Describing Waheeda Rehman as a ‘pioneer’ who ‘liberated women across the world’, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra wrote fondly about the veteran actor, who turned 84 on Thursday. Mehra has directed her in films such as Rang De Basanti and Delhi-6.
In an essay for Pinkvilla, the filmmaker recalled memories of working with her, and remembered how warm anecdotes, such as the one time she prepared pizzas for them when he was narrating the script of RDB to her, or when he asked her to autograph a Kaagaz Ke Phool laserdisk for him.
He also recalled a story about her, when they were filming a sequence for Delhi-6 at the dead of the night in Rajasthan, in freezing temperatures. He wrote, “I vividly recall one night when we were shooting in the desolated ghost town of Sambar in Rajasthan for Delhi-6. We had constructed a set of a temple under a tree. It was December and the desert chill recorded minus 4 degrees! Om Puri, Rishi Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan, Prem Chopra, Vijay Raaz, Atul Kulkarni, Divya Dutta, K.K. Raina… an eclectic group of artistes sat in the temple set as it was less windy there. It was 2 am and to keep up the morale, I said, ‘Let’s have tea.’”
He continued, “Suddenly, I noticed that Waheedaji was standing bare feet on the marble floor of the temple. Taken aback, I asked her why she wasn’t wearing anything on her feet while everyone had double socks, sweaters and shawls. She replied, ‘Woh mandir hain na (We’re in a temple, aren’t we)!” I said, “Ma’m woh mandir ka ‘set’ hai (It’s just a set)!” She reasoned, “Hai toh mandir hi na mere dil mein (But in my heart, it’s still a temple)” How do you view this beautiful thought? This is about respecting someone else’s belief and making it your own.”
Waheeda Rehman has worked in films across genres and languages in her over seven-decade-long career. She is best known for films such as Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. She won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance in Reshma Aur Shera.