Happy Birthday Waheedaji! A Dozen Reasons I Love You

A dozen really doesn’t seem like enough for, arguably, the greatest actress Hindi film has ever seen.  But I will start with a dozen and maybe add on next year.

1.1. I love you because you had a solid middle-class upbringing, unlike the tragic backstory of other actresses, your father had a government job and you were well-educated and expensively brought up.

2. I love you because you had extensive serious Bharat Natyam training through out your childhood, not the tepid minor amount other actresses (Aishwarya) got away with later.

3. I love you because after your father died, you turned to the southern film industries and used your dance training to help support the family.

4. I love you because you were one of the first southern bombshells to come north with Bharat Natyam training and Urdu language skills and ruled the industry starting with your very first film.


5. I love you because you were Guru Dutt’s muse and inspired him to his greatest heights in your films together.


6. I love you because you started as a teenager working with your mentor, but went on to have a career as a leading woman that lasted decades, long after you stopped working with Guru, and ranging from tragedies to movies where you literally shook your tail feathers.


7.  I love you because you refused to accept the role of tragic other woman, after Guru’s death you continued your career without a false step, and then married a nice man at age 36 and semi-retired to raise your two children, before returning to play grandmother roles after his death.

8.  I love you because you were and are a devoted friend to your “rivals” in the industry, you and the other 60s star actresses forming a tight group that lunches, shops and attends premiers together.

Image result for waheeda rehman nanda

9.  I love because, to this day, you can appear onscreen and in one gesture, one small expression, break our hearts.

10.  I love you because you were the shining center of Guide, that movie which inspired me to write not one, not two, but FOUR separate posts.


11.  I love you because you played Amitabh’s wife in one movie and his mother in the next, and you made us believe it both times.


12.  And finally, I love you because in Rang De Basanti in this song, without saying a word, you perfectly presented a mother’s unfathomable grief.


8 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Waheedaji! A Dozen Reasons I Love You

  1. I have so far avoided watching Rang De Basanti because every time I see or hear a song from it I choke up. I suppose it’s time I face it head-on and watch it all the way through. Although, given how distraught I am by the current world-wide political climate, it might still be too risky.


    • It is hugely powerful. Although it’s also inspirational in a sort of “spark a change” way.

      On Sat, Feb 3, 2018 at 1:43 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. Long, long ago, Waheeda wrote an article in a Telugu film magazine (Vijaya Chitra, which has its own famous history). She talked about how she set her dressing standards when she entered films, and kept them firmly. In her first film, apparently, there was a scene where she (the heroine) was relaxing at home, and the director/producer wanted her to act in it without her dupatta. She refused, saying that would be undignified. They argued that, since the heroine was at home by herself, it would not be unrealistic for her to be lounging around without her dupatta. But Waheeda held firm that she would not appear without her dupatta, and they gave in. She went on to say that later she was asked to wear sleeveless blouses (with a sari) and she refused that, too. Her comment on this was, “Today they ask you to wear sleeveless blouses, tomorrow they will want you to wear backless cholis, and the day after…? What will they ask? Better to make it clear up front what you will and will not wear.” Now this was in the 1970’s, when pretty much every Hindi heroine wore sleeveless blouses, and backless blouses were coming as the in thing. After reading this article, I started paying attention to her clothes in movies, and indeed she always wore sleeved blouses and was always fully covered, unlike her contemporary heroines. I had a lot of respect for her for holding fast to her standards, and obviously it didn’t affect her career one bit.


    • Fascinating! It shows such confidence and savvy right from the beginning. That she knew in the long run it was more important to make her position clear and stick with it than to bend and please her directors. Setting aside the specifics of the restrictions, I am sure just the fact that she came up with a personal rule and stuck with it made people respect her more.

      It’s also interesting that she insisted on personal modesty in dress, but had no problem playing a vamp or an unfaithful wife or anything else onscreen. Which I respect, her restrictions weren’t about limiting the artistic vision of the story, just maintaining her personal modesty.

      On Sat, Feb 3, 2018 at 9:53 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • I wonder if she sat in on music sittings? I’ve only heard of male stars doing that, but Waheeda was so important to how a song worked on film, I wonder if she occasionally did as well?

      On Sun, Feb 4, 2018 at 1:14 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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