Waheeda Rehman has by far been one of the most outstanding Indian actresses, and therefore when the government decided to confer the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award on her for her outstanding achievements in the cinematic world, it came as no surprise. In fact, the honour should have been hers many years ago and even though it has come late, her fans are delighted.
Considered to be a protégé of the late Guru Dutt, the exceptional film maker, who passed away prematurely, Waheeda excelled in various kind of roles, which are deeply etched in the minds of filmgoers. She considers Dev Anand’s “Guide’’ as amongst the best films, she has done though her admirers found her equally good in “Kagaz ke Phool’’, “Khamoshi’’, “Chaudvin ka Chand’’ and “Teesri Kasam’’. Super Star Amitabh Bachchan is a huge fan of the actress, who is amongst the very few who have acted opposite the legendary trio of Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar.
Vyjayantimala, her senior and who should also be considered for the Phalke award, is perhaps the only one from that era who also shares this distinction. Mala Sinha was equally talented and was preferred by Guru Dutt over many others for the roles in his films, and is in the line, as is Kamini Kaushal, the celebrated star of yesteryears. Waheeda’s USP was her understated portrayals, as she seemed to completely merge with the characters, she played on the silver screen.
She made her debut in Hindi films, in “CID’’ directed for Guru Dutt by Raj Khosla in a small role since the film’s leading actress was Shakila. Incidentally, Mehmood too was first noticed in this movie which went on to become a big hit, thanks to the plot and some memorable music composed by O.P.Nayyar. In “Ram Aur Shyam’’ she held on to her own opposite Dilip Kumar, and her performance did not go unnoticed. It was a long struggle since she arrived in Bollywood when Meena Kumari and Nargis were at their peak and Madhubala and Geeta Bali had made their mark as gifted actresses.
It has been often argued that the women stars have always found it difficult to be considered for big awards. This statement may be largely true, but then when Waheeda was chosen for the honour, many critics fell silent. There has been a view that she should have got this award before Asha Parekh, her close friend but these things often happen. There are many top performers and personalities, who have not received this ultimate recognition in their profession.
When the Phalke award was instituted, there was a debate on whether it should be V.Shantaram or someone else. The jury of that time, after much deliberation chose Devika Rani, the first heroine of the Indian cinema and there was criticism over Shantaram being overlooked. He was eventually chosen subsequently but the controversy persisted for a long time. There has also been many who feel why many top composers of the golden era were not chosen for this award.
Shankar Jaikishen for instance ruled the world of music for 22 years and many of their fans are of the opinion that had there been no SJ, there would have been no Raj Kapoor; the big attraction of his movies was the music provided by them. Even for Bharat Ratna, there are those in the film world who wonder why both Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar were never considered despite the fact that they were phenomenal in their respective eras. Coming back to Waheeda, she was in two minds when “Guide’’ was offered to her but Dev Anand was able to convince her. Filmmaker Chetan Anand, who was to direct the film, found her unsuitable and conveyed this to his younger brother, who despite the opposition decided to do the movie with Waheeda. Instead, he asked his younger brother, Vijay Anand, to direct the film, leaving out Chetan. Waheeda put out a performance of her life time and the picturization of “Kanto se Kheench ke ye Aanchal’’ composed by Sachin Dev Burman and rendered by Lata Mangeshkar was one of the many highpoints of the film.
Even in the 1970s, Waheeda continued to make her mark and her performance in Yash Chopra’s “Kabhie Kabhie’’ stood out. Waheeda has always played down her relationship with Guru Dutt and evades the topic whenever it is brought up in various interviews with her. She chooses to only speak about her films and the various people she has worked with. She is also a very accomplished dancer and a complete actor who even at her age keeps herself busy and agile. Waheeda is an inspiration for many upcoming actors and is well regarded by one and all. Her fans wish her the best of health and happiness for the rest of her life.