One wink of those sultry eyes and one flip of those long tresses, and Rekha can have many eating out of the palm of her hand. She is perhaps best known in the industry for her ability to reinvent herself constantly; going under the radar for a few years at a time, but always emerging with something new to offer. In honour of her birthday, we’re taking a look at some of her best cinematic moments throughout the years.

1. Kaan Mein Jhoomka from Sawan Bhadon

While Rekha had acted earlier as a child artiste in the Telugu film Rangula Ratnam and a Kannada film Goa dalli CID 999, this was her Bollywood debut. She was merely 16 in this film, and had to learn Hindi because it was not her first language. The film went a hit, but Rekha was often mocked for her looks.

2. Rekha attacked in Ghar

It was not until Ghar in 1978, however, that Rekha had achieved her first big milestone: her performance in the film (where she plays a rape victim), was appreciated by both critics and audiences, and she received her first nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards.

3. Salaam-e-Ishq from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar

Muqaddar Ka Sikandar ushered in the concept of Rekha as a courtesan; a number of films that followed would cast her in similar roles. The movie proved to be the biggest success of that year, one of the biggest successes of the decade, and an achievement for Rekha in that she earned herself a nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

4. Rekha’s comic timing in Khoobsurat

Rekha’s first Best Actress award came in 1980 for her performance in Khoobsurat. She played a young, dynamic woman who goes to visit her married sister for the first time – the film was declared a success (it won the Best Film award) and Rekha’s comic timing was appreciated.

5. Sun Sun Sun Didi Tere Liye from Khoobsurat

Also from Khoobsurat is the lovely “Sun Sun Sun Didi Tere Liye” song… Rekha is at her mischievous best and has such a fun vibe around her that it’s hard not to smile during the song. Also, I adore her orange polka dot dress!

6. Dil Cheez Kya Hai from Umrao Jaan

Umrao Jaan is one of Rekha’s most popular movies, as it should be – who else could perform to these songs as beautifully? Rekha played a courtesan from 19th century Lucknow, a role for which she had to learn Urdu (keeping in mind that at the beginning of her career, she didn’t even know Hindi). Of this role, Rekha confesses that when she read the script, she had a strange feeling that there was an Umrao in her.

7. In Aakhon Ki Masti from Umrao Jaan

And when speaking about Umrao Jaan, who could forget this lovely song? I’m hard-pressed to pick a favourite between the two; Rekha is absolutely beautiful in both!

8. Dekha Ek Khwab from Silsila

The Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan chemistry has always been sizzling (and the source for many a controversy), and Silsila was their last movie together (in which they actually shared screen time). Silsila is perhaps the biggest casting coup that Bollywood has ever seen; it’s a film which supposedly mirrors the real lives of Rekha-Amitabh-Jaya and stars the three in their actual roles. Regardless of the truth behind the rumors, it’s a film that has been appreciated by many.

9. Rekha as the grandmother in Krrish

Rekha in Krrish

In recent times, Rekha has been cast more as a mother/grandmother – in both Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish, she plays the motherly figure, and does a good job of it.

10. Kaisi Paheli Zindagani from Parineeta

Parineeta breaks out the old Rekha and shows us that the sultry lady we all know is still lurking there somewhere and just waiting to be cast in the right role. I love this song and the Moulin Rouge vibe to it; Rekha does what she does best and looks gorgeous in that red sari to boot.

Of course, since Rekha has over 180 films in her kitty, there’s no shortage of moments to pick from, so…

Let us know what some of your favourite Rekha moments are!