the-south-asian.com June/July 2004
- still alluring & selective
The screen-idol of the 60s, Waheeda Rehman is not lured by the attractive offers pouring in from films and television. She is selective about her on-screen roles. Winner of many film awards, she is also a successful entrepreneur and a health freak. She plays a with-it granny in Anuj Sawhney's Brides Wanted.
Much in demand in Bollywood, yet picking and choosing only those roles that catch her fancy, Waheeda Rehman is more than a screen idol - she is also a successful entrepreneur and owns
Good Earth Foods and Farm House Cerealsó breakfast foods packed with almonds, raisins, figs, dates, whole oats, wheat, corn, rice, honey and molasses.
But she has not bid goodbye to films. She was to star in Karan Joharís Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham but due to the sudden death of her husband she had to opt out. She later played the mother of Anil Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan and Fardeen Khan in Anupam Kherís Om Jai Jagdish.
Now after a gap of two years this golden girl of the fifties and sixties is all set to play yet another unusual role - that of a modern-day grandmother in Brides Wanted.
"Itís the role of an on-the-go and an up-beat granny whose mental age is no more than that of her young grandson who is bride-hunting. " Itís really exciting. I have never played a character quite like this. It was a great experience," says Waheeda.
Interestingly, the makers of Brides Wanted are promoting the film on her name. "I feel honoured by their gesture. It isnít all about me but my director and producers are still calling it my film," she says.
She and Girish Karnad play grandparents to the young actor Anuj Sawhney who is looking for a perfect match for himself. Rather then imposing their choice on him they try and understand what todayís generation wants. So she and her husband go looking for a young lady who would complement their grandson. But in the process they land themselves in funny situations.
Waheeda Rehman, who has worked with the legends of Hindi cinema including Guru Dutt (Pyasaa, Kagaz Ke Phool, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam), Dev Anand (CID, Guide), Raj Kapoor (Teesri Kasam) and Dilip Kumar (Ram Aur Shyam), says she is still a directorís actress. The directorís word is final. "I follow my directorís commands on the set as he is the person who knows exactly what he wants from his actors. And as far as the question of newcomers is concerned I enjoy working with them. They bring in lots of energy and enthusiasm to filmmaking," says Waheeda.
The debutant director of Brides Wanted Girish Acharya is overwhelmed by her dedication and commitment to work. "Not for a moment did she make me feel I was a newcomer and she was one of the greatest heroines of Hindi cinema. She would simply act the way I told her to act," says the director.
Today Waheeda is not lured by the attractive offers pouring in from films and television. "No Iíd hate to do tear-jerking motherly roles. I much rather prefer to meet up with old friends over a lunch and be with my son Sohail and daughter Kashvi."
A recipient of the National Award for Reshma aur Shera (1971) and three Filmfare awards, Waheeda feels her best performance was in Guide, "That still remains my personal favourite. I just fell in love with Rosie - the character I played. The character had so much emotional depth and the dances were just amazing," reminisces Waheeda Remhan.
Bollywood has come a long way since then. Today what bothers her is the kitsch and vulgarity that has come to be a part of new films. She feels there isnít any need for a star to shed her clothes. She even disapproves of on-screen kissing. "Whereís the need to do all this? I still maintain it is unnecessary for an Indian heroine to kiss on screen." But then she shrugs her shoulders and says, "Probably thatís what viewers want and thatís what sells."
She is a complete fitness freak and even though she has recurring problem of spondylitis the gritty actress makes it a point not to miss out on her daily schedule of practicing yoga. "I learnt yoga in Mumbai many years ago, from a personal trainer and after shifting base to Bangalore, I did an extensive course at the Bihar School of Yoga. It keeps me agile and active throughout the day," says Waheeda.
Ask this diva of sixties her beauty secret and a radiant smile brightens her face, "Have you got your answer? Yes my secret is being positive, smiling a lot and laughing. You can never grow old if you practice all three. Your energy levels keep getting renewed."
Energy she has in plenty. She says sheís not quitting---neither films nor her business Ė and not even her zest for life. "Thereís so much to do," she says as she casts a furtive glance at her wristwatch.
Yes, at 68 thereís so much to do that this rebellious Rosie of Guide has little time to sit on her laurels.
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