Waheeda Rehman, the celestial nymph

By K Raman

Waheeda Rehman in her hay days was a classical beauty with transcendental class in her film appearances. In the golden era of Hindi film making she was a true tinsel Goddess.

She portrayed characters in approximately 84 films, most of them in the top hundred films of the century. She was born on 14 May 1936, in Chengalpett in Tamilnadu and lived in various places in South India in her earlier teenage life because her father, a District court Judge, was posted at various District court locations.

Waheeda’s father died when she was just twelve, so too her mother when she was nineteen.  She wanted to study medicine and serve sick and needy, which was not to be because she was afflicted with some chronic illness of lungs. Though that was a loss for medicine, it turned out to be a gain for film acting and classical dancing.

Just turned 13, she secured small acting roles in the popular Telugu films ‘Jaisimha’ and ‘Rojulu Marayi’. She received acclaim when she appeared in Raj Khosla’s film C.I.D as Kamini in a secondary role. She looked a stunner viewing from any angle in that black and white film in which she was a conniving schemer of an evil mob. In a dance number ‘Kahi pe nigahein kahi pe nishana’ (sung by Gita Dutt) she, as Kamini, portrays the tricky, seductive enchantress who successfully lures the villain away.

The credit of spotting her goes to the brilliant Actor/ Producer Guru Dutt. While on a visit to Hydrabad Guru Dutt came across Waheeda and saw instantly plenty of mystical beauty in her with sharp and chiselled features, possessed with excellent command over Hindi and Urdu, an uncanny ability to portray feelings in celluloid and few could dance better than she could. What else you want from a heroine?

Just when Guru Dutt discovered the talents of Waheeda, while in Hydrabad, he spotted her being chased by a buffalo in a crowded street which he used to narrate to make Waheeda cranky.

Under Guru Dutt’s guidance she put command performances in films like, Pyaasa, Kagas ke Phool, Sahib Bibi aur Gulam, Chaudhavy ka Chand, Teesri Kazam, Bees saal baad etc. Looking back it appears strange that Guru Dutt could offer Waheeda only a vamp’s role in C.I.D.

She was born under star sign, Taurus, born to be patient, reliable, loving, warm hearted, placid and security conscious. She is a mystical beauty, a fine lady and a formidable classical dancer. To her legion of fans, she was an amalgam of classical Islamic beauty, custodian of abundant grace, charm, talent, charisma and transcendental personality appeal. She was equally articulate with perfect diction in Urdu, Hindi and English. In short, she was a standout film personality among the Bollywood beauties. Her extensive learning of Bharathanatyam helped her immensely to dance long drawn classical dances like the few she presented in Guide.

She did not act in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Tamil films in a heroine’s role though she was a Tamil born and brought up girl. As Gulabo the prostitute, in Pyaasa (Thirst -1957), petite Kamini in C.I.D, Shanti in Kagaz-ke-phool (paper flowers) – 1959, Jameela in Chaudhavi ka chand (fourteenth day moon) – 1960, Jaba in Sahib Beebi aur Gulam (the king queen and the Jack), Rosie Marco/ Miss Nalini in Guide -1965, Hira Bai in Teesri Kasam -1966 etc, she was absolutely brilliant in her character portrayal. She was highly successful as the producer of the film ‘Om Jai Jagadeesh’.

Highly rated male heroes regarded Waheeda as their favourite heroine. Big ‘B’once said, “She is my best actress. She had a certain guileless in her face, and feminine grace and Indianness. Her beauty is something soft and not easily defined.  My greatest influence in acting is Waheeda Rehaman and Dilip Kumar.”

The very eminent poet Shakil Badayuni claimed that he was inspired to pen the lines “Chaudhavi ka chand ho ya aftab ho, jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam lajawab ho,” after being blown away by Waheeda’s exquisite looks.

Waheeda was always an early to bed person. It so happened that the song “Jane kya tune suni”, a great Pyaasa number sung by Gita Dutt, was picturised very late at night. In between the takes Waheeda fell asleep, and the Assistant Director got the unwanted job to wake her up, much to her annoyance, when the set was ready.  While picturising the song ‘Piya to se naina lagere” in Guide, it was so laborious that it took full fifteen days, because each ‘antara’ meant a new set and fresh costume for Waheeda.

The disturbed relationship between Guru Dutt and wife Gita Dutt was well known. She knew of the illicit relationship of her hubby with the stunning looking Waheeda. As a practical joke, Waheeda’s name was attached to a love letter sent to Guru Dutt asking him to meet his lover on Marine Drive at a specified time. Guru Dutt waited and waited only to be seen by Gita Dutt and friend Smrithi Biswas (wife of Music Director Anil Biswas) who drove up and down passing him many times, attracting his attention. He got so outraged at this silly attempt to trap him that it was the only time he had lifted his hand on his wife.

Guru Dutt and Gita divorced and because Guru Dutt was smitten by Waheeda’s beauty, he even decided to convert himself into a Muslim so that he could marry her. However, Waheeda, speaking on love, said, “love must not be suffocating, you have to let go a lot if you really love”.

Aged only 39, Guru Dutt committed suicide on October, 10, 1964 (some say an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets) probably because he could not marry Waheeda. A frustrated Gita Dutt died in 1972 aged only 41. Waheeda married Kamaljit who too died on November 21, 2000.

Waheeda did enthral generations of admirers with her ethereal beauty, amazing histrionics, transcendental appeal, celestial dancing prowess, while still possessing a voice that is nectar sweet.

Some of her well known films are, Pyaasa, Prem Pujari, Guide, Mujhe jeenae do, Pathar ke sanam, Kohra, Chaudhvin ka chand, Teesri kasam, Solvan saal, Khamoshi, Neel Kamal, Reshma aur Sheera, Sahib Bibi aur Gulam, 12 O’ clock, Raam aur Shyam, Kabhi Kushi aur kabhi dam, Kabhi Kabhi, Mene Gandhi ko nahi mara, Bees Saal baad, 15 Park Avenue, Rang de basanthi.

Never in my life will I forget this great actress.

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Posted by on Nov 18 2010. Filed under Bollywood, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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