An Artiste Remembers

With a few days to go before Waheeda Rehman is conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival,she narrates her journey in the industry and her roles as a wife and mother

Written by Alaka Sahani | Published:October 17, 2012 1:28 am

With a few days to go before Waheeda Rehman is conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival,she narrates her journey in the industry and her roles as a wife and mother

The world inside Sahil — Waheeda Rehman’s Bandra Bandstand-facing bungalow in Mumbai — is that of understated elegance. Soft colours adorn sofas and couches. Dimly-lit lamps add to their softness as dainty artefacts ensure a touch of élan. Plants,lined up in the adjacent balcony,however,break the dominance of earthy tones.

The atmosphere matches the persona of Rehman. And that may not be a coincidence. The yesteryear actor has always embodied grace. Proof: a large watercolour portrait of the actor,painted in 1961,on the living room wall. It captures her in a moderately-embellished black-and-white sari and simple,yet chic,jewellery. Seated in her enclosed patio,she does not appear very different from that image — barring her short grey hair and a few lines on her face.

She beams in response to the compliments regarding her home’s décor. “My daughter Kashvi has done it up,” says Rehman,now a full-time mother and homemaker. The actor had moved to a farmhouse near Bengaluru after her marriage to actor-turned-businessman Shashi Rakhi in 1974. His illness,however,brought her back to Mumbai nearly 12 years ago. “Medical facilities are better here,” she says. After Rakhi’s death,running the household and looking after her children (she also has a son,Sohail) takes up her time. “I keep myself very busy with the house and spend time with friends. We watch movies together,mostly when Salim Khan and Helen (who live in the same compound) hold private screenings,” she says.

However,after the announcement that she will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF),which opens on October 18,the focus is back on the actor’s life and career. Yet,she is hardly the one to look back. “I am happy with good memories. I don’t dwell on bad ones like losing my parents at an early age,my husband and other close relatives. I try to live in the present,” she says. Yet,she is not immune to the gnawing regret that most artistes share. “I could have done better,” she says.

This is a feeling she experiences whenever she watches any of her movies. However,this thought is overpowering in the case of Guide,which she terms as her “favourite”. “I could have worked on the dance movements,” says the actor. In spite of her early training in Bharatnatyam,she did not get too many opportunities to show her art till Guide (1957). This,according to her,was the result of an image of an intense actor that Pyaasa (1965) created. Post Guide,movies such as Teesri Kasam (1966) and Neel Kamal (1968) had sequences showcasing her dance.

The movie that remains closest to her heart is Khamoshi (1969). Now considered to be a classic,it did not receive an enthusiastic response then. Reshma and Shera (1971),where she acted opposite one of her favourite co-stars,Sunil Dutt,too,remains close to her for similar reasons.

Part of the industry for nearly six decades,she is appreciative of the technical leap Bollywood has made and other changes. “Present-day filmmakers plan the movie in advance. This helps in developing the characters,” she says. But she misses the slow pace of making movies and music in the yore. “There was no rush or city-to-city promotion at that time,” she says.

Rehman enjoys the distinction of having worked with a wide range of directors and actors. That’s mainly because she has been open to experimentation and willing to step out of her comfort zone. She singles out the bilingual movie Trisandhya (Hindi and Malayalam),produced by NFDC that never got a release,Asit Sen’s Khamoshi and Satyajit Ray-directed Abhijan (1962) as some of her experimental works. “An artiste should be able to do anything. If producers and directors were willing to handle an interesting subject,I had no qualms,” says Rehman,who was mostly guided by her “emotional instincts”.

She may not have a movie in hand. However,characteristically,she remains open to interesting roles.

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