Rekha’s sad childhood
We recount her troubled relationship with her father, the famous actor Gemini Ganesan
Today’s generation looks up to Rekha as their inspiration. Vidya Balan addresses her as her mentor and Priyanka Chopra wishes to be like her. But back then, not many people were Rekha’s fans. Behind that divine smile and those mysterious eyes, lies a painful past; Rekha simply had no childhood and was forced to grow up too soon. Young, innocent and lost, she entered the industry, fell prey to scandal and subsequently steeled herself to emerge as a major force to reckon with.
THE CLANDESTINE MARRIAGE
The already married South Indian actor, Gemini Ganesan, met a beautiful actress Pushpavalli on the sets of Miss Malini in 1947. After a few cordial meetings, he fell deeply in love with Pushpavalli. It was hard for Mr Ganesan to face his family and apparently, the two eventually decided to have a secret wedding at Tirupati.
THE BIRTH OF BHANUREKHA GANESAN
In 1954, Gemini Ganesan and Pushpavalli were blessed with a small bundle of joy whom they named Bhanurekha, now known as Rekha. But destiny had other plans for Rekha. Rumours spread like wildfire that she was the Gemini Ganesan’s illegitimate child. Very few people knew that he had secretly married Pushpavalli as he hadn’t left his first wife, Alamelu.
ALMOST FATHER-LESS REKHA
Gemini and Pushpavalli had three more children. Bhanurekha being the eldest was a child who had every right to grow up as a star kid. But just then, news of Gemini and Pushpavalli breaking up came about. Allegedly, the young Rekha was thus deprived of her father’s love. Rumour has it that Gemini Ganesan did not acknowledge Rekha or his other kids from Pushpavalli when they were children. Pushpavalli, on her part, tried to make a happy home for her children, playing mother and father to them. Bhanurekha was very attached to her mother as she was the only parent she knew. At the same time, it also made her an introvert, who was happy to live in her own world.
An isolated childhood
The media, even back then, played a very important role in celebrities’ lives. Rekha was just 10 years old when her father was in the limelight again for his alleged affair with Telugu actress Savitri. Rekha, hurt by this news, receded further into a shell. She transformed herself into a tomboy as a teenager, climbing trees being one of her favourite pastimes! She didn’t interact with many of her classmates at school, preferring to spend time on her own in the school chapel.
Forced into acting
In the late ‘60s, the south Indian industry witnessed more Gemini-Savitri movies and the couple became a hit pair onscreen. This was also the time Rekha’s mother Pushpavalli, went through a patch of ill health. She could not work further to support her family and her children. Rekha, being the eldest, had no option but to drop out of school when she was 14 years old to financially support her family. Rekha chose to embrace acting and became the only one in the family to follow in her parents’ footsteps, not by choice but by circumstance. Sources say that she had no interest in acting and was basically forced to work. This was definitely one of the most difficult periods of her life. The big, bad industry
Rekha, despite being a star kid, did not enjoy the perks that came along with being who she was. Normally, when a celebrity child decides on acting as a career and enters the film industry, things come easy. Producers are more than happy to cast a new face and 10 scripts arrive at once, but it was not the same for her. After a brush with south Indian films, Rekha, then still a teenager, facing one hurdle after the other, decided to give Bollywood a shot.
She entered the Hindi film industry when she was only 14 years old. This was one of the most difficult times of her life as she could not speak Hindi, struggled to communicate with her co-workers and constantly missed her mother, who was critically ill and therefore not by her side at the time. She was also called fat, ugly and stout. Poorly styled and awkward, her debut in Sawan Bhadon (which turned out to be a huge hit) was criticised by the audience and the critics.
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