Veteran Bollywood actress Rekha, who turns 66 today, is known as the eternal beauty of Indian cinema and has been one of the biggest inspirations for generations of actresses.
The timeless beauty started her career as a child artist, in 1966, from Telegu film ‘Rangula Ratnam' and has acted in more than 180 films since. She has worked with megastars Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan and has even romanced Akshay Kumar.
Her remarkable work includes movies like 'Umrao Jaan,' 'Kalyug,' 'Muqaddar Ka Sikandar,' 'Khubsoorat' and 'Silsila', which have cemented her place as one of the most respectable faces in Bollywood.
While Rekha now makes headlines for her iconic looks and fashion statements in award functions and events, the yesteryear actress has, more often than not, been in the news for her tumultuous personal life.
From being allegedly molested on the sets of a film to the witch-hunt that followed after the tragic death of her husband, here are some episodes from Rekha's life that challenged her indomitable spirit:
Rekha was allegedly molested by her co-star
In ' Rekha: The Untold Story', writer Yasser Usman writes about a shocking incident that happened on the sets of 'Anjana Safar', which starred actor Biswajeet. Director Raja Nawathe and Biswajeet had allegedly planned an onscreen kiss, without Rekha's consent.
"The shooting of Anjana Safar was underway in Bombay’s Mahboob Studio. Raja Nawathe was the director and cinematographer of the film. In the very first schedule of the film, Kuljeet Pal (the director), Raja and Biswajeet (the lead actor) had hatched a plan, with Rekha as the unsuspecting victim. That day a romantic scene was to be filmed between Rekha and Biswajeet. Every last detail of the strategy had been decided before the shoot. As soon as the director Raj Nawathe said ‘action’, Biswajeet took Rekha in his arms and pressed his lips on hers. Rekha was stunned. This kiss had never been mentioned to her. The camera kept rolling; neither was the director ordering ‘cut’ nor was Biswajeet letting go of her. For all of five minutes, Biswajeet kept kissing Rekha. Unit members were whistling and cheering. Her eyes were tightly shut but they were full of tears," writes Yaseer Usman, in the book that chronicles Rekha's life.
When Rekha's mother-in-law beat her with a chappal
According to the book, after the newly-wed couple Rekha and Vinod Mehra returned to Bombay from Calcutta, they had decided to visit the latter's mother in Nibanna.
On their arrival, Vinod's mother, Kamla Mehra didn't just refuse to let the new bride enter the house, she also abused her and humiliated her at the door. After Vinod tried to intervene, his mother was so livid that she reportedly took off her sandals and almost physically assaulted Rekha.
After the distressing incident, Vinod had reportedly asked Rekha to stay at her residence, until his mother 'calmed down'.
Rekha was subjected to a media witch-hunt after her husband committed suicide
Legendary actress Rekha was subjected to a after the tragic death of her late husband Mukesh Aggarwal.
According to writer Yasser Usman, Rekha tied the knot with the Delhi-based business man after dating him for over a month. Seven months after their marriage, Mukesh Aggarwal committed suicide by hanging himself from the fan.
He had allegedly used Rekha's dupatta and it was suggested that he was battling with chronic depression. The actress was reportedly in the United States for a stage show when she got the news of the tragedy.
But the worse was yet to come!
While a bereaved Rekha was still mourning the death of her husband, the media trials had already tagged her as the national vamp.
"Woh daayan mere bete ko kha gayi (That witch devoured my son)," Aggarwal's angst-filled mother had said.
Soon, headlines like 'The Black Widow and The Macabre Truth Behind Mukesh's Suicide' were all over the news. The posters of Rekha's upcoming film 'Sheshnaag' were vandalized and smeared with black ink.
During these tough times, it wasn't just the fans who deserted the Bollywood diva, even her co-stars didn't mince their words before passing vile and misogynistic comments.
Shubhash Ghai had reportedly said, "It's going to be tough even professionally for her. No conscientious director will work with her ever again. How will the audience accept her as Bharat ki nari or insaf ki devi?"
"Rekha has put such a blot on the face of the film industry that it'll be difficult to wash it away easily. I think after this any respectable family will think twice before accepting any actress as their bahu," the director had added.
Predicting the end of her career, her co-star Aupam Kher had said, "She's become the national vamp. Professionally and personally, I think it's curtains for her. I mean I don't know how I will react to her if I come face to face with her."
Rekha's sensational entry at Neetu and Rsihi Kapoor's wedding
On January 22, 1980, the who's and who of Hindi film industry attended Rishi and Neetu's lavish wedding ceremony, at the RK Studio.
Rekha, who was close friends with Neetu, had reportedly arrived at the wedding wearing a white sari with a bright red bindi. However, what dropped everyone's jaw to the floor was the red sindoor in her hair and mangalsutra around her neck.
Amitabh Bachchan was also present at the ceremony with his wife Jaya and his parents.
After congratulating Neetu and Rishi, Rekha went ahead and stood in the middle of the RK Studio's garden and her eyes kept looking at Amitabh, who was busy chatting with director Manmohan Desai. She then walked up to Bachchan and had a brief conversation with him, before making an exit, reported Cine Blitz.
However, a report by Stardust magazine claimed, "Jaya tried to keep a stoic front for a long time, but eventually she had to bend her head and let the tears roll down."."
The actress had later said that she had arrived at the wedding after finishing a shoot and had forgotten to remove the sindoor and mangalsutra.
However, according to reports, while collecting her award for 'Umrao Jaan', when Rekha was asked about the same, she had said, "In the city I come from, it's fashionable to wear sindoor."
Despite it all, in the last five decades, the legendary actress has managed to win hearts over and over again with her impeccable performances. Today, Rekha's enchanting smile is proof that she has emerged as a fighter and is a woman of substance.