Waheeda Rehman in 2019
|Born||3 February 1938|
(m. 1974; died 2000)
Waheeda Rehman (born 3 February 1938) is an Indian actress and dancer who debuted in Telugu and has appeared in mainly Hindi films, as well as Telugu, Tamil, Bengali and Malayalam films. She is noted for her contributions to different genres of films and different roles from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Her accolades consist of a National Film Award, 2 Filmfare Awards out of 9 nominations, the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award and the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality. Throughout her career, she has been frequently cited as one of Bollywood's greatest, most influential and most beautiful actresses by various media outlets, titles for which she has received substantial publicity.
Although Rehman achieved her film debut in the Telugu film Rojulu Marayi (1955), she received recognition for her work in Hindi films directed as well as produced by Guru Dutt, which included C.I.D (1956), Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), for which she received her first Filmfare nomination. She continued acting in the mid-1960s, starring in successful movies and establishing herself as one of the leading ladies in classic Indian cinema. Rehman's career reached its apex when she won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress twice, for the Bollywood classic Guide (1965) and romantic thriller Neel Kamal (1968) and received nominations for Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and Khamoshi (1970), the latter of which is considered to be her greatest performance ever. She also starred in Satyajit Ray's Abhijan (1962) and with Raj Kapoor in the acclaimed Teesri Kasam (1966).
Despite winning the National Film Award for Best Actress for portraying a clanswoman in love with a separate clansman in the commercially-underwhelming Reshma Aur Shera (1971), her career came to a standstill when she was reduced to motherly, supporting roles in films starting from Phagun (1973). Rehman's further notable performances are Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Namkeen (1982), Chandni (1989) and Lamhe (1991), and the latter film became her last film credit in the next 11 years until 2002, when she returned to the film industry.
In 2011, the Government of India honoured Rehman with the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award of the country , adding to her previous honour Padma Shri conferred to her in 1972. Apart from acting, Rehman is a philanthropist. She is an advocate for education and is an ambassador for Rang De, an organisation combating poverty in India.
Early Life & Background
Waheeda Rehman was born on 3 February 1938 to a Dakhini Muslim family in Chengalpet of present-day Tamil Nadu, India. It is a common misconception that Rehman was born in Hyderabad instead of Tamil Nadu. Her father was Mohammed Abdur Rehman and her mother was Mumtaz Begum, and she was the youngest out of 4 daughters. As a child, she and her sisters were trained Bharatanatyam in Chennai. She studied in St. Joseph's Convent in Visakhapatnam when her father was posted there in the then-Madras Presidency. Her father, who worked as a district commissioner, died in 1951 while she was in her early teens.
Rehman's dream was to become a doctor, but due to her family's circumstances emotionally and financially, alongside her mother's illness, she abandoned her goal. In order to help her family, she accepted movie offers that stemmed from her dancing abilities.
Rehman's first performance on stage as a dancer in earlier days was at Brahmapur's Ganjam Kala Parishad organised by her uncle Dr. Ferose Ali who was a famous doctor and social activist in Brahmapur.
Early Work As A Starlet (1955–1959)
Rehman began her career in films in the mid-1950s, usually dancing in item numbers. Her film debut occurred in the Telugu film in a dance number in Rojulu Maraayi (1955), in which she was encouraged by the producer of the film to join the cast, despite hesitance from her mother. It was a success, becoming a channel for more offers from filmmakers to Rehman. She was featured in Jayasimha (1955) alongside veteran actor N. T. Rama Rao, with dance numbers in Tamil remake of Rojulu Maraayi, Kaalam Maari Pochu (1956) and the first full-length colour Tamil film Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (1956) starring M.G. Ramachandran.
In the success party of Rojolu Maraayi, Hindi filmmaker Guru Dutt noticed her and decided to have her act in Hindi films. In later interviews, Rehman describes how she considers Dutt as her mentor. Dutt brought her to Bombay (current-day Mumbai) and offered her a supporting role in his production C.I.D. (1956), directed by Raj Khosla. Because of the famous Hindi actresses of that era, such as Madhubala, Nargis and Meena Kumari, Rehman was pressurised into changing her name into "something sexy", but she was adamant on keeping her birth name, signifying her will to stay true to herself. The success of the film caused Dutt to give Rehman her first leading role, as a prostitute in Pyaasa (1957), which was also a commercial success and became one of the most acclaimed films of Bollywood. By the time the decade was over, she acted in a few more films with Dutt, including 12 O'Clock (1958) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). In the midst of her rise in Hindi Cinema, her mother passed away.
Rehman also established a working relationship with Dev Anand, and their pairing together became one of the most iconic of Hindi Cinema. They had a number of successful films to their credit which include C.I.D. (1956), Solva Saal (1958), Kala Bazar (1960),Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), Guide (1965) and Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1961). Suresh Kohli of The Hindu writes on her performance in Solva Saal, "Though barely 20 then and only in her fourth Hindi release, Waheeda Rehman demonstrates her class: both in serious scenes demanding intensity and through sparkling, mischievous eye movements during lighter moments."
Rise To Recognition (1960–1964)
Besides Kala Bazar, Rehman acted in 3 other films in 1960, which were Ek Phool Char Kaante, Girlfriend and Chaudhvin Ka Chand. The lattermost was another partnership between Rehman and Dutt, and was the fourth-highest grossing Hindi film of 1960. It was considered a "saving" point in Dutt's career, after their last collaboration, Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) received an underwhelming response at the box office, which now is considered a classic. It also represented the strained relationship of the duo. Dutt's existing marriage and her film successes with other directors caused them to drift apart both personally and professionally, although they continued to work together into the 1960s. Their last film together was the drama Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), starring Dutt, Meena Kumari, Rehman and Rehman herself in a supporting role, and the movie was a huge success and was lauded by Indian and international critics. The film earned Rehman her first Filmfare nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress, and the film itself received nominations for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival and was selected as India's official entry to the Oscars, in addition to a Filmfare Award for Best Film. Rehman and Dutt finally broke away in 1963, and a year later, Dutt was found dead on 10 October 1964 in Mumbai, reportedly from an overdose mixture of sleeping pills and alcohol.
The actress began to experiment with her roles when she ventured into Bengali film-making with Satyajit Ray's film Abhijan (1962). As the years went on, she began to taste higher success when she was offered the leading actress roles in films and played parts that were deemed as unconventional for the typical Bollywood actress. Rehman played a murder suspect in Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), a girl embroiled in a sibling feud in Rakhi (1962) and an infertile woman in Ek Dil Sau Afsane (1963).
As a leading lady, she also started to star opposite of many familiar faces of Hindi Cinema; Sunil Dutt in Mujhe Jeene Do (1962), Nirupa Roy in Kaun Apna Kaun Paraya (1963) and Biswajit in the horror film Kohraa (1964), the drama film Majboor (1964), and the psychological-thriller Bees Saal Baad (1962)—the latter becoming the highest-grossing Hindi film of 1962.
At the end of 1964, Rehman became the third-highest paid actress in Bollywood, from 1959 to 1964.
Career Peak (1965–1971)
Vijay Anand's magnum opus, the 1965 romantic drama Guide presented Rehman with a different outlook of success that resulted in major fame and popularity to her name and turned one of the most iconic actresses of Hindi Cinema. The film itself was an adaptation of the same book written by R. K. Narayan, published in 1958. Rehman and Dev Anand played the lead roles in the film, after having last worked together in Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), an average success at the box office. The film itself proved difficult for Rehman, as her character Rosie was rebellious, strong-willed and didn't fit the mould of the usual women Bollywood films portrayed. However, Guide was an instant success, becoming the fifth-highest grossing Hindi film of 1965 and a fan-favorite in Rehman's repertoire. Guide opened to high critical acclaim and Rehman's performance received particular praise, with Trisha Gupta of Hindustan Times writing, "Rosie was triply unusual: a woman who walks out of an unhappy marriage, begins a romantic relationship with a man who isn’t her husband, and simultaneously embarks on a successful career as a dancer. She would be an unusual Hindi film heroine even today." and her performance was ranked amongst her and Bollywood's best. She won her first Filmfare Award—Filmfare Award for Best Actress—and soon after, she became a sought-over actress in the latter half of the 1960s. Guide became India's official entry to the Oscars and won for National Film Award for Best Feature Film in the 13th National Film Awards and a staple film in Hindi cinema and is considered a Bollywood classic.
Her peak continued when she was paired with other well-established superstars, namely Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Rajesh Khanna. Among her most acclaimed films of late 1960s include Teesri Kasam (1966) which won National Film Award for Best Feature Film, Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Neel Kamal (1968) and Khamoshi (1969). The last three movies all earned Rehman consecutive nominations for Filmfare Award for Best Actress each, with her winning her second Filmfare Award in Neel Kamal. In her role in Khamoshi starring alongside Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra, it is believed to be Rehman's finest acting performance. She plays a nurse who goes mentally insane after falling in love with one of her patients, and eventually is sent to her own mental institution.
Other commercial successes of this period were Patthar Ke Sanam (1967) and Aadmi (1968), and box office failures include Palki (1967) , Dharti (1970) , Darpan (1970) and Shatranj (1969), though were critically praised. At the end of the 1960s, Rehman ranked a new record amongst herself in becoming the second-paid actress in Bollywood, from 1964-1969. She states herself, "For Solva Saal, my first film as a freelancer, I received ₹30,000. The highest I ever earned in my career was 7 lakh for a film."
Character Roles, Career Decline and Marriage (1971)
Her career continued throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. She won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her roles in Guide (1965) and Neel Kamal (1968) where she hit the peak of her career, but despite excellent offbeat roles in subsequent films, including a National Award-winning performance in Reshma Aur Shera (1971) and Zindagi Zindagi (1972), some of her films failed at the box office. Seeing her films being successful, Rehman decided to experiment with roles at this stage of career. She accepted Reshma Aur Shera in 1971 which received nominations for the Golden Bear at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival and was selected as India's official entry to the Oscars, opposite her older co-star Sunil Dutt, with whom she had previously in hits such as Ek Phool Char Kaante (1960), Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), Meri Bhabhi and Darpan (1970). Her performance was appreciated by critics, but the film failed at the box office. But Rehman continued to experiment with roles and accepted the offer to play a mother to Jaya Bhaduri in Phagun (1973). This, she regards the mistake of her career, as after this film flopped, suddenly people started offering her motherly roles to heroes.
Film expert Rajesh Subramanian reported that Manmohan Desai had approached Rehman, on behalf of Shammi Kapoor, during the making of Naseeb (1981). In the song "John Jani Janardhan", Shammi Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman make a grand-entry holding hands. Incidentally this was the first time the two stars appeared together on screen. Later she also worked on Desai's Coolie (1983) and Allah Rakha (1986).
From the mid-'70s, Rehman's career as a lead heroine ended and her career as a character actor began. At around this time, Kamaljit, who starred opposite her in Shagoon (1964), proposed to her and they got married in 1974. After her appearance in Lamhe (1991), she retired from the film industry for 11 years.
In her new innings from the '70s, her successful films where she played pivotal roles include Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Trishul (1978), Jwalamukhi (1980), Namkeen and Namak Halaal (1982), Mashaal (1984), Chandni (1989) and Lamhe (1991).Namkeen, Chandni and Lamhe garnered her nominations for Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She played the central character in the Mahesh Bhatt-directed film Swayam (1991) which also starred Anupam Kher and Akash Khurana. She also appeared in a tele-series being directed by Gulzar.Initially, Rehman was supposed to play the role of frequent co-star Amitabh Bachchan's mother in Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001). However, after having shot a few scenes, she dropped out of the film due to her husband's death in November 2000. Subsequently her role then was then played by Achala Sachdev.
In recent years, she made a comeback playing elderly mother and grandmother roles in Om Jai Jagadish (2002), Water (2005), 15, Park Avenue (2005), Rang De Basanti (2006) and Delhi 6 (2009) all of which received critical acclaim. In 2011 , she was honoured with the Padma Bhushan and in 2013 with the Cenetary Award for Indian Film Personality on the occasion of 100 years of Indian Cinema for her contribution to Indian Cinema.
At the beginning of her career, Rehman is rumoured to have been involved with her frequent collaborator Guru Dutt. At the time, Dutt was married to singer Geeta Dutt and had children. One of their films, Kaagaz Ke Phool, which chronicles a film director falling in love with an actress, is thought to be inspired by their ill-fated affair. Eventually, the pair broke off due to personal and professional reasons in 1963. Dutt eventually died in 1964 due to mixing of alcohol and sleeping pills. Rehman is private about her life and seldom speaks about it, as said in an interview at the launch of Conversations With Waheeda Rehman:
In April 1974, Rehman married Shashi Rekhi (also known by his screen name Kamaljeet), and both had worked together prior in the film Shagoon (1964). She has 2 children: Sohail Rekhi and Kashvi Rekhi, both of them are writers. After her marriage, she lived in a farmhouse in Bangalore but after the death of her husband on 21 November 2000, she moved back to her ocean-view bungalow in Bandra, Mumbai, where she currently resides.
In October 2004, a Waheeda Rehman film-retrospective was held at the Seattle Art Museum and the University of Washington where Rehman participated in spirited-panel-and-audience discussions on her most memorable films; Pyaasa, Teesri Kasam and Guide.
- Filmfare Award for Best Actress for Guide (1965)
- Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards, Best Actress (Hindi) for Teesri Kasam (1966)
- Filmfare Award for Best Actress for Neel Kamal (1968)
- National Film Award for Best Actress for Reshma Aur Shera (1971)
- Padma Shri in 1972
- Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994
- IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001
- NTR National Award in 2006
- Padma Bhushan in 2011
- Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
- Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Ram Aur Shyam (1967)
- Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Khamoshi (1970)
- Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)
- Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Namkeen (1982)
- Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Chandni (1989)
- Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Lamhe (1991)
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