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Waheeda Rehman to be honoured

 | November 19, 2013

She is the first recipient of Centenary Award of the Indian Film Personality of the Year.


By Gautaman Bhaskaran

One of the finest movie actresses India has ever had, Waheeda Rehman, will be honoured with the Centenary Award of the Indian Film Personality of the Year.

She will receive a cash prize of Rs 10 lakhs and a trophy on Nov 20 at the inaugural ceremony of the International Film Festival of India at Goa’s Panaji. The annual award has just been instituted, and Rehman will be the first recipient.

She has had a string of accolades coming her way. Some of India’s top civilian honours went to her – Padma Shri in 1972 and Padma Bhushan in 2011. She won the National Award for Best Actress in 1971 for Reshma and Shera, certainly not a great movie. And not her best performance either. Which was undoubtedly with Guru Dutt that came early in her career.

Pairing with Dutt –who is said to have been in love with Rehman – she was brilliant in films like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The pair’s chemistry was as haunting as the songs in these works, considered as some of the best the country has ever produced.

Dutt first saw Rehman in a 1955 Telugu movie, Rojulu Maraayi, whose Tamil version, Kaalam Maari Pochu, had her starring opposite Gemini Ganesh (called the King of Romance). Smitten by her, Dutt immediately offered her the role of a vamp in his 1956 CID.

Rehman certainly owed her meteoric rise – which followed CID – to Dutt: he was an exceptionally great director, a master indeed, who not only made films that were far ahead of his time, but created virtual poetry on celluloid. Movies like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Chaudhvin Ka Chand were fine works of art, and Rehman glowed in them. Along with Dutt of course, who also acted in some films?

But then no director can cage his actress. Rehman’s riveting performances caught the eye of other directors leading to a strained relationship with Dutt, and when his Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was panned at Berlin in 1963, their rift was complete. Dutt committed suicide a year later.

Probably, Dutt saw this coming as early as 1959, when he made Kaagaz Ke Phool, about a rising star and an auteur who helps her fly. The movie ends with the helmer, out of work and shunned, walking into an empty studio to die on the director’s chair.

Like Rehman’s character in Kaagaz Ke Phool, she went on to attain great glory after Dutt’s death, acting with some of the most sought-after leading men of the time, like Dev Anand (Kala Bazar, Guide), Dilip Kumar (Dil Diya Dard Liya, Ram Aur Shyam), Raj Kapoor (Teesri Kasam) and Biswajeet (Bees Saal Baad). Most importantly, she was cast as the warm and vivacious prostitute, Gulabi, in Satyajit Ray’s Bengali work, Abhijan.

Rehman, who was born in Chengalpattu, near Chennai (and not in Hyderabad as is commonly perceived), in 1936, and who now lives in Mumbai, richly deserves the award.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He will be covering the International Film Festival of India for the 25th year, may be emailed at [email protected]


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