Sikandar’. The evergreen song sequences of her love for Sikandar (Amitabh Bachchan) are an inseparable part of Bollywood history.
She appeared in Ghar alongside Vinod Mehra the same year. This film tells the story of a young couple that copes with the trauma of sexual assault and rape. For her performance, Rekha was nominated for a Filmfare Award.
Mr Natwarlal (1979)
She starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan once again the following year. A song based on the film, Pardesia, became a smash hit.
Sonam Kapoor’s valiant attempt at a remake only served to remind us how beautiful and charming Rekha played in the original as the brave and vivacious character.
Yash Chopra’s classic from 1981 reunited her with Big B. A plotline in the film hints at the rumoured off-screen relationship equations between the three actors as Rekha plays Mr. Bachchan’s paramour who has to move aside for Mr. Bachchan’s wife, played by Jaya Bachchan.
Umrao Jaan (1981)
In Muzaffar Ali’s period piece of the same year, she played the iconic character of courtesan Umrao Jaan Ada. She was awarded the National Award for this role. Sonam Kapoor starred in a remake of Khoobsurat, which was dismissed as a pale shadow of the original. Dil Cheez Kya Hai, In Aankhon Ki Masti, and Yeh Kya Jageh Hai Dosto are some of the most famous songs from this film.
Shashi Kapoor produced and directed this film that redefined Rekha for the masses. Onscreen as well as offscreen, Rekha’s prominence changed after the film. During her time in Bollywood, she broke new ground with her sensuality and boldness on screen. The first step in Shekhar Suman’s career was granted by her.
Rekha returned to the screen in 1987 with another power-packed performance from Gulzar’s Ijaazat. She played the role of Naseeruddin Shah’s wife who battles to keep their marriage together after his ex-lover enters their lives. She divorces him only to find later that she misunderstood him.
Khoon Bhari Maang (1988)
In this movie, Rekha plays Kabir Bedi’s wife, who he tricks and leaves for dead. Several years after her “resurrection”, and a makeover, she returns to exact revenge on those who wronged her. A strong script and Rekha were all it took to create a superhit film. As a result, Kabir Bedi gained even greater fame as a villain than when he played a baddie in Bond’s Octopussy.
We saw Rekha argue against social conventions almost a decade later, as a spoiled, middle-class wife who resorts to prostitution to fund her luxuries. It was widely appreciated her portrayal of a woman caught between indulgence and guilt.