Chaudhvin Ka Chand
Waheeda Rehman in an expansive and sentimental mood relived memories of another day.
|Monojit Lahiri meets up with the still-gorgeous Waheeda Rehman at hersea-front flat in Bandra’s Bandstand in Mumbai. Suddenly, it was yesterday again. In an expansive and sentimental mood, the star of such memorable blockbuster classics as CID, Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool, Chaudvin ka Chand, Guide, Ram Aur Shyam, Mujhe Jeene Do, Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam, Dil Diya Dard Liya, Khamoshi, Kabhie Kabhie, Adalat, Chandni, Lamhe, relived memories of another day.
Amitabh Bachchan was crazy about her. Imran Khan admired her. Guru Dutt discovered, shaped and made her. Dev Anand shared amazing vibes, both personally and professionally, with her. Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor spent memorable screen time with her. Satyajit Ray, Rakyesh Mehra, Aparna Sen, Deepa Mehta … they’ve all been charmed by her. Audiences — across generations and continents wherever Hindi films are shown — remain diehard fans of this iconic star who defined grace, dignity, charm, beauty and feminism.
TO GURU DUTT, HITS AND FLOPS DIDN’T MATTER. ARTISTIC VISION AND INTEGRITY WAS EVERYTHING.
When people ask me whether Guru Dutt was considered a hot director in his lifetime — or whether he was aware of his talents — my answer is No. He certainly was recognized as a good director, but, frankly speaking, there was not an iota of the aura of greatness or cult status that his name is associated with today. Pyaasa was a big hit, both commercially and critically. Kagaz ke Phool was a dismal box-office dud, but a critically acclaimed piece of work. My personal view is that, in many respects, he was well ahead of his times and this is why today his entire body of work is considered truly great. He never cared for box-office glory. He was a truly creative soul forever burning in the fire of his passion to transport cinema as an art form to the next level; celebrate cinema that touches both the head and heart. Sensitive and caring, he treated his unit members with kid gloves and ensured everybody enjoyed the highest comfort levels. He was truly a unique person and I was privileged to have learnt a lot from him.
DEV ANAND WAS SOMEONE VERY SPECIAL … ACTING WITH HIM WAS GREAT!
I can never forget that my first Hindi movie was with Dev Anand. He was very helpful, co-operative and never for a moment flashed attitude despite being a major star and me, being a newcomer. For me, this was a blissful experience, because I was a huge fan of Dev! Over time I did a whole lot of films with him mainly because once you are a successful star-pair, film-makers tend to repeat your jodi hoping that the magic continues. I must tell you how Guide happened to me. Initially, neither Tad (the director for the English version) not Chetan Anand (director for the Hindi version) wanted me. The American director had Leela Naidu in mind and Chetan Saab, Priya Rajvanshi. Dev (Producer) and Nav Ketan cast me, they didn’t have a choice and this upset them. I felt both awkward and humiliated and repeatedly requested Dev to release me, but he was adamant. The role of Rosy demanded a dancer and he insisted that I was perfectly cast. I asked him whether Goldie Anand could be considered, but since he was busy, he was out. Suddenly, providence struck! Chetan saab walked out, Goldie was available and in he came! The rest is history. It was a very bold and daring film in its time — the sixties — and many people advised me to refuse Rosy’s role since it was something that defied convention. I didn’t , because it was challenging and what’s life without exciting creative leaps.
WORKING WITH RAJ-JI AND DILIP-SAAB WAS INTERSTING AND REWARDING. THEY WERE A STUDY IN CONTRAST.
Right at the outset, let me state that it was an honor to work with giants like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. We had grown up watching their films! Dilip Saab — beyond his own role — took an active interest in others roles and was full of helpful advice as to how to better his/her performance. He saw each project as a collaborative exercise and believed that with his experience he could guide people involved towards upgrading their levels. Raj-ji was the exact opposite. He was of the belief that — no matter how cockeyed the director was going — he wouldn’t open his mouth to make a suggestion or offer advice, because, once he put on make-up, his job was to act. Nothing more — nothing less! Of course that didn’t stop him from grumbling about how silly and incompetent the director was! However, in their respective fashion, both were amazing professionals.
SUNIL, RAJENDRA, DHARAM, MANOJ … I WORKED HAPPILY WITH THEM ALL.
I was fortunate to have worked with several leading men, across generations. It was interesting to see the awe — Dilip Saab especially — evoked among the next generation. Rajendra Kumar and Manoj Kumar are excellent examples of what I mean. Sunil Dutt and Dharmendra, however, chose to cut their own path. They admired and respected the big three, but didn’t want to copy them. They were all good and very successful actors and fine human beings. I enjoyed my movies with them.
YES, THERE WAS RAJESH AND AMITABH TOO, LATER, …
I first worked with Rajesh Khanna in Khamoshi. It was way before he became a super-star. Thereafter, I slowed down and didn’t have any opportunity to work opposite him as a romantic lead. Amitabh of course was a different story! I first met and interacted with him on the sets of Reshma Aur Shera He had a small role of a dumb person, but I thought his eyes were amazingly expressive and he performed brilliantly. In cinema, eyes play a crucial part in the overall body language. Of course, he had a voice to die for and when he spoke, you just wanted him to go on forever! At that point, unfortunately, his films were not doing well at the box-office and he was struggling to break in. I used to tell filmmakers to take him, because he had the potential and talent — all he needed was that one big hit. Soon enough, that happened and Amitabh hasn’t looked back. To me, he hasn’t changed one bit and despite being such a huge mega-star — the Big B! — he has always remained polite, courteous, respectful. I am extremely fond of the entire Bachchan clan. I knew Jaya before she was married and Abhishek is certainly a fabulous chip off the old block. Cultured, sophisticated, refined and yet totally rooted and down-to-earth with a whacky sense of mischief and fun, Amitabh and family are a wonderful lot. More power to their upward surge!
HOW DO I COMPARE MY TIME WITH TODAY? HMMM… LET ME SEE.
Personally I am of the belief that it is unfair to compare generations, because each have their very own individual strengths and limitations, which characterizes the time, era, environment. When I started out, few films were made and directors were hesitant to cast newcomers. They were very comfortable with the existing stars and didn’t feel it necessary to take risks and rock the boat. It was a simple, uncomplicated and organized workspace with each star doing his/her own thing. Also there was place for everybody and ample time for story-sessions, discussions and working at a leisurely pace with lots of care and attention in the director-actor front. Love, dedication and passion ruled.
Today, everything is on a frightening fast-forward. There are zillions and new kids on the block, straining at the leash to break-in. There are scores of acting schools — covering all categories — honing the skills of desperate, wannabe stars. There are Miss Worlds and Miss Universes’ tumbling out of the woodwork and into Bollywood. The competition is scary. The budgets and star salaries are getting more and more unbelievable. The expectations of the audience are sky-high. Tension is the key. No one knows what will succeed. I sometimes wonder how these kids — amidst all this madness still manage to do ad commercials, World Tours and turn in good performance in movies. Full marks to them. Mein to pagal ho jaati!