Reena Roy was the third daughter of a Muslim father and a Hindu mother. Her parents divorced after having four children together. She started acting in films in her early teens. She disputed reports that her decision to enter films was to financially support her mother and siblings.
Reena Roy's career in films started off with a non-starter, B. R. Ishara's Nai Duniya Naye Log with another newcomer Danny Denzongpa, but it was shelved temporarily. Undeterred, B. R. Ishara cast both actors again in Zaroorat (1972), along with another newcomer Vijay Arora, and the racy film got her some attention. She was now called the "Zaroorat Girl." Yet, she struggled for the next four years in B grade films that had feeble scripts and faltering leading men. The bright spot during this period came with her lively performance in Jaise Ko Taisa (1973) and her rain-soaked dance to the song "Ab ke Sawan" with Jeetendra raised temperatures.
Another break came after two years. At the outset Kalicharan (1975) didn't seem like it had the makings of a hit. Subhash Ghai, a failed actor, was making his directorial debut, and Shatrughan Sinha, an actor known for his villainous roles, was making his first mark as a hero. But the film defied everyone's expectations and became a surprise hit. Reena and Shatrughan got attention from audiences for their good performances, and became a famous team as they signed several films together, like Subhash Ghai's Vishwanath (1978), a blockbuster thriller. The press also publicized their off-screen relationship, which ended when Shatrughan married a former actress named Poonam in 1981.
Reena Roy also made several films with Sunil Dutt. The successes of Zakhmee (1975) and Kalicharan led to her star vehicle Nagin (1976). Playing the title role of "female snake with mythological powers", she avenges the death of her lover by ruthlessly murdering five men. The film became a huge hit, and Reena received her first Filmfare nomination as Best Actress. She was now one of the top heroines in Hindi films. Inspired by "Nagin"'s success, director, Rajkumar Kohli, cast Reena again in his next horror movie, Jaani Dushman (1979). Thereafter, the Kohli-Roy combination continued to give blockbusters, including Muqabla (1979), Badle Ki Aag (1982), and Raaj Tilak (1984). But it was Reena's appearance with Jeetendra in marital dramas like Badaltey Rishtey (1978) and Pyaasa Sawan (1982) that set her career soaring. The duo produced three of their greatest classics together - Apnapan (1977), Aasha (1980) and Arpan (1983).
Her role in Apnapan as the selfish gold-digger who abandons her husband and child and later wanting her son back, won her the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award, beating out top actresses Nutan, Asha Parekh, and Rekha. (This was the precursor to the type of role that Meryl Streep played two years later in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)).
After the box office success of Aasha for which she received her second Filmfare nomination as Best Actress, Reena entered the 1980s as a leading lady in demand, securing herself roles with famous movie star like Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, and Vinod Khanna.
Though professionally she competed with Rekha, off the screen they were good friends. Rekha helped Reena improve her costume sense and hair styles.
Reena Roy then concentrated on her career, with stiff competition from Hema Malini, Rekha and Zeenat Aman. In 1982 alone, she had thirteen releases, by far more than any other actress.According to Ibosnetwork.com she had the most successful year 1982 with 8 major grossers,taking her to the number one slot of the list.Going by boxofficeindia she had maximum hits along with hema malini and rekha,taking her to third position. She was now demanding equal footing with Hema. Her characters became more versatile, as did her dances. She danced with the classical 'natyam' in Rocky (1981)), just as easily as the "Disco Station" number in Hathkadi (1982). She was the sophisticated city dwelling model in Karishma (1984) and as the village girl in Dharam Kanta (1982). She met the challenging demands of her double role in the Muslim social, Ladies Tailor (1981), and acted opposite the versatile Sanjeev Kumar.
At the pinnacle of her popularity, Reena's strong desire to prove herself got her involved in a number of women-oriented films. Enacting the role of a tormented daughter-in-law in Sau Din Saas Ke (1980), she defies conventions to oppose her tyrant mother-in-law. With an author-backed role in Bezubaan (1982), she gave a portrayal of a woman whose past returns to threaten her present married life. In Lakshmi (1982), playing the role of a mis-fortunate tawaif, she dances to her never-ending tragedies. However, the film failed at the box office. But she was successful with her other home production — the musical, Sanam Teri Kasam (1982), opposite Kamal Hassan and produced by her sister Barkha Roy.
She also acted in the Punjabi films Sat Sri Akal (1977) and Walayati Babu (1981) (paired with Amitabh Bachchan). Her last film was Inteha (1984 film). One of Reena's last releases was J.P. Dutta's blockbuster Ghulami.
She has two more sisters, Barkha and Anju and a brother, Raja. In 1983, at the height of her fame, Reena Roy decided to quit the film industry to marry Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Khan. The couple later divorced. Reena initially lost custody of her daughter Sanam in the divorce. After her ex-husband re-married, Reena regained custody.
Reena returned to Bollywood in 1992, in a mature supporting role as a sister-in-law ('bhabhi') in Aadmi Khilona Hai (1993). Her last film appearance was in J.P Dutta's Refugee (2000). She has since turned to acting in television serials, such as "Eena Meena Deeka," produced by her sister Barkha. After the serial ended, the sisters opened an acting school in 2004. Reena Roy has also campaigned for the Indian National Congress.Filmfare Nomination for Best Actress—Nagin (1976)
Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award—Apnapan (1977)
Filmfare Nomination for Best Actress—Aasha (1980)