Waheeda Rehman, who made her debut 68 years ago and went on to act in cult classics such as “Pyaasa” and “Guide”, was on Tuesday named recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the government’s highest recognition in the field of cinema.
“I am doubly happy because it is Dev Anand’s birthday. I think ‘taufa unko milna tha, mujhe mil gaya’,” Rehman told PTI on the birth centenary of her frequent collaborator.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur made the announcement on X.
“I feel an immense sense of happiness and honour in announcing that Waheeda Rehman ji is being bestowed with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award this year for her stellar contribution to Indian Cinema,” Thakur wrote on the microblogging site.
The award for the year 2021 will be presented during the 69th National Film awards ceremony.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the veteran actor on being named for the honour.
“Delighted that Waheeda Rehman ji has been honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award. Her journey in Indian cinema has left an indelible mark. A beacon of talent, dedication and grace, she embodies the best of our cinematic heritage. Congratulations to her,” the prime minister said on X.
The five-member jury comprised Rehman’s close friend and last year’s Dadasaheb award winner Asha Parekh, actors Chiranjeevi, Paresh Rawal and Prosenjit Chatterjee as well as filmmaker Shekhar Kapur.
Regarded as one of the finest actors of the country, Rehman, also an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer, made her debut in Hindi cinema with Guru Dutt’s “CID” opposite Dev Anand.
After that dazzling beginning came a string of arthouse and mainstream films, the actor comfortably straddling the twin worlds of “Kaagaz ke Phool” and “Ram aur Shyam”.
The remarkable career spanning more than six decades and 90 films in different languages saw her segue from black and white to colour, and from lead roles to character cameos.
Some of her most memorable performances were with Guru Dutt — “Pyaasa”, “Kaagaz Ke Phool”, “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” and “Chaudhvin Ka Chand”. With Dev Anand came the much loved “Guide” and “Prem Pujari”. The filmography includes “Khamoshi”, “Kabhi Kabhie”, “Reshma Aur Shera”, which got her the National Award, and “Trishul”.
Remembering Dev Anand, Rehman, who has earlier won the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan, said it is a double celebration.
“It is very wonderful that his celebration is going on and I get this honour. I am really happy and grateful to the government that they chose me for this honour. So, it is a combination and celebration of this and Dev sahab’s 100th birth anniversary,” she added.
Born in Chennai, Rehman made her acting debut with the 1955 Telugu films “Rojulu Maraayi” and “Jayasimha”.
“At a time when the historic Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam has been passed by Parliament, her being awarded with this lifetime achievement award is a fitting tribute to one of the leading ladies of Indian Cinema and one who has dedicated her life after films to philanthropy and the greater good of society. I congratulate her and humbly pay my regards to her rich body of work that is an intrinsic part of our film history,” Thakur said in his post on X.
Rehman, who now lives in Bengaluru, has become selective in her film choices. In the 1990s and 2000s, she starred in character roles in “Lamhe”, “Chandni” “Rang De Basanti” and “Delhi-6”.
Rehman is also associated with bringing to life some of Hindi films most popular songs — “Kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishana” (“CID”), “Aaj phir jeena ki tamanna hai” and “Piya tose naina lage re” (“Guide”), “Luka chhuppi” (“Rang De Basanti” and “Genda phool” (“Delhi-6”).
Her most recent film appearance was in 2021’s “Skater Girl”, a coming-of-age sports drama.
Born in Chennai to a Deccani Muslim family, Waheeda never aspired to be an actor but knew she wanted to make people “laugh and cry”.
She wanted to be a doctor but ended up on the silver screen instead, an actor who began with Telugu cinema and went on to rule the Hindi film industry, slipping in and out of arthouse and mainstream cinema and staying relevant as movies evolved from black-and-white to colour.
“I wanted to become a doctor, because in those days for Muslim families medicine was the only respectable profession,” the actor recalled in a Tweak India interview two years ago.
Art, culture and dance interested her since she was a child. And with the support of her father, an IAS officer, she was able to pursue her dream of learning Bharatanatyam and then making a career in the movies.
“I used to make faces looking in the mirror. When my father asked why do I do this, I said ‘I want to make people laugh and cry’,” she said in the interview.