As the film progressed Rekha pulled out of the film - citing no official reason. However, rumour has it that Rekha's father, legendary Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan, claimed he told Rekha not to play "second fiddle" to the rising star Sridevi. Rekha was replaced by Malayali actress Deepa - and several scenes originally shot with Rekha were re-shot, frame by frame.
Sridevi went on to win the first of her many Best Actress awards for the film. Working on average in 11 films a year, in three languages, Sridevi was not only the hardest working actress of her time, her steady stream of hits made her a top star in all the southern states. Either she worked in the regional industry and/or her films were dubbed in several languages garnering her pan-Indian fame early on. By the time she worked in her first Hindi film in 1979 (in the flop Solva Saawan) or made a return to Hindi in 1983 in the blockbuster Himmatwala, every cine-goer was already familiar with the famed Indian beauty.
Released on 14 January 1981, Meendum Kokila was a commercial success and praised by critics.
In hindsight, wonder if Rekha regrets leaving the film that made so much money. A supreme loss to cine fans that the two grand dames of Indian cinema - Rekha and Sridevi - were not seen on screen together ever. Legend has it, in the early '90s, a remake of All about Eve, as suggested by Rekha to several producers, was in discussion but nothing came into fruition. Pity. Only these stills of the two leading ladies on set remain from what could have been...