As we remember the peerless Waheeda Rehman on her birthday, the name itself conjures up an image of grace and classic Indian beauty. This Golden Girl of yore had an on-screen elegance that was complemented by her laudable acting skills. Her name revives fond memories of classics like Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Khamoshi.
It is believed that good human beings make good actors. And most good actors are considered perceptive humans who try to gain an insight into the psyche of people in order to bring about sensitivity in their performances. Waheeda Rehman achieved perfection virtually every time she faced the camera. Her malleable face and soft looks became the first choice for directors planning heroine-oriented subjects. She put in her best in family sagas, love romances, social dramas and even in alternative cinema. Teesri Kasam, produced by lyricist Shailendra and directed by Basu Bhattacharya, had her delivering a fine portrayal of nautanki artiste. She added a different dimension to the nomadic existence of a vagabond troupe of performers.
Before joining the Hindi film industry, this Guru Dutt discovery used to be a dancer in Hyderabad. Her superb dancing skills attracted the then dance director, Guru Dutt, who signed her on for CID. She continued working in Telegu films as well. CID brought fame to Waheeda Rehman and she was widely appreciated for her performance.
Post-CID she became a permanent fixture in Guru Dutt's films. The actor-director presented her in the main lead in Pyaasa (1957) in which she skilfully sketched the role of a sympathetic prostitute. Despite the fact that she started her career with a negative role, she was accepted as a heroine in this sensitively handled theme. The success of Pyaasa established her as an actress and catapulted her to the top bracket as a quality performer.
Thereafter, her screen presence and inborn ability to act and emote was acknowledged in her subsequent releases. Though Dutt was instrumental in giving Waheeda a headstart, it was only a matter of time before the actress broke away from the Guru Dutt camp and started signing outside films. She accepted many outside movies with the likes of Satyajit Ray and Hemant Kumar. And later Vijay Anand tapped the rare combination of acting and dancing skills to great effect in the blockbuster, Guide.
The director caught her scintillating dance performances in a blaze of Technicolor. It was in the year 1966 that Guide, based on novelist R K Narayan's novel, was released. The critics called it a wholesome entertainer, which had a good story, good music and great performances and most of all the film appealed to the masses as well as the critics, a fact which quickly elevated it into the category of classics. For both Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, Guide became a milestone in their film careers. Waheeda also did the English version of Guide but it couldn't achieve same degree of success at the box office.
Recently Waheeda Rehman, who has been out of circulation for may years, was honoured with the Bimal Roy Award for the year 2001. Here's our tribute in pictures to one of Hindi cinema's most accomplished actresses ever.