Waheeda Rehman

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Waheeda Rehman
Waheeda Rehman (cropped).jpg
Rehman in 2019
Born (1938-02-03) 3 February 1938 (age 83)[1][2][3]
  • Actress
  • dancer
Years active1955–present
(m. 1974; died 2000)

Waheeda Rehman (born 3 February 1938) is an Indian actress and dancer. Regarded as one of Hindi cinema's most influential actresses, Rehman's accolades include a National Film Award and three Filmfare Awards; she has received significant media coverage across her film career.[4][5][6][7] The Government of India honoured Rehman with the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan in 1972 and 2011 respectively.

Rehman made her acting with the Telugu film Rojulu Marayi (1955), and rose to prominence with her collaborations with filmmaker Guru Dutt: the romantic dramas Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), the Muslim social film Chadhvin Ka Chand (1960) and the drama Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Rehman had her breakthrough with the drama Guide (1965), for which she received critical acclaim and a Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She won the award again for her performance in the thriller Neel Kamal (1968), and additionally earned nominations for her roles in the comedy Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and the drama Khamoshi (1970).

For portraying a clanswoman in the crime drama Reshma Aur Shera (1971), Rehman won the National Film Award for Best Actress. From the early 1970s, Rehman has worked primarily in supporting roles, appearing in the romance Phagun (1973), the drama Kabhi Kabhie (1976), and the musicals Chandni (1989) and Lamhe (1991). In 1994, she was honored with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, and she has since worked sporadically in film. Apart from her acting career, Rehman is a philanthropist. She is an advocate for education and is an ambassador for Rang De, an organisation combating poverty in India.

Early life[edit]

Waheeda Rehman was born on 3 February 1938 to a Dakhini Muslim family in Chengalpet of present-day Tamil Nadu, India. It is a common misconception that Rehman was born in Hyderabad instead of Tamil Nadu.[8] Her father was Mohammed Abdur Rehman and her mother was Mumtaz Begum, and she was the youngest out of 4 daughters.[9] As a child, she and her sisters were trained Bharatanatyam in Chennai.[10] She studied in St. Joseph's Convent in Visakhapatnam when her father was posted there in the then-Madras Presidency. Her father, who worked as a district commissioner, died in 1951 while she was in her early teens.[11][12]

Rehman's dream was to become a doctor, but due to her family's circumstances emotionally and financially, alongside her mother's illness, she abandoned her goal. In order to help her family, she accepted movie offers that stemmed from her dancing abilities.[13] Rehman's first performance on stage as a dancer in earlier days was at Brahmapur's Ganjam Kala Parishad organised by her uncle Dr. Ferose Ali who was a famous doctor and social activist in Brahmapur.

Acting career[edit]

1955–1962: Early roles and breakthrough[edit]

Rehman in Pyaasa (1957)

Rehman made her film debut with the 1955 Telugu films Rojulu Maraayi and Jayasimha. For the former, she appeared as a dancer in an item number. In the year following, Rehman made a cameo in the Tamil film Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (1956). Based on the folktale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, it is the first Tamil film to be colourised.[14] Her performances caught the eye of Hindi filmmaker Guru Dutt, whom Rehman consider her mentor.[15] Dutt brought her to Bombay (current-day Mumbai) and cast her as Kamini in the Hindi film C.I.D. (1956). Because of actresses such as Madhubala, Nargis and Meena Kumari, Rehman was asked to use a stage name, reasoning that her name should be "something sexy" however she refused to do, and kept her birth name.[16] Dutt would next cast her in her first lead role in Pyaasa (1957), where she portrayed a prostitute; the film was a commercial success, and it has been regarded by critics as one of the greatest films ever made.[17][18]

Continued collaborations with Dutt include the noir film 12 O'Clock (1958)[19] and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), both of which obtained critical praise.[20] From the mid 1950's, Rehman also established a working relationship with Dev Anand. They had a number of successful films to their credit which include Solva Saal (1958); Suresh Kohli of The Hindu writes on her performance in Solva Saal, "Though barely 20 then and only in her fourth Hindi release, Waheeda Rehman demonstrates her class: both in serious scenes demanding intensity and through sparkling, mischievous eye movements during lighter moments."[21] Rehman and Dutt's last collaboration was the drama film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), which starred Dutt, Meena Kumari, and Rehman herself in a supporting role.[22] The movie was a resounding success, being lauded by both Indian and international critics.[23] This earned Rehman her first Filmfare nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress,[24] meanwhile the film itself received nominations for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival and won the Filmfare Award for Best Film.[25]

1963–1970: Critical recognition and Guide[edit]

Dutt broke his collaboration with Rehman due to personal struggles, later dying in 1964. The actress next ventured into Bengali film-making with Satyajit Ray's film Abhijan (1962).[26] Following this, she played a murder suspect in Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), a girl embroiled in a sibling feud in Rakhi (1962) and an infertile woman in Ek Dil Sau Afsane (1963). As a leading lady, she was cast opposite of many familiar faces of Hindi Cinema; notably, this includes Sunil Dutt in Mujhe Jeene Do (1962), Nirupa Roy in Kaun Apna Kaun Paraya (1963) and Biswajit in the horror film Kohraa (1964), the drama film Majboor (1964), and the psychological-thriller Bees Saal Baad (1962)—the latter becoming the highest-grossing Hindi film of 1962.[27] At the end of 1964, Rehman became the third-highest paid actress in Bollywood, from 1959 to 1964.

(L-R) Nanda, Waheeda Rehman, Helen and Sadhana

Vijay Anand's magnum opus, the 1965 romantic drama Guide was an adaptation of the same book written by R. K. Narayan, published in 1958.[28] Rehman starred as Rosie, a rebellious, strong-willed wife of an unfaithful archaeologist. She stated that the role proved difficult for her, particularly because it went outside of film stereotypes at the time.[29] Guide was a moderate commercial success, peaking as the fifth-highest grossing Hindi film of 1965, and it opened to high critical acclaim where Rehman's performance was lauded. Trisha Gupta of Hindustan Times writing, "Rosie was triply unusual: a woman who walks out of an unhappy marriage, begins a romantic relationship with a man who isn’t her husband, and simultaneously embarks on a successful career as a dancer. She would be an unusual Hindi film heroine even today..."[30] and ranked her performance amongst Bollywood's best. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress, and soon after, she became a sought-over actress in the latter half of the 1960s. Guide went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film and became India's official entry to the Oscars, though it did not get nominated. It has obtained a cult following, and is considered Rehman's signature film performance.[31]

Rehman's peak continued when she was paired with other well-established superstars, namely Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Rajesh Khanna. Among her most acclaimed films of late 1960s include Teesri Kasam (1966) which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Neel Kamal (1968) and Khamoshi (1969). The last three films each earned Rehman consecutive nominations for Filmfare Award for Best Actress each, winning[32] for Neel Kamal. In her praised role in Khamoshi starring alongside Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra, she plays a nurse who goes mentally insane after falling in love with one of her patients, and eventually is sent to her own mental institution. Other commercial successes of this period were Patthar Ke Sanam (1967) and Aadmi (1968). At the end of the 1960s, Rehman ranked a new record amongst herself in becoming the second-paid actress in Bollywood, from 1964 to 1969. She states herself, "For Solva Saal, my first film as a freelancer, I received ₹30,000. The highest I ever earned in my career was 7 lakh for a film."[33]

1974–present: Sabbatical and sporadic film work[edit]

For headlining the film Reshma Aur Shera (1971), Rehman won the National Film Award for Best Actress, which is India's equivalent to the Academy Award for Best Actress. Rehman began experimenting with roles at this stage of career. She accepted Reshma Aur Shera in 1971 which received nominations for the Golden Bear at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival and garnered her praise from critics, however the film failed at the box office. Rehman accepted the offer to play a mother to Jaya Bhaduri in Phagun (1973). In her new innings from the '70s, her successful films include Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Trishul (1978), Jwalamukhi (1980), Naseeb (1981), Namkeen and Dharam Kanta (1982), Namak Halaal (1982), Coolie (1983), Mashaal (1984), Chandni (1989) and Lamhe (1991). Kabhi Kabhie, Namkeen, Chandni and Lamhe garnered her nominations for Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Film expert Rajesh Subramanian reported that Manmohan Desai had approached Rehman, on behalf of Shammi Kapoor, during the making of Naseeb (1981). In the song "John Jani Janardhan", Shammi Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman make a grand-entry holding hands. Incidentally this was the first time the two stars appeared together on screen. After her appearance in Lamhe (1991), she announced a sabbatical.

Rehman in 2012

Initially, Rehman was supposed to play the role of frequent co-star Amitabh Bachchan's mother in Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001). However, after having shot a few scenes, she dropped out of the film due to her husband's death in November 2000. Subsequently, her role then was then played by Jaya Bachchan. In recent years, she has played motherly roles in Om Jai Jagadish (2002), Water (2005), 15, Park Avenue (2005), Rang De Basanti (2006) and Delhi 6 (2009) all of which received critical acclaim. In 2011, she was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Bhushan, and in 2013 with the Cenetary Award for Indian Film Personality for her contribution to Indian Cinema. A biography has been written and published in 2014 about Rehman, entitled Conversations With Waheeda Rehman,[34] which consist of interviews collected by author and director Nasreen Munni Kabir.

Personal life[edit]

In April 1974, Rehman married Shashi Rekhi (also known by his screen name Kamaljeet),[35] and both had worked together prior in the film Shagoon (1964). She has 2 children: Sohail Rekhi and Kashvi Rekhi, both of them are writers. After her marriage, she lived in a farmhouse in Bangalore but after the death of her husband on 21 November 2000, she moved back to her ocean-view bungalow in Bandra, Mumbai, where she currently resides.

Rehman is private about her life and seldom speaks about it, as said in an interview at the launch of Conversations with Waheeda Rehman: "I don’t want to get into it. My private life should remain private. It is nobody’s business. I know we are public figures, so when I fight with my husband, do you want to know about it?"[36]

Works and accolades[edit]


Awards and nominations[edit]

List of awards and nominations received by Waheeda Rehman
Year Film Award Category Result
1962 Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
1965 Guide Filmfare Awards Best Actress Won
1965 Guide Chicago international film festival Best Actress Won
1966 Teesri Kasam BFJA Awards Best Actress (Hindi) Won
1967 Ram Aur Shyam Filmfare Awards Best Actress Nominated
1968 Neel Kamal Filmfare Awards Won
1970 Khamoshi Filmfare Awards Nominated
1971 Reshma Aur Shera National Film Awards Best Actress Won
1976 Kabhi Kabhie Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
1982 Namkeen Filmfare Awards Nominated
1989 Chandni Filmfare Awards Nominated
1991 Lamhe Filmfare Awards Nominated

Awards references:[37][38][32][39][40][41][42][43][44][45]


Honours references:[46][47]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kabir, Nasreen Munni (2014). Conversations with Waheeda Rehman. Penguin India. ISBN 978-06-70086-92-4.


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  3. ^ "Rahman, waheeda, 1938". id.loc. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
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  10. ^ Guru Dutt was my mentor: Waheeda/
  11. ^ Gulzar, p. 22
  12. ^ "Interview with Waheeda Rehman". 5 August 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  13. ^ Britannica, Encyclopedia (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 9788179910665.
  14. ^ Modern Theatres (14 January 1956). Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum 1956 Songbook.
  15. ^ "How Guru Dutt Discovered Legendary Actress Waheeda Rehman". www.msn.com. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Was a stubborn newcomer in industry: Waheeda Rehman". The Economic Times. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  17. ^ "BoxOffice India.com". 2 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  18. ^ An, Gautam (27 November 2014). "'Pyaasa' (1957) is an Eternal Classic. Here's Why". The Cinemaholic. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  19. ^ "Filmfare recommends: Best Bollywood noir films of the '50s". filmfare.com. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  20. ^ Sood, Samira (16 May 2020). "Kaagaz Ke Phool is Guru Dutt's masterclass in filmmaking and heartbreak". ThePrint. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  21. ^ Kohli, Suresh (30 August 2012). "Solva Saal (1958)". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Raise a Glass for the Lady". The Indian Express. 11 March 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
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  26. ^ IANS (9 April 2014). "'Conversations With Waheeda Rehman' : The endearing story of a remarkable actress (Book Review)". Business Standard India. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  27. ^ Britannica, Encyclopedia (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5.
  28. ^ "rediff.com, Movies: Classics Revisited: Guide". www.rediff.com. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  29. ^ "'Guide' was a challenge for me: Waheeda Rehman - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  30. ^ "60 years of RK Narayan's The Guide: A tale ahead of its time". Hindustan Times. 27 October 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Time Magazine". Time: Guide (1965). Archived from the original on 30 October 2010.
  32. ^ a b "The Winners – 1968". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  33. ^ Gupta, Trisha. "In her own name". @businessline. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  34. ^ Kabir, Nasreen Munni (15 March 2015). Conversations with Waheeda Rehman. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789351186427.
  35. ^ "Kamaljit Singh". IMDB. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
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  38. ^ 32nd Annual BFJA Awards
  39. ^ "Reshma Aur Shera 1971". The Hindu. 25 October 2008. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
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  41. ^ "The Nominations – 1967". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  42. ^ "The Nominations – 1970". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 23 March 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  43. ^ "The Nominations – 1976". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  44. ^ "The Nominations – 1982". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  45. ^ "The Nominations – 1991". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  46. ^ "Lifetime Achievement (Popular)". Filmfare Awards. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  47. ^ "Brajesh Mishra, Azim Premji, Montek in list of 128 Padma awardees". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2011.


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