She is one actress who has made sure that time or history can dare to deny her the place she has earned for herself because of her sheer in born talent – BY ALI PETER JOHN

Time past, time present and time future can never talk about talent in Hindi films and avoid the name of this wonder woman called Waheeda Rehman.

And what a formidable background she has to claim her place in the pages of the history of Indian cinema….

The legendary Guru Dutt had just made a name for himself as a director after being discovered and given a break by Dev Anand.

He was travelling in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh when he saw this unknown, simple and yet very charming actress in a small Telugu film.

Destiny had just started playing its part in the lives of both Guru and this girl called Waheeda Rehman.

Guru met her and asked her if she would go to Bombay with him. She was willing, she had to take the permission of her parents and they were very excited about their daughter going to Bombay with a director who had just made a name for himself.

Waheeda was accepted by Guru as a follower and she accepted him as her mentor.

Guru introduced her to his friend and mentor, Dev Anand who found something extraordinary about this ordinary girl.

He asked all those directors who he knew to take her seriously and the first director who was also discovered by Dev, Raj Khosla first cast her in a small role in one of his very early films and just the flickering of her eyes were enough to make many other directors wake up to that something special in her.

It was her mentor Guru Dutt who was waiting for the right opportunity to cast her in a major film and that came when he decided to make “Pyaasa”.

He already had cast himself in the main role after offering it to Dilip Kumar who could not do it for reasons only the two know and will never be known now.

Mala Sinha who was a known name was the other heroine and Guru had the confidence to cast Waheeda as the prostitute in the film.

The film went on to make history and Waheeda was accepted as a major actress. Guru who was riding on a wave of recognition and success after “Pyaasa” decided to make his most ambitious film, “Kaagaz Ke Phool” which was a semi-autobiographical film with Guru playing himself even though he claimed that the film was a creation of fiction.

Waheeda was once again cast as the heroine of the film in the film within a film which was the background of the film.

Guru decided to make this film his do or die film and put in all the money he had earned in “Pyaasa” in the making of “Kaagaz Ke Phool”.

The film in black and white was a masterpiece, but the masses could not understand the importance of the film and the same director who made “Pyaasa” and had made a much better film was rejected outright.

The film was one of the biggest flops of the time and is considered to be one of the greatest classics of all time now.

The utter failure of the film shattered Guru Dutt and he could not stop himself from going into an endless spell of depression, drinking and taking to sedatives. It was also a time when he faced a major emotional crisis.

He was madly in love with his discovery even though he was a married man (Geeta Dutt, the singer was his wife) and had two sons.

He somehow managed to do a film called “Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam” which he directed but was too scared to lend the film his name as a director.

The film was a big hit, but it did not help in changing his manic depression. He started another film called “Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi”, but could not complete it because his depression finally led him to commit suicide when he was 39.

How he really died is still in the realms of mystery. The only man who could throw some light on the “accident” was his writer, Abrar Alvi who spent the last night in his company, but now even Alvi is dead.

Waheeda, however had made her place secure and within a very short time, she was one of the leading actresses and stars of Hindi films.

How good she was can be proved by the kind of films she did, with the actors she worked with and the banners that wanted her to act in their films.


Waheeda was a favourite of Dev Anand with whom she did films like “CID”, “Kaala Bazaar”, the evergreen classic “Guide”, Dev’s first directorial venture, “Prem Pujari” and a film called “Baat Ek Raat Ki”.

She was also at her best when she did her most challenging roles with, Dilip Kumar with whom she did films like “Aadmi”, “Dil Diya Dard Liya” and “Ram Aur Shyam”.

She also played actresses who had all the scope to show their talent when she did a film with Raj Kapoor, “Teesri Kasam”.

The other great film she did even while she was the ruling actress was “Reshm Aur Shera” directed by Sunil Dutt who also was the hero, a film which also had Raakhee and a new actor called Amitabh Bachchan who was known for his voice but was asked to play a dumb character.

Waheeda went on to play any number of roles and it did not matter to her who the hero was, what mattered to her was the subject and the making of the film by directors who knew their jobs.

Two of her most memorable films were “Bees Saal Baad” and “Kohraa”, both mystery thrillers with haunting music and with a “weak hero” like Biswajeet.

She carried these films on her shoulders. Among the other films that she did in the first spell of her career were films like “Man Mandir”, “Meri Bhabi”.

“Darpan”, “Shatranj”, “Dharti”, “Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja”, “Ek Dil Sau Afsaane”, “Kaun Apna Kaun Paraaya” and “Mann Ki Aankhein” both with an upcoming and handsome actor, Dharmendra.

She then did a film called “Shagun” with an unknown actor called Kamaljit who was more of a businessman than an a actor and could not make any mark.

He quit films and got into business and Waheeda too left the scene to the surprise of the entire industry.

It was only after her husband died and her son and daughter grew up that she decided to make a comeback and her second coming brought to the fore the immense talent that was still very much there in her.

It was Yash Chopra who was the first two bring her back in a major role in “Kabhi Kabhie”.

Yash was so carried away by her talent that he repeated her in major films like “Mashaal” in which she teamed up with her one time hero, Dilip Kumar with both of them playing elderly characters.

Yash made one more memorable film with her, his most memorable film called “Lamhe”.

These films established Waheeda as a great character artist and among the other films which she did were “Adaalat” with Amitabh Bachchan who was now the number one actor, the super star, she also did a mature role with him in S.Raamnathan’s “Mahaan” in which Amitabh played his first and only triple role.

Of late she is being seen as the saving grace of films being planned by an entirely new generation of directors and it is just one film, “Delhi 6” which has aroused the interest of the younger generation of directors who had seen her films when they learnt direction and were no waiting for any opportunity to get her to work in their films.

Waheeda has grown in age, there is a lot of grey in her hair, but the charm, the magic of that smile and even the ability to dance at her age has kept her in the limelight where she will be till… the end of time.


Needless to say, she would not have been where she is today if the eyes of Guru Dutt had not fallen on her in that ramshackle theatre in some village in Andhra Pradesh.

Guru literally treated her like a student not only of acting, but also in the ways of carrying herself and the ways and manners of making her presence felt even in the midst of the greatest.

She admits Guru’s contribution to her career, but refuses to take part in any discussion or contribute to any of the books written about Guru Dutt.

She has been very successful in keeping their relationship a secret because of the respect with which she held Guru.

She got close to the greatest legend, Dilip Kumar with whom she did three major films and made a very good team.

A stage came when Waheeda was not very comfortable working in Bombay even though she was offered the best roles and the best of money.

But she gave it all up, married Kamaljit and settled down on her farm on Bannerghatta Road between Bangalore and Ooty.

She lived away from the glare and limelight of the industry and lived the life of a common woman who also worked for the welfare of the poor and the downtrodden in the surrounding areas where her farm and farmhouse stood.

There were any number of actresses who tried to follow her ways of acting, but not one of them has succeeded till date.

Dev Anand often said, “There can be only one Waheeda and anyone who tries to imitate her is only being innocent and foolish.”

Waheeda was not a trained dancer, but classical dancing came to her very naturally and there was and there is no film even now where her skills as a dancer are put to use.

The latest is her dance movements in “Delhi 6” at a time when she is almost nearing seventy.

Amitabh Bachchan is an unabashed fan of “this great actress whose films, all of them I have seen because I believe there is no complete actress like her.

I sometimes wish I could have worked with her during her younger days, but anytime is a great time when it comes to this great actress.

I have been very lucky to work with her in a few films and I was thrilled when Abhishek did a major film like ‘Delhi 6’ with her”.

She lives in Mumbai in her bungalow called “Saahil” which stands just behind “Galaxy Apartments” where Salim Khan, Salman Khan and the Khan family live.

She has very good relations with the Khan family which looks after her bungalow and her property when she goes away to Bangalore to spend time and take care of her property and farmhouse.

She has a son and a daughter. The daughter was interested in making it as a director and she didn’t stop her.

There were offers for her pretty daughter to even act, but nothing seems to have come out of it.

She now spends a lot of time working for the welfare of the poor and the needy in the sprawling suburb of Dharavi.

Her name as a social worker has spread to even Bangla Desh. She is trying to find out ways how to be of service to the people there.

What is most interesting about this great actress is that she has never let her lose her head and has never got into any kind of controversy even after being in the industry for almost 50 glorious years.