What made Bees Saal Baad such a good watch was its music, its fairly good suspense – and its lovely heroine.
Waheeda Rehman had it all: an immense amount of talent, a rare beauty, a grace and dignity that few possess – and she was a superb dancer. What’s more, as I discovered in a TV interview a couple of years back, she’s also very modest. “When I was a girl, my siblings would call me the ‘ugly duckling’”, she said. A flash of that trademark smile, and she added, “The camera was very kind to me.” As fellow blogger Sabrina Mathew remarked when I recounted that on her post, “I want that camera!”
So here’s to Waheeda Rehman. Beautiful, charming, ever-graceful – and the star who featured in some wonderful songs. I faced a problem choosing these; some of her best-known songs are not songs her character sings onscreen. Instead, they’re (not surprisingly!) songs sung in praise of her (Chaudhvin ka chaand ho; Yeh nayan dare-dare; Yehi toh hain woh, etc). Or they’re songs picturised on her but with the song sung in the background (the poignant Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, which is her own favourite song, is an example).
In this post, however, I wanted to showcase Waheeda Rehman’s skill in depicting different characters, different moods, even different dancing styles, perhaps – so I settled on these rules. These are all songs that the character Waheeda Rehman portrays onscreen sings – and they are not duets. And no two songs are from the same film.
Here’s the list, all from 50s and 60s’ films (the only exception is Prem Pujari, from 1970) that I’ve seen, and in no particular order.
1. Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana (CID, 1956): Waheeda Rehman’s first Hindi film – in which she acted a vamp of sorts. She was slightly gauche in CID, but this song is hers all the way. Bir Sakhuja is the villain, the man she tries to distract with her singing and dancing so that Dev Anand, the cop whom she sympathises with (loves?) can get away. There’s no denying the seduction in her eyes, the grace of her movements – and the momentary flicker of doubt as she wonders whether her friend has been able to escape.
A harbinger of great acting and equally great dancing in the coming years.
2. Piya tose naina laage re (Guide, 1965): Here’s another example of how great that dancing was. Although Guide – one of Waheeda Rehman’s most popular films opposite Dev Anand – had fantastic music (including another great Waheeda dance, Mose chhal kiye jaaye), as far as I’m concerned, there’s no beating Piya tose naina laage re. Firstly, it’s a beautiful song – lovely music, great lyrics – and at over 8 minutes, it’s long enough to satisfy most Waheeda fans! Secondly, you get to see Waheeda in different dances, different costumes: at Diwali and Holi; at sunrise and at moonrise, serenading her beloved. And yes, this is probably one of the finest displays there is of her fabulous dancing.
3. Paan khaaye saiyaan hamaro (Teesri Kasam, 1967): Still hungry for Waheeda Rehman’s dancing? Here’s yet another song that has her on stage. While Piya tose naina laage re is (to some extent) classical, this one is typically nautanki. Spirited, replete with all the right jhatkas and matkas, mischievous yet come-hither all at the same time. And from a character seemingly obviously used to (and catering to) the lascivious stares of the leering all-male audience.
Very entertaining, but in a way quite different from the bulk of Waheeda Rehman’s dances onscreen.
4. Badle-badle mere sarkar (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1961): A change of style, pace, mood – everything. Here Waheeda plays the young bride, crushed and confused by the sudden change in her husband – from a devoted lover (who called her a Chaudhvin ka chaand), to one who spurns her. There is pain in the lyrics and in Lata’s voice, but it is the pain Waheeda Rehman manages to bring into her face that moves me. Especially in that first frame, where her eyes, brimming with despair, seem to fill the screen. Beautiful, and so immeasurably sad.
5. Bhanwra bada naadaan hai (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, 1962): If Waheeda danced her way through songs like Piya tose naina laage and Paan khaaye saiyaan, here she’s relatively immobile – but her face is not. Pretending to be penning a poem, while well aware that the subject of her poetry is watching, fascinated one moment, outraged (or pretending to be!) the next, she is superb. Teasing, part-flirtatious, part-mischievous, all perfection. No wonder the simple-hearted rustic Bhootnath (Guru Dutt) can’t take his eyes off her!
6. Na tum humein jaano (Baat ek Raat ki, 1962): Although the better known version of this song is the Hemant one, with Dev Anand’s character singing the bulk of the song, and Waheeda Rehman’s insane/amnesiac/criminal (?) character joining in at the very end, I love this one too. This is shown in flashback, with the heroine remembering the days when she had fallen in love with her co-star. Look at the shyness and the softness in Waheeda’s dreamy smile as she awaits the man she loves: beautiful.
7. Sach hue sapne tere (Kala Bazaar, 1960): While a dejected Dev Anand sits on a deserted seashore and looks out through despairing eyes… the girl he loves dances about, singing of the happiness flooding her heart. Waheeda Rehman is joy personified in this song: in that sunny smile, the laughing eyes, the way she goes prancing through the surf, the way she splashes her hands in a pool of water: infectious happiness all the way. No wonder, then, that by the end of the song, Dev Anand’s sadness has been replaced by a grin.
8. Rangeela re tere rang mein (Prem Pujari, 1970): Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand made a fantastic onscreen pair, right from their first film together, CID, to this one in 1970. Rangeela re is yet another showcase of Waheeda’s superb dancing – and it shows what a great actress she is, too. While she dances with a gay, drunken abandon, you can see the pain in her eyes. To the shocked Achla Sachdev or the contemptuous Zahida, this is just another woman who’s lost control; to us in the know, it’s not a case of in vino veritas: there is real anguish here. And nobody who was actually drunk could dance so well!
9. Bujha diye hain khud apne haathon (Shagoon, 1964): This is one of the quintessential ‘sad songs’ in my lexicon – Sahir’s words are heart-breaking, Khayyam’s music is superb, Suman Kalyanpur sings it with a great depth of feeling. And Waheeda Rehman brings the character’s sorrow and helplessness brilliantly to life. While Shagoon is not a film I’d rewatch – too depressing – and its heroine behaves in an utterly idiotic, martyrish fashion through much of the film, this is one song in which I can’t help but find myself feeling her misery at the self-sacrifice she’s had to make.
10. Jaane kya tune kahi (Pyaasa, 1957): And, to end this list: a classic. While S D Burman’s music and Geeta Dutt’s singing are top notch, it is Waheeda Rehman whom I can’t help being mesmerised by. She’s amazing – looking closely at her expressions while this song plays, I couldn’t tell exactly what I was seeing. Girlish innocence? A prostitute enticing a customer (and knowing, triumphantly, as she sings “Zulf shaane pe mudi”, that she has succeeded)? Sometimes I’m sure she actually loves this young man whom she’s met, that it’s not mere flirtation… but there are so many moods to this song. While an audio version of Jaane kya tune kahi may just be another love song, the picturisation of it – Waheeda – make it what it is.
What are your favourite Waheeda Rehman songs?