After a bit of a hiatus, Fragrance Of Yesteryears
back to remind you of the personalities of past, whose contributions
verily built the Indian film industry as we know and love it today. This
time we are here to discuss a living legend - none other than the
graceful and elegant "Chaudvin ka Chand" herself, Waheeda
Waheeda was born 14
May, 1936 in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, though her birthplace is often
erroneously cited as Hyderabad. In fact, Hyderabad was where the
actress debuted in the Telugu film
industry with two films in a row. It was also where she came into
contact with a young Guru Dutt
, still in the early stages of his career
and seeking a fresh face to headline his upcoming home production, but
we'll get to that later.
As a child, Waheeda
wanted to become a doctor, but a lung infection kept her away
school for too long.
She was able to keep up with her training in the
fine arts, though, and grew to become an expert in Bharatnatyam.
Following the death of her father, she decided to try her luck with a
film career and was launched in Jayasimha
(1955). With her folk dance number in Rajulu Maravy
shot the same year, she gained recognition in the region.
Her expressive face and overall magnetic charm caught the attention of the then novice
choreographer and director Guru Dutt
. He was so fascinated by her
that he instantly began to consider her his muse. Their working relationship lasted
for over six years and gave the audience unforgettable films such as the
masterpiece Pyaasa (
1957). It was Guru Dutt
's unfaltering conviction in the young woman that brought her to
Mumbai for a high profile debut in Bollywood opposite Dev Anand, who had already established himself as a star in Hindi cinema. C.I.D (1956)
, directed by Raj Khosla
, was made famous by her character Kamini and the catchy song "Yeh Hai Bombay, Meri Jaan".
also worked with other directors, her most successful
films from that Golden Age of Indian cinema were here collaborations
with Guru Dutt
. The two were also reported to be star-crossed lovers
whose relationship could not persist due to the director's early
marriage to singer Geeta Dutt. Ironically, she often served as the voice
Waheeda in Guru Dutt
Other interesting titles she signed for other production houses were: Ek Dil Sau Afsane (1963)
, a romantic comedy, witty and tinged with an elegant eroticism (alongside a passionate Raj Kapoor), Kohra (1964)
, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca,
and Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)
a history of bandits produced by and starring Sunil Dutt. Two similar
movies from her repertoire that inter-weaved elements of noir and
romance were 12 o'clock
and Solvan Saal
, featuring soundtracks that have withstood the test of time and are still frequently broadcast on the radio.
had committed all his energies to the autobiographical Kaagaz Ke Phool
(1959), in which Waheeda was the protagonist. The film unfortunately was not
successful at the time of release, although it is now considered an
absolute classic. The two actors reunited in Chaudhvin ka Chand
(1960), a story of love and friendship within the Islamic community of
Lucknow. The scene where Waheeda lifts the burqa showing the camera
her radiantly beautiful face is an iconic moment that many films have paid tribute to,
including Om Shanti Om
In 1962, she got the role of Jaba in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam
(1962), and her presence was a breath of fresh air that livened up the
drama and the pessimism of the film. Jaba's zest for life provided the
mainstream audience a congenial contrast to the depressive and
destructive nature of Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari), though later on even
upbeat character breaks down during "Meri Baat Rahi" with such
spontaneity that the tears seem to really have been Waheeda ji
own genuine emotions. From that point onwards, the figure lurking in the
background gained prominence and emerged as a guardian in one of the
most exciting moments of the entire film. Guru Dutt
and Waheeda ji
attended the screening of the film at the 13th Berlin International Film
Festival in 1963, which was the last time in which the two appeared
together in public.
committed suicide in 1964. After the death of the
artist who had made her a star, Waheeda Rehman
's career moved through a
new path. Her friend Dev Anand, with whom she shared her first film
in Mumbai, recommended her for an important role in an upcoming movie. The forthcoming film was Guide
directed by Dev's brother, Vijay Anand. In it, the actress was to play a
woman who, neglected by her old, bitter, and work-obsessed husband,
falls in love with her local guide - a
sensitive and attractive young man whose words renew her confidence in
herself and in life. The actress hit the peak of her career with that
film, for which she earned her first Filmfare Award and still remains
the performance that defines her filmography. Its success also endowed
her with a drastic change of image:
the Waheeda Rehman
, an icon of simplicity and elegance, was replaced with the new Waheeda Rehman
a woman whose flamboyance and seductive movements exuded confidence and
modernity that could inspire a new generation. No longer restricted to
sober and dramatic roles, she
could now lighten up and showcase her talent as a dancer - a gift that
usually opted to conceal.
The success of Guide brought dozens of new projects to her door. These included Neel Kamal, a supernatural love story for which she won another Filmfare Award, Patthar Ke Sanam, a lively romance, Dil Diya Dard Liya, a drama inspired by Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights,Ram Aur Shyam, an upbeat comedy in which the actress starred alongside Dilip Kumar, the costly and extravagant Prem Pujari, and the deep drama Khamoshi, a poignant love story between a patient and his nurse. Special mention goes to the nostalgic experiment Teesri Kasam,
a return to the black and white era in which Waheeda acted for the second time alongside
Waheeda has had a varied
and prolific career
marked by lasting popularity and vitality. She remained one of the most
popular heroines from the 50s to 70s, remaining in the spotlight for all
three decades and not receding into the roles of mother, aunt and
grandmother until much later in her career.
The moment her releases began to take a dip at the box office,
she decided to get married and accepted the proposal of Mr. Kamaljit,
with whom she had acted in Shagun. The two moved to Bangalore
and she took a break from work (excluding a special request from her
friend Yash Chopra, who convinced her to accept a small part in Kabhie
In the following decade, the actress appeared in minor roles as the mother of Amitabh Bachchan in Namak Halaal, Coolie and Mahaan; she had a part in Chandni, the romantic film with Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor; and most memorably, in a medley of past successes in the film Lamhe, she performed briefly in "Aaj phir jeene ki Tamanna hai", her most famous number from the film Guide. After that, Waheeda ji retired
for twelve years and returned to acting only after her husband's death in
2000 and her return to her home in Mumbai. The film that brought her
back to the stage was Om Jai Jagdish (2002), in which she
plays the mother of Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan and Abhishek Bachchan.
Among her most recent film appearances as a supporting actress were 15 Park Avenue by Aparna Sen, Water by Deepa Mehta, and Rang de Basanti and Delhi 6 by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra .
Endowed with innate grace,
charm, natural talent and also known for her professionalism and
Rehman remains a role model for actresses today. The longevity of her
career is a rare feat in an industry that pushes its favorite actresses
aside after only a handful of years in the limelight, and that itself is
a testament to her inimitable contributions to Hindi Cinema.
She began her career as a background dancer.
Tamil was her first language.
- Fellow actress Nanda is her best friend.
She won a National Award for her performance in Reshma Aur Shera in 1974.
Amitabh Bachchan called her the "epitome of Indian beauty".
She was presented with a Padma Bushan in 2011.
Editors: Lola K. & Gunia M.