Waheeda Rehman (77), who has come down to Kolkata to shoot for National Award winning filmmaker Aparna Sen's latest Bengali directorial, Arshinagar (based on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) says she sees a lot of herself in Vidya Balan today. Ask her any film in recent times she would have loved to do if she was in her prime and she instantly names Balan's 2012 superhit thriller Kahaani, where she played Vidya Bagchi. The legendary actor also says how she enjoyed watching Jab We Met (2007).
The yesteryear actor, who has regaled the audience with powerful roles in films such as Kaagaz Ke Phool, Teesri Kasam, Ram Aur Shyam, Guide and Prem Pujari, also informs that she watches every kind of films. However, she specially mentions filmmaker Anup Singh's Qissa. Rehman also talks about her displeasure on the usage of cuss words in films these days.
So what keeps her going at this age, and she flashes a broad smile and says, "I am content and tension free. I am happy with whatever has happened to me in my life and I am grateful to God, my directors and my actors. She has no regret but if given another chance she would like to better her craft. "I wish I had gone to an acting school. That way, I could have done better work in the initial films of my career. I had some good directors and actors to guide me. But if I had to change, I would better myself at my art," she smiles.
It's been 10 years since you shot 15 Park Avenue with Aparna Sen. Now you have teamed up with the filmmaker on Ashinagar. What made you take up the character of Dadijaan? "Aparna was insisting. I didn't want to do it. I was nervous to say so many Bengali dialogues. She asked me to leave it on her and she will manage. Hence, I left it to her. It's a pleasure to work with Aparna. She is a wonderful director and a person."
You have an old connection with the city. Starring with Satyajit Ray (Waheeda shot for Ray's Abhijan in 1962) to now Aparna Sen. "Yes… (pauses) I also did a Bengali film Jiban Je Rokom with Ranjit Mallick. I keep coming to the city for charity events too."
We rarely see you acting these days. "When you start doing character roles, you start getting the same roles again and again. I had portrayed a grandmother's role in Delhi-6 and here, too, I am playing Dadijaan, but this is different. The atmosphere of the film and the behaviour of the character is different from what I played in Delhi-6. Once you play a grandmother, then you are a dadi forever, especially in India. That's okay. But the character has to be challenging… only then will it interest an actor. I keep getting offers, but they should interest me. It's not like I have to do a film. I am happy and content."
What kind of films do you like watching now? "I like to watch every kind of film. Every once or twice a month Salim Khan (Salman Khan's father) and Helen have a trial of movies, which he is going to distribute and I watch those too. The last movie I saw and liked is Qissa (directed by Anup Singh)."
The method and the style of filmmaking have undergone a sea-change from the time you were the leading lady. "Now, we are more broad minded. While shooting for Guide (directed by Vijay Anand, starring Dev Anand, 1965) there was a huge hue and cry because a leading lady was playing a married woman and then she falls in love with a guide, Raju. Many people told me not to do the film. It's against Indian culture. Today, they are liberal."
This is the 50th year of Guide (the film released on December 6, 1965). "(Smiles) Don't make me feel I have aged."
The Censor Board has a list of cuss words that need to be banned from films. Comment. "At my age, I would like to ask you this question. Would you like your child, your husband or your mother giving you gali? Ask yourself. Will you like if your family members use cuss words? Will you like it? No. So, why use it in the movie? Yes, it's there in the world… but nobody likes it."
What do you do in your free time? " go for photo safaris with a group of people and professional photographers. I went to South Africa, the Maasai Mara National Reserve and Kutch. My son is also interested in photography."