Today is the 77th birthday of one of Hindi cinema’s finest actresses, Waheeda Rehman. Born on 3rd February, 1938 in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu and blessed in abundance with immense talent and beauty, Waheeda Rehman is synonymous today with grace and charm. Active in Indian cinema since the 50s, she made her debut in a Telugu film, Jayasimha (1955). In the same year, she also acted (guest appearance in one song) in the Tamil film Kaalam Maari Pochu (1955), remade in Telugu as Rojulu Marayi (1956). Guru Dutt saw her in this song and thus began her tryst with stardom in Hindi cinema.
So how does one describe an actress such as Waheeda Rehman? Beautiful, graceful, dignified, she happened to be a very talented actress and a brilliant dancer to boot. In an illustrious career spanning five decades, her filmography is impeccable. If one were to make a list of top ten classic movies of all time, at the very least 3 of her movies (Pyaasa, Guide, Kaagaz ke phool) would be in it. This is no mean feat. So again, how does one describe such an actress?
As she turns 77, here are a list of my favourite songs picturised on her. Most of these songs (barring a couple) have her lip-synching on screen – I have thus left out several classic numbers (that have been sung to her and not by her) such as Chaudhvin ka chand ho, or Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hain or Yehi toh hai woh.
1) Kahin pe nigahein kahin pe nishana (CID, 1956, Shamshad Begum, OPN): This was her debut film in Hindi, where she played a vamp albeit with a golden heart. This song, popular till date, has her dancing to distract the villain so that the hero (Dev Anand) can escape. She looks lovely and dances charmingly. Quite an impressive debut.
There is an interesting anecdote she mentions to Nasreen Munni Kabir (in Conversations With Waheeda Rehman) about this song. She had initially put her foot down as the blouse given to her was see-through and had no lining. Everyone from Raj Khosla (the director, who apparently saw her work in CID and was unimpressed and commented that this would be her last film! He later saw Jaane kya tune kahi and asked Guru Dutt as to how she was this good here and so bad in CID. Guru Dutt is said to have quipped – She is raw and gets stiff. You need to make her relax.) to Zohra Sehgal (the choreographer) and Bhanu Athaiya (costume designer) tried their best to get her to wear it. But she remained stubborn. In frustration, Khosla (a director she never got along with and quarrelled with him on the sets of Solva Saal. Ironically he was the first choice to direct Guide, and Waheeda had almost rejected the role due to that!) called Guru Dutt (the producer) and complained about her. She again told him why she refused to wear it. When Guru Dutt explained to her that getting the lining stitched would take half a day and that Dev Anand had to rush to Switzerland (his wife, Mona was expecting and due to deliver any time), Waheeda said she would wear it if she is allowed to wear a dupatta on it. And so it was – she wore a dupatta and the song was shot.
2) Jaane kya tune kahi (Pyaasa, 1957, Geeta Dutt, SDB): This is not the first time and it wont be the the last time that this classic song from this masterpiece of a movie has featured in my list. Everything about this number (and actually all the songs of this movie) is perfect – be it the music by SDB, or Geeta Dutt’s alluring singing or Waheeda’s amazing acting. She is innocent, flirtatious and utterly charming – we are as enticed as Vijay babu (Guru Dutt) is by her. Simply enchanting.
3) Bhanwra bada nadaan (Sahib Bibi aur ghulam, 1962, Asha Bhosle, Hemant Kumar): If she was only flirtatious in the previous song, here she is mischievous and flirtatious as she teases the rustic Bhootnath. She is pretending to be writing a poem, where as all she is doing is laughing at him. She is a delight to watch (as is Asha Bhosle to listen to), as she teases that poor guy mercilessly. One of my favourite songs of all time. Contrast this to the other song picturised on Waheeda from the same movie – the emotional but equally beautiful Meri baat rahi mere man mein. Lovely.
4) Piya tose naina lage re (Guide, 1965, Lata Mangeshkar, SDB): This delightful song from one of Waheeda’s most popular movies, Guide, showcases her dancing talent to its fullest. It is common knowledge that she was signed to play Rosie in this movie (over Vyjayantimala) because she could dance. There are other dances in the movie that are equally memorable – the mesmerising snake dance or the dance to the lilting Saiyaan beimaan) But this has Waheeda, the dancer at her best – clad in different costumes for the various festivals, steps and styles. An enchanting song.
5) Sach hue sapne tere (Kala Bazar, 1960, Asha Bhosle, SDB): This movie is one of my favourite albums – each and every song is a classic, be it Rimjhim ke tarane leke aayi barsaat, Khoya khoya chand, Na main dhan chahoon, Sanjh dhali dil ki lagi or Apni toh har aah ek toofan hai.
This song, a solo by Asha Bhosle, has Waheeda prancing about in sheer abandon and joy. She is happy and wants to share her happiness with her dejected lover. The reason of her joy is also the reason of his dejection… or so he thinks! In a way this song is similar to Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai. In both, the woman is happy slowly getting rid of the relations that bind her. Her joy in both the songs (more so in this one) is infectious and catches on. By the end, her lover knows the truth and is also equally happy.
6) Na tum hamein jaano (Baat ek raat ki, 1962, Suman Kalyanpur, SDB): The Hemant Kumar version (with Suman K joining in) is the more popular version of this lovely song. It used to be a DD favourite and would air frequently on Chitrahaar and Rangoli. This lesser known version, sung by Suman Kalyanpur, has Waheeda Rehman (before she loses her memory in the movie) remember her lover in happier times (no, that is not Dev Anand). If I remember right, Waheeda plays an actress in love with her co-star. A murder is committed and she surrenders to the police or gets arrested. Dev Anand is the detective investigating the whole story. Watch this song as a gorgeous Waheeda Rehman listens to the song playing on the gramophone and remembering her days with her lover. Wonderful.
7) Haaye gazab kahin taara toota (Teesri Kasam, 1966. Asha Bhosle, Shankar-Jaikishen): Shailendra’s home production had Waheeda play a nautanki wali – giving her much scope for dance. While in Guide, the style of dancing was classical, this movie had her on stage dancing to nautanki numbers. Paan Khaye Saiyaan Hamaro is one of her most popular and finest dance numbers. But here is an equally good, but lesser known number from the same film. The singing and acting is fantastic.
8) Yeh Bhi Koi roothne ka mausam hain deewane (Solva Saal, 1958, Asha Bhosle, SDB): Other songs from this cute Dev Anand- Waheeda Rehman starrer are more popular till date – the lovely Hai apna dil toh awaara or the teasing Yehi toh hai woh yehi toh hai.
But do watch this cute Asha Bhosle song where Waheedaji is girlish, teasing and very sweet as she ‘manaos’ her upset lover. The dance in this song is rather casual, but her classical training comes through in the way she moves with the music.
9) O bekarar dil (Kohra, 1964, Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar): This Biren Nag directed 1964 remake of Rebecca was nothing to write home about. Its pluses however included a charming Waheeda who acted well, as usual and superb music by Hemant Kumar. Two of my all time favourite Hemant Kumar songs are from this movie – Yeh nayan dare dare (so romantic and gentle) and Raah bani khud manzil. Other songs are equally good – there is the haunting but beautiful Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat (the happy version is not filmed on Waheeda but the sad version is) and then there is this song…
10) Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam (Kaagaz ke phool, 1959, Geeta Dutt, SDB) and Tum pukar lo (Khamoshi, 1969, Hemant Kumar, Hemant Kumar): Ending the list with two memorable songs- both appear as background songs in the respective films. Both are heart-rending songs full of anguish and pain associated with unattainable love (in one) and unrequited love (in the other). What both the songs have in common besides the superlative music, lyrics, and singing is Waheeda Rehman’s stricken face, brimming with expressions. Mesmerising.
Before I end, just as a bonus, here is her dance number (Yaeru pooti poovaye from Kaalam Maari Poochu (remade into Telugu as Rojulu Marayi). This tune was adapted to in Hindi for the film Bambai Ka Babu, some years down the line. Here are the links for both the Tamil song picturised on Waheeda and the Hindi song picturised on Suchitra Sen.
Here is wishing Waheedaji many happy and healthy years to come. Happy Birthday!