MUMBAI: Actor Waheeda Rehman will receive the Dadasaheb Phalke award for this year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur announced on Tuesday. Waheeda started working in showbiz in the 50s and continues to be one of the most enigmatic stage performers. Here is a look at her professional journey.
Debut in films
Waheeda told Nasreen Munni Kabir in the book Conversations with Waheeda that she lost her father early and when she was 17, her mother wanted her to get married, though she did not want to. “I didn’t want to get married and preferred the idea of working.
But what could I do? I didn’t have much of an education, so how was I supposed to find a job?” she said and recalled how her father’s friend producer CV Ramakrishna Prasad offered her her first film – the Telugu film Rojulu Maray.
It took a lot to convince her mom and she agreed only when she was asked to accompany her daughter on sets. Waheeda was only supposed to dance for her first role in front of the camera.
In her 2012 interview with Hindustan Times, Waheeda recalled her first meeting with Guru Dutt and how he gave her a break in Hindi cinema. After noticing a huge crowd for Waheeda after her performance during the jubilee celebrations tour for the success of Rojulu Maray in Hyderabad, Guru Dutt sought a meeting with her and later invited her to Bombay for a test.
Though she did not audition or test for the production house, Guru Dutt then signed her on a salary basis for three films. The first one to release was CID, which featured Dev Anand alongside Waheeda and the film became an overnight sensation.
Before bagging her first contract in Bollywood, Waheeda managed to delay it for few days when she insisted a clause be added. She wanted to ensure that she had the right to reject costumes if she did not like them.
Waheeda maintained her upward success graph after CID, with films such as Guide, Pyaasa, Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, and Teesri Kasam. Apart from the romantic and emotional dramas, she also featured in the hit thriller Neel Kamal, the horror film Kohraa, and the comedy Ram Aur Shyam.
Critically acclaimed films
Following the commercial success of her initial films, Waheeda continued to work in a variety of films that showcase her acting and dancing skills perfectly.
She bagged her first National Film award in 1971 for Reshma Aur Shera. She has since worked in films such as Kabhi Kabhie, Chandni, Lamhe, Trishul, Namak Halaal, and the more recent Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6.
She also featured in Irrfan Khan’s last film to be released. Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions which released in theatres earlier this year featured Waheeda as an old tribal woman who can cure people bitten by scorpions, just with her songs. Waheeda even sang for the film.
When Waheeda was asked to change her name
In the book, she also recalled that Raj Khosla had once suggested she should change her name as it is too long but she declared she wouldn’t change a name given to her by her parents.
Raj had told her, “Change your name. It’s common practice for actors to have screen names. Dilip Kumar’s real name is Yusuf Khan, Meena Kumari is Mahjabeen Bano, Madhubala is Mumtaz Jahan and Nargis is Fatima. Everyone has changed their names.” And Waheeda simply replied, “I am not everyone,” according to the book Conversations with Waheeda.