Her childlike innocence goes hand-in-hand with the classic beauty that she once personified. Decades have passed but Waheeda Rehman is still beautiful. Back from Durban after attending South Africa India Film & Television Awards (SAIFTA), the veteran actress engages with us in a chat.
You were last seen in Delhi 6 and will be next seen in Kamal Haasan’s next. Don’t you think that’s too long a gap?
I keep taking long breaks between films because I don’t feel like doing everything that comes my way. At this age, if you agree to character roles -- be it a kind-hearted mother or an affable grandmother -- you’ll grow bored of them soon. If I stay away, I might forget what I did previously and end up doing something new altogether (laughs).
Do you miss being part of the industry?
To be honest, I don’t. My priorities have changed. I don’t regret anything and I’m content with my life. I travel a lot and do things, which I couldn’t when I was busy as an actress. Having said that, I like to keep myself updated with what’s going on in the industry.
What, according to you, is the greatest change that you’ve observed?
Not only films, the entire world has changed dramatically from what it used to be in my times. Technical aspects have clearly improved but actors have benefited a lot from the ongoing societal change. There’s no restriction, whatsoever. During my days, most of us had a public image, which we tried our level best not to damage. Besides, people then weren’t as educated as they are today. Married women couldn’t do certain roles. Today, actors can just spread their wings.
How do you rate Kamal Haasan as a filmmaker?
I had heard a lot about him but it was only after working with him in Vishwaroopam 2 that I learned how talented he really is. He’s a gentle soul and can do everything that can be possibly done about a film.
Hindi cinema is tackling a lot of bold topics today. But wasn’t Guide way ahead of its time when it explored live-in relationship?
Yes, it was, in a way maybe. So many people warned me against doing that film because they thought it won’t work and I’d be committing my career’s biggest mistake. The very first scene shows a young married woman and nobody liked to see that in those days (laughs). Secondly, it wasn’t a proper love story. Dev Anandji’s character was sympathetic towards mine because my onscreen husband was neglecting me. And that’s where your question of live-in comes in. It was quite bold a topic for the early 60s.
Lastly, how do you remember Pran saab?
We worked together in so many films starting with Dil Diya Dard Liya. A thorough gentleman, the most amazing thing about him was no matter how late we wrapped up the shoot, he would be punctual the next day -- looking fresh as ever. Whenever I asked him his secret, he said “Mai roz paanch badam khata hoon” and smile.