Actor Waheeda Rehman is an absolute legend who has been in the some of the most legendary films and legendary actors as well. In a rare at-length interview with ETimes, Rehman went back in time and brought back memories of the league of the amazing gentlemen - Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand she worked with.
Talking about Dilip Kumar first, she said, "Dilip saab and I did four films – ‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’ (1966), ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ (1967), ‘Aadmi’ (1968) and later ‘Mashaal’ (1984). Sadly, only ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ worked. However, it’s been an honour to have worked with such a great actor.
On the first day of shooting ‘Dil Diya Dard Liya’, I was naturally nervous about sharing the screen with Dilip saab. But he was a perfect gentleman, graceful and supportive. Dilip saab had a particular style of working. He’d do many rehearsals. He’d ask me to use glycerine even during the rehearsals to get the ‘total effect’. Unfortunately, glycerine didn’t suit my eyes. Sometimes, I’d get exhausted with the try-outs. So, I’d take a break, rest and then begin anew. Because the satisfaction of working with the best is something else. In a single close-up shot and without dialogue, he could express so much emotion, so much dard… he was fantastic!"
Then talking about Raj Kapoor, she said, "My first film with Raj saab was ‘Ek Dil Sao Afsane’ (1963). Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The second was ‘Teesri Kasam’ (1966). We were surprised that a glamorous man like Raj Kapoor had agreed to play a rustic character. Lyricist Shailendra, who produced ‘Teesri Kasam’, was Raj saab’s close friend. That’s why he agreed to do the film. Director Basu Bhattacharya also had great conviction in Raj saab.
Raj saab was always great company. In between shots, he’d narrate various story ideas including those of his future films ‘Mera Naam Joker’ (1970) and ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ (1978). One day, something about the particular shot didn’t seem right. I told Raj saab why don’t you guide the director as he was a newcomer. Raj saab replied, “I agreed to be here as an actor. And I will behave like one. I don’t want the director to feel that I’m making a point to show I’m better than him.” That was a commendable quality in him."
Finally, talking about Dev Anand, she said, "I was a great fan of Dev saab even before I joined films. I loved his pairing with Madhubala. I had not imagined that I’d feature with him in my first Hindi film. I was introduced to Dev saab on the set of ‘C.I.D’ (1956) as the girl from Chennai. I addressed him as ‘Dev saab’. He reacted sharply, “No Dev saab!” I then asked, “Can I call you Anandji?” He retorted, “No, no… call me only Dev.” I said, “You’re my senior. How can I address you by your first name?” He explained he couldn’t work with anyone, who addressed him so formally.
The next day, aadat se majboor (out of habit), I addressed him as ‘Dev saab’. He didn’t respond even though he was within hearing distance. When this happened one more time, I asked him why he wasn’t answering. He said, “I told you no ‘saab’, no ‘ji’ and no ‘Mr’.” He was the only hero, who insisted I call him by his first name. Somewhere, he made me feel relaxed. We then went on to share a fine understanding, a comfort zone. I did seven films – the maximum I have done with any hero – with him."
Indeed what an experience it is to cherish forever and ever.