How does an actor leave her mark when surrounded by the very talented Meena Kumari or the beautiful Madhubala? And yet all it takes is one look at Waheeda Rehman’s filmography, over the late 50s, and 60s to know that she was in a league of her own. The actor turns 82 today and continues to inspire us even in the ninth decade of her life.

Some Facts About Rehman:

  • Born on 3rd February 1938 in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, Rehman was the youngest of four sisters.
  • Rehman won a national award for her performance in the film Reshma Aur Shera (1971). She has also been conferred with Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award.
  • Rehman has been in news for turning into a wildlife photographer at the age of 81.
  • Whether it is playing unconventional roles or challenging social stigma around ageing, Rehman continues to inspire women to follow their hearts and not be bound by stereotypes.

That is how most of us remember her, dancing with much abandon and poise amidst ruins in her sky blue saree. The soothing elegance to her presence makes her timeless.

The first film of Waheeda Rehman that I ever watched was Guide. I must have not been older than 10, but I still remember her singing “Aaj fir jeene ki tamanna hai,” atop a truck, on a heap of hay, somehow managing to look regal amidst such chaos. The immemorial song is a legacy of Rehman, as much it is of Lata Mangeshkar. That is how most of us remember her, dancing with much abandon and poise amidst ruins in her sky blue saree. The soothing elegance to her presence makes her timeless. And while she moved from leading roles to playing supporting characters over decades, time has failed to dim the aura of her grace.

Also Read: At 81, Actor Waheeda Rehman Turns Wildlife Photographer

Making her Hindi film debut with the film CID in a supporting role, Rehman caught the attention of the nation, when she starred as the leading lady in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957), further collaborating with him on projects such as Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), that went to become cult classics. However, it was with films like Guide (1965), Teesri Kasam (1966), and Neelkamal (1968) that Rehman tasted full-fledged commercial success and eventual stardom, making her one of the few truly talented female actors of the time that deserved to be celebrated. Rehman went on to win a National Award for the film Reshma Aur Shera (1971).

Whether it is on-screen or off-screen, Rehman has inspired women to challenge social stigmas and do what their heart wants.

Coming back to Guide, it wasn’t common for heroines to take up such unconventional roles in the 60s. Which is why Rosie from Guide was such a risqué gamble on Rehman’s part. A married woman who elopes with another man, Rehman chose to play such a character in an era where infidelity and women leaving husbands, no matter how worthless or abusive, was a taboo. But Rehman played this unconventional role, long before Sharmila Tagore played an unwed mother in Aradhana (1969); perhaps two of boldest female roles written in the said decade in Hindi cinema.

Also Read: Women Over Seventy Are Proving That Ageing Doesn’t Mean Slowing Down

Rehman was in the news a few months ago when it came to light that she had turned into a wildlife photographer,  travelling to Kutch, Arunachal Pradesh, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Turkey, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands to take pictures. Well into the ninth decade of her life, Rehman wants to try out scuba diving next.

Whether it is on-screen or off-screen, Rehman has inspired women to challenge social stigmas and do what their heart wants. Instead of waiting for social approval, women must challenge stigmas around career choices, age, marriage etc head-on. Social approval follows, automatically.

Picture By: Box Office Capsule

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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