Thank God, Waheeda decided to do this book and Nasreen Munni Kabir persuaded her where many others have failed. The Q and A format, carrying Waheeda’s responses verbatim, works, and in the process, we have a portrait of an actress of rare dignity and grace, who through her career refused to act like a star, despite being one of the biggest and most successful actresses of her time.
The book is elegantly produced, with some rare photos, recalling to mind the quiet beauty and professionalism that Waheeda brought to her films. The questions lead from her childhood, where Waheeda shares some little known facts about her parents, especially her father, who was in the IAS. Memories of happy times, when the family went on picnics, when her father went on deer hunting expeditions with his friends, dissolve as the pages turn to cover her early years as a dancing star after her father’s sudden death, getting ‘discovered’ by Guru Dutt, and her moving to Bombay to join his production unit to act in his films.
When Waheeda says she believes she is “most like Rosie (in Guide)...a straightforward woman who knows her own mind and stands by what she believes in”, it sums up what she is like in real life. Kabir manages to get great insights about her work with Guru Dutt in the making of Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool and the filming of songs, but the personal questions that have hung over the relationship between the iconic director and his star actress remain unasked, and therefore unanswered. Rightly so, for it is not mere gossip, but what we get is a chronicle of professional interaction between two great artists.
Naturally, there are numerous interesting anecdotes. For instance, while shooting for Mujhe Jeene Do in the ravines of Chambal, she meets the daughter of a real woman dacoit who looks at Waheeda and says, “My mother never wore a ghaghra-choli, she wore pants.” She talks about trying to understand the great K. Asif, who directed his actors in telegraphic monosyllables. She discusses the difficulty of holding on to a mood and dialogue through breaks and retakes. The pluses and minuses of colour versus black and white, how her dialogue delivery was second to her ability to emote through facial expressions.
Her marriage to her co-star of Shagoon, Shashi Rekhi, and their life away from the limelight in a farmhouse outside Bangalore, show up the true grit of the woman. The story of why she let herself go grey is amazing in someone who has experienced the magic of stardust and been in the arc lights for more than three decades! Despite the interesting stories revolving around her films, it is in the last segment of the book that Waheeda the woman shines through. There is a candour and forthrightness in her responses, in the way she has faced the toughest moments of her life; in her sharing of happy moments with her friends Nanda, Helen, Sadhana, Asha Parekh and Shammi Rabadi. When she ends the conversation, it is with: “I don’t honestly like living in the past. It is the present that counts. I don’t think of the future either. Maybe that’s what gives me a sense of peace. I don’t worry about what will happen tomorrow.”
One realises how Waheeda Rehman has remained the way she has, despite the topsy turvy world she has inhabited. Graceful, collected and very much her own person.
The review of the book on Waheeda Rehman (Mirror on a Full Moon, Apr 28) was interesting. In a recent TV interview, Waheeda had said that she doesn’t like to talk about her personal life. The most versatile actress of her day, she has made films with all major stars of her time. And she has had almost no controversies at all—except the ‘affair‘ with Guru Dutt.
Reading the review of the book on Waheeda Rehman was a pleasure (Mirror on a Full Moon, Apr 28). Waheeda is my all-time favourite; no one comes close to her in being a complete star! And her grey mane makes her even more graceful. I am not sure if the book notes that a 16-year-old Waheeda asked Guru Dutt to delete a clause related to wearing a swimsuit simply by saying: “If I am not expected to wear it, why put that in the contract?” Truly, she is a living legend.
Pankaj Hedaoo, Kuala Lumpur
Waheeda Rehman is an epitome of grace, kindness and decency. And she was one of the great beauties of the age. The way she conducted her life, she should be a model for so many people. And not just those in cinema.
Parul Bhandari, Delhi
VM is a fan of Meena Kumari but Waheeda Rehman is one's idol. To see a sleeping WR gently awakened by Guru Dutt singing Chaudhvin ka chand ho is to be in the presence of something magical. Great music has always been part of her repertoire.
Waheeda Rahman ji is an epitome of grace, kindness, decency and a beautiful face with a beautiful heart. She is a live example and idol for doing write things in the right way and following right path in life.
Waheeda Rehman ji is an epitome of grace, kindness, decency and a beautiful face with a beautiful heart. She is a live example and idol for doing right things in the right way and following right path in life.
My all time Favourite! None comes close to her as a complete star! And what makes her even mroe graceful at her age is her Gray mane!
I am not sure if the book notes that a 16 year old Whaeeda rehman asked established Producer/ Director GuruDutt to delete a clause related to wearing swim-wear on screen with a simple retort - If I am not expected to wear, why put a clasue in contract?
A Living legend. Take a bow Waheedaji!
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