Nov 5th marked the thirtieth death anniversary of one of the most impressive actors of the fifties and sixties, the regal, suave Rehman. His family traced its roots to King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan and two of his grand-nephews are actors in Pakistan.
Born in 1921 in Lahore, Rehman grew up in Jabalpur. After his graduation from Robertson College, Rehman worked for a brief time with the Royal Indian Air Force as a pilot. He soon left the Air Force for a career in Hindi films. While he started off behind the camera as an assistant director, he soon bagged some roles on screen. He made his debut in the 1946 Dev Anand film, Hum Ek Hain, which also starred Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt and Rehman became close friends and their association lasted till Guru Dutt’s untimely death in 1964. Rehman essayed pivotal roles in all of Guru Dutt’s classic movies from Pyaasa (1957) to Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966).
An extremely talented but highly underrated actor with a powerful screen presence, Rehman is a delight to watch in all the roles he played and one of my favourites… So here is a list of ten of my favourite songs where he makes an appearance!
1) Jaane Woh Kaise Log Thhe Jinke (Pyaasa, 1957, SD Burman) – This Guru Dutt masterpiece is one film I have watched a number of times – and yet do not tire of watching. The soundtrack is classic and timeless – one of those films where each and every song is good! Rehman plays Mr Ghosh, an exploitative publisher and is married to Meena (Mala Sinha) who was Vijay’s (Guru Dutt) college sweetheart.
This song was my introduction to Rehman. My love for old Hindi songs is largely due to my father’s love for them and I have a vague memory of this movie airing on Doordarshan ages back. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old and remember this song very clearly- funnily when I watched the film later, I remembered Rehman and not Guru Dutt. This is one of my father’s favourites.
The setting for this song is a party at the Ghosh residence where Vijay is present along with several other poets. This is his rather harsh and cynical commentary on Meena’s betrayal. The lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi is hard-hitting and the music by Burmanda is flawless. Hemant Kumar sings this melodious number and the picturisation is spot on.
Look out for Rehman’s expressions – he is jealous, suspicious – does not really know but is smart enough to figure that there was something between Vijay and Meena.
2) Jaaon Bata Aye Dil (1959, Chhoti Bahen, Shankar-Jaikishen): Chhoti Bahen was an L.V Prasad film starring Balraj Sahni, Rehman and Nanda (in the title role). A typical South production, this tearjerker had Rehman essay the role of the brother who is led astray by his wicked wife (Shyama) and goes on a path of self-destruction (read Gambling and other vices) while his noble siblings suffer! I have not watched the movie though. But I do like this particular melancholic Mukesh number. And it is picturised on Rehman. As the lyrics go, this is when Rehman has probably lost everything and has regained his senses and is now repenting his earlier wicked behaviour. The lyrics by Shailendra are simple and evocative.
3) Gali Gali Sita Roye (1960, Chhalia, Kalyanji-Anandji): The lost-and-found formula in Hindi films was perfected by Manmohan Desai in the seventies. Chhalia was the first of those movies. He was only 24 when he directed this movie which was based somewhat on Dostoyevsky’s White Nights set in partition times.
This interesting movie starred Raj Kapoor, Nutan, Pran, Rehman and also Shobhana Samarth (Nutan’s mother – albeit in an small, and largely insignificant role). Shanti (Nutan) and Kewal (Rehman) get married and are living in Lahore when partition occurs. The families manage to get away to Delhi safely but somehow Shanti gets left behind. She is then offered shelter by a good, honourable Pathan, Abdul Rahman (Pran) whose sister is missing. Shanti however is already pregnant by then and has a child. When she does return to India, five years later with a child who is called Anwar, she is shunned by her suspicious husband and her own family. Dejected and about to commit suicide, she is rescued by Chhalia (Raj Kapoor), who promptly falls for her. This is purely one-sided as she is still pining for Rehman! The story progresses and finally Chhalia brings about the re-union of Shanti and Kewal during Dussehra.
Rehman features in two songs – the peppy Baje Payal Chhun Chhun and the preachy Gali Gali Sita Roye at the end of the movie.
Gali Gali Sita Roye is sung by Mohd Rafi and picturised on Raj Kapoor as he talks about the number of Sitas in our country – a comment on the numerous abandoned women in the aftermath of partition.
4) Main Jab Bhi Akeli Hoti Hoon (1961, Dharmaputra, N.Dutta): This is a Asha-Sahir combo waala song. (not with SDB but N.Datta – the underrated music director that Sahir worked with in the fifties) – so please bear with me if I start gushing – I LOVE this song.
Just like Chhalia, Dharmaputra is also a movie on partition. Chhalia looked at the period just after while Dharmaputra looked at partition and the rampant communalism at that time. Not a run-of-the-mill movie at all, directed by Yash Chopra (in the days when he was an interesting director! Sorry – but I prefer his earlier movies to the later, candyfloss ones), Dharmaputra is worth a watch. It stars Shashi Kapoor – his debut as a grown-up, along with Mala Sinha, Rehman, Manmohan Krishna, and Ashok Kumar.
Javed (Rehman) is a poor tutor who falls in love with his student, Husn Bano (Mala Sinha) who is also the Nawab’s (Ashok Kumar) daughter. Daddy thukraos the rishta and Javed disappears and Husn Bano discovers she is pregnant. Oh by the way, this is all happening in 1925!!!
Now Daddy dear is horrified and approaches Dr. Amrit (Manmohan Krishna, the same actor who sang Tu Hindu Banega Na Mussalman banega in Yash Chopra’s directorial debut, Dhool Ka Phool (1959)), a very close family friend and asks him for help. Dr Amrit decides not to get the kid aborted but whisks Husn Bano off to Shimla/ wherever, where she has the baby. Dr Amrit and his wife then adopt the kid, Dilip who will grow up to be Shashi Kapoor. Meanwhile Javed and Husn Bano meet again and this time, the Nawab agrees and marries them off. Life is great. Husn Bano gets pregnant again but miscarries (retribution for pre-marital sex?). Dilip is fond of his neighbours and spends a lot of time at their place not knowing that they are his real parents. Time passes, Javed and HB leave India after Nawab’s death in the independence movement. They come back after some years – in 1947- when Dilip is a strapping young lad, unaware of his origins, and is by now a complete Muslim-hating, Hindu bigot! He is horrified that his family is good friends with this Muslim couple and tries brainwashing them against Javed and HB. The rest of the story shows how Dilip proceeds on this thorny, violent path…
Now this song has Mala Sinha remember her romantic moments with a young Rehman. The music is excellent (the movie has very good songs – ). The lyrics (by Sahir, who else!) are very romantic and soulful (in this song); and poignant in the case of Naina Kyun Bhar Aaye and hard-hitting (Yeh Lahu Kiska Hai, Yeh Kaun Maraa – what a beautiful song, as people killed each other in a frenzy, can they distinguish one corpse from the other as being Hindu or Muslim!)
Hmm, for now, watch a very pretty Mala Sinha and a young, charming Rehman in Asha’s emotional number:
5) Na Jao Saiyaan Chuda Ke Baiyaan (1962, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Hemant Kumar): What can I say about this classic? This deserves an entire post on itself.
One of the best Hindi movies ever made, this is based on the Bengali novel, Sahib Bibi Gholam by Bimal Mitra. Directed by Abrar Alvi (though Guru Dutt is said to have ghost-directed it), it stars Guru Dutt (the innocent, servant – Ghulam), Meena Kumari (in her greatest role as Chhoti Bahu – Biwi) and Rehman (as the debauched Chhote Babu – the Sahib). And There is Waheeda Rehman as a teasing, charming Jaba (the young Brahmo widow). The mesmerising music is by Hemant Kumar and the lyrics are by Shakeel Badayuni (Guru Dutt had wanted the Sahir-SDB team for this – but Sahir refused and SDB was not well). Each and every song is a classic.
This brilliant number (sung by Geeta Dutt) is picturised on Meena Kumari, drunk and desperate to make her husband stay with her and not go to the kotha. The Meena Kumari- Rehman scenes are all powerful scenes and they stay on even after the movie is over. Desperate to make her husband stay back, she wants to know what it is that she has to do to have him stay back. He taunts her – can she sing, dance, drink like the tawaifs? Oh yes, she can and she does – slipping into alcoholism. Meena Kumari conveys the appropriate pathos, Rehman – the apt contempt, interest, sometimes even lust.
6) Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke (1963, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke, Ravi): This 1963 Sunil Dutt production, directed by R.K. Nayyar, was based on the Nanavati scandal that rocked Mumbai in 1959. A young naval commander was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover. Here, you have Sunil Dutt as the naval commander; Leela Naidu plays his beautiful young wife and Rehman is the “lover” (in this movie, he is more of a cad who seduces this young lady!)
I located the DVD of this movie in a small shop in the streets of Cologne many years back (much to my joy, as I had been looking for it and wanted to watch it for this lovely title number and Sunil Dutt!) The movie was quite boring, if I remember right, but two of the songs stay on: this and the other one being the melodious Rafi-Asha duet, Yeh Khamoshiyan, Yeh Tanhaiyan.
Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke is said to be inspired from a Western tune, Amapola (though I did not find any resemblance.) It is picturised on Shashikala who loves Rehman; but Rehman is busy trying to woo Leela Naidu. Asha’s vocals and Ravi’s music is memorable – a very fine number!
7) Jis Pyaar Mein Yeh Haal Hai (1958, Phir Subah Hogi, Khayyam): I have written about Phir Subah Hogi and its wonderful songs earlier in my posts on Sahir. This rare Mohd Rafi-Mukesh duet is unlike the rest of the songs. It is a cynical take on love, albeit in a light-hearted vein. Rehman sees Raj Kapoor with Mala Sinha and is teasing them. Interesting song – it just shows Sahir’s mastery over his art – what an immaculate song-writer he was!
But this is a Rehman post, so here you go: Rehman singing 🙂
8) Kya Rang-e-Mehfil Hai (1966, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Naushad): This 1966 movie was the BW adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Dilip Kumar plays Heathcliff, Waheeda Rehman is Catherine and Rehman is Edgar Linton. Pran’s Hindley is very menacing, if I remember right.
The music was composed by Naushad and had some nice Rafi numbers- this one is a Lata solo picturised on Shashikala as she dances in a party. Rehman is playing the piano – very much in love with Waheeda as she stands by the piano.
9) Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1967, Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, Sonik-Omi): Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya was a complete disappointment when I got my hands on it some years back. I am fond of Dharmendra, Nutan and Rehman and had been wanting to watch this movie. But this turned out to be such a godawful movie! (I have a high tolerance for melodrama and general nonsensical, illogical stuff – but this one was a bit much.) I wonder what prompted them to act in this movie. This is worse than the 1966 Dulhan Ek Raat Ki – which was based on Hardy’s Tess and had the same three actors – another movie I did not quite like.
Some songs were quite good – this song featuring all the main characters and picturised in the pretty locales of Kashmir, has been sung melodiously by Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur and Mukesh.
10) Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu (1965, Waqt, Ravi): I end this list with one of my all time favourites (and a song that has probably figured many times on this blog!)
This Asha Bhosle classic, penned by Sahir and set to tune by Ravi is from the 1965 B.R.Chopra film, Waqt, directed by Yash Chopra. The story is at a crucial point when the song features in the movie. All the main characters – and there are lot of them (this was the first multi-starrer afterall) – are present at a party in Chinoy Seth’s house.
Rehman plays Chinoy Seth, the crook in the guise of a businessman and the employer of both Raaj Kumar and Shashi Kapoor.
The stage is set for something momentous to happen affecting all their lives – but what???
Rehman continued acting in films till the late seventies; a notable role was that of Suchitra Sen’s ambitious politico father in Aandhi (1975). However his best work was in the golden era of Hindi cinema. Rehman suffered three heart attacks in 1977 followed by a long battle with throat cancer. He died in Mumbai in 1984.