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Waheeda Rehman: The elfin charm of enigma accentuates with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award

It indeed was fortuitous that on the hundredth birth anniversary of Dev Sahb or Dev Anand, his one of the most famous muse in his cinematic journey – Waheeda Rehman, was conferred with the Dada Saheb Phalke award. Jury may be out whether she should have been conferred with the award earlier than those who got it during the last few years, but it is redemption time for Waheeda Rehman and her fans who continue to increase in proportions with every new appearance that she condescends to either in a movie or on various entertainment channels on television and OTT platforms.

Conferring of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for me was also an occasion to travel down memory lane and relive those memories. The first brush with Waheeda Rehman was when we watched Bees Saal Baad (1962) at Gorakhpur in a club. Those were the days when movie watching was considered a luxury and for us living in a colony life, it was an occasion of socially cohesive interaction.The movie would be displayed in open air with cloth hung for a projector and the black & white reels as they unspooled backed with the haunting voice of Lata Mangeshkar in the background through ‘kahi deep jale kahi dil…’, Waheeda Rahman waving through the sugarcane fields, now appearing and now disappearing, with Biswajit perplexed by the hide and seek, we also being mesmerized by the picturisation would leap across to the other side of the screen under the belief that we could have a 360 degree view. The elfin charm that Waheeda Rehman had exuded through ‘kahi deep jale kahi dil’ got further accentuated with softness through the song – ‘Bekarar Karke Hamen Yun Na Jaiye’.

We indeed had become bekarar looking for kahi deep jale kahi dil. Me and my friend Mohit Malik who now is a HR consultant used to repeatedly listen to this song Bekarar Karke Hamen Yun Na Jaiye recorder from is relative send USA, mind you those were the days when we were still growing up, it was class 8 to be precise and after the school hours we used to play Bekarar Karke Hamen Yun Na Chahiye in a loop and discuss the nuances of the song! The cusp of teenage…

And then after a fortnight of Bees Saal Baad, CID (1956) as the next movie on display at the club. ‘Kahin Pe Nigahe Kahin Pe Nishana’ swooned us off our feet. The projector man was our friend. We pleaded with him to run the song for us and we played so many times that the reel melted. He had to cut that portion and played it again and though there was an overlap in the song, the excitement was paramount. CID was followed with Kagaz Ke Phool (1959), and Pyasa (1957) at the club, where again Waheeda Rehman mesmerized in both the films. Underlining part of the enactment of roles by Waheeda Rehman was that she used to leverage her eyes and facial expressions to unleash a plethora of emotions as the scene required to floor the audiences.

It is worth highlighting that between themselves, Dev Anand and Guru Dutt, provided a rich tapestry of diverse roles to Waheeda Rehman and added an element of screen permanence for the aficionados of cinema for all times to come. It started from “Pyaasa” (1957), “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959) and “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” (1962) with Guru Dutt, and Guru Dutt in fact had accidentally discovered in Hyderabad when his car met with an accident and he had to stay back and accidentally bumped into Waheeda Rehman who had by that time given a superhit Telugu film “Rojulu Marayi” and danced into the hearts of the audience. Guru Dutt then decided to give a break to Waheeda Rehman through CID produced by him in 1956.

In the late eighties, after having shifted base to Delhi, one day while coming home I observed the movie poster Kaala Bazar (1960) being shown. I was intrigued by the poster where Waheeda Rehman had been given a larger share of the space on poster than Dev Anand. The other night I had listened to the song – ‘khoya khoya chand, khula aasman’ and I remembered the name of the movie. So I just walked into the cinema hall and again was mesmerised by the character enacted by Waheeda Rehman. It was a Paisa Vasool movie as Khoya Khoya Chand Khula Aasman being enacted on the screen and bonus was ‘sach hue sapne tere…’ This was the time when Hindi cinema was passing through a tumultuous phase and to re-release a film of 1960s, during those times underlined the outreach that Waheeda Rehman had, as Kaal Bazaar was a Waheeda Rehman movie, though it had a Dev Anand and a Vijay Anand as co-stars.

After the announcement of Dada Saheb Phalke Award for Waheeda Rehman everyone has been talking about the role Guide (1965) played in evolution of Waheeda Rehman as a woman actor of eminence who had the guts to walk out of marriage and take the hands of a suitor (Dev Anand). Guide did underline that a woman also can have more than one man in her life to fall in love with. However, few would be aware that it was in Kala Bazar (1960) that Dev Anand had set this role in motion for Waheeda Rehman when her character decided to close the chapter of being in love with VIjay Anand and to wait for his return from foreign shores to accept the other person around who was madly in love with her. It was perhaps for the first time that a woman character had enacted such a role on the screen and there could not have been a better actor than Waheeda Rehman to enact it.

Waheeda Rehman got recognition through her dance prowess and she charted her career using dance as a fulcrum ably backed by super hit screen plays to attain a place of permanence in the heart of the fans of cinema.

She gracefully shifted to the role of mother with Kabhi Kabhi (1976), where she enacted the role of wife of Amitabh Bachchan as also a mother. During the same year, she again played the role of a mother and a wife to Amitabh Bachchan in Adalat (1976), and went to emerge as a screen mother for Amitabh Bachchan in quite a lot of his successful movies including Trishul (1978), Collie (1982), Namakhalal (1983), and the swansong of her mother’s role was in Rang De Basanti (2006), followed by Delhi 6 (2006), where she again displayed her dance prowess with the song sasural genda phool.

For the current crop of cinema fans it indeed would be an opportune time to run through the cinematic oeuvre that Waheeda Rehman has created from 1956 onwards and to internalize that she indeed is a worthy Dada Saheb Phalke award recipient.

Pic. Sourceimdb
Nalin Rai
Nalin Rai
Nalin Rai is a Tagore Commemorative Honouree Author for 2023 for his literary Contributions and Beyond & Emily Dickinson Award Winner for his poetry writing.
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