Actor Sonam Kapoor turns reporter and interviews veteran actor Waheeda Rehman on how she feels Bollywood has evolved since the golden era
Sonam: So what is the main difference you’ve seen in the industry in all these years?
Waheeda Rehman: There have been a lot of changes. There used to be no bound scripts and the dialogues were given to us on the day of the shoot. There were no proper makeup rooms. They were horrible. Once we would get to the set, we used to be there until lunch break, then go to the room, have lunch and comeback. In that process, we used to bond a lot. Each one used to talk about their childhood stories, about all our last movies and this and that. When I came back with Om Jai Jagdish, I found too many things different on the set. There were too many mobile phones. After every shot, artists would go to their vanity van…
Sonam: It wasn’t so during Delhi 6, though.
Waheeda Rehman: No. I had also told Rakeysh (Omprakash Mehra, director) that I am an old timer. I can’t take it that there are too many people, too many mobiles and all that.
Sonam: Who was your favourite male actor then and who is it now?
Waheeda Rehman: Dilip Kumar, and then Amitabh Bachchan. There was a big gap between the two of them. And now, you won’t believe it, I am a fan of your father (Anil Kapoor).
Sonam: That’s good. But I think there is a generation after him also.
Waheeda Rehman: Well, then I’ll say Aamir Khan.
Sonam: Aamir Khan ke baad bhi ek generation hain (there is a generation after Aamir Khan too)
Waheeda Rehman: Abhi Kaun hain (Who is there now?)
Sonam: Abhi there is Imran (Khan), Ranbir (Kapoor).
Waheeda Rehman: Oh yes, I like them both.
Sonam: And among the heroines, then and now?
Waheeda Rehman: That time, there were Nargis and Nutan and after that I liked Madhuri Dixit. And now I like you.
Sonam: Thank you. I keep on saying that when the golden period was there, when there were films like Guide, Pyasa and Kagaz Ke Phool or Saraswatichandra or Bandini, Sujata, and others, all these films were made by the biggest filmmakers of that time and they had such strong female characters. If I’m asked which is my favourite character to play, I’ll definitely say Rosy from Guide because I feel she is very real. She is not some sati savitri. She is a heroine, but she is very real and she has her weaknesses and strengths.
Do you think heroines get that chance now?
Waheeda Rehman: Now, yes. But two years back, girls had nothing to do. Nothing to do except look beautiful, slim and dress up. There was no contribution at all. That’s very sad. But now I think this trend is changing. Now you have to have a subject and director wouldn’t give them good enough roles, so there was nothing for them to do.
Sonam: That I kind of agree with you on. I did Delhi 6 and Sawariya, Aisha and I Hate Luv Stories and then took some time off for a year-and-a-half and I thought I have to change the way I do my films. Even I decided to some good films. Because today what has happened is that we need to work with heroes and not directors. Like in your time, it was more of working with the directors. You could say I would work with Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, VijayAnand or Guru Dutt, but that’s no more there. So I thought I would do that.
Waheeda Rehman: Actually, what happened was that when Amitabh (Bachchan) started working, people were more keen to work with him. Because he was a person on whom people had belief that he could do it. So everyone started banking on him. The heroines and the music of the films went down to Amitabh.
Sonam: What about success? Papa tells me that in his time, you didn’t know if the film was a success or not, and you just went to the next project. Now because of the media, the exposure is different, right? What do you think? Was success different at that time as opposed to now?
Waheeda Rehman: Definitely! And now I can see that in your generation, the competition is too much. At that time, with Rekha and Hema (Malini), even during Madhuri’s (Dixit) time, once you are an established actor, it doesn’t matter whether the ticket sells or not. You would go on to your next project without waiting for Friday or Saturday. Also, what has happened is that TV actors are coming and becoming movie stars, too.
Sonam: My maasi was Miss India, but she never became an actress. To her, it was just fun.
Waheeda Rehman: Now money has also become a big factor. You get paid in crores.
Sonam: Heroines don’t get paid that much.
Waheeda Rehman: But you still get in crores. Now you do shows and there are so many award functions, where you can dance.
Sonam: That’s big exposure.
Waheeda Rehman: Switch on the TV and you are there, read the papers and you are there. In fact, even go to an award function and there you are performing.
Sonam: Do you think that awards have lost their charm?
Waheeda Rehman: They have. In our time, if your performance was good, you would get the award. Now if you dress well, you get it. Best dressed, best couple of the year, and other such awards are also there now.
Sonam: Has stardom changed?
Waheeda Rehman: It’s same. It’s just the way it was in our times and it should be there, too.
Sonam: Tell me that one film of yours that you won’t mind being remade and who would you want to play your role.
Waheeda Rehman: Guide can be remade. I have been asked this a number of times. It should be remade because it’s relevant even in today’s time. Ranbir could play Dev Anand’s role. You can do my role, but you have to work hard and Victor Banerjee can do Marco’s role.
Sonam: If a biopic is made on you, who would be the perfect person to write the story and direct the film?
Waheeda Rehman: I think Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, because he knows me well, personally and professionally. I did two movies with him, so it makes a difference.
Sonam: Tell me some filmmakers you admire.
Waheeda: Rakeysh, Raju (Hirani), Karan Johar and then Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Sonam: Which are the films you enjoyed watching recently?
Waheeda: 3 Idiots, Delhi 6, Rang De Basanti, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Kal Ho Na Ho. I also watched Gangs of Wasseypur II.
(Photos: Satish Bate)