From the scheming publisher in Pyaasa to the loyal friend in Chaudhvin Ka Chand to the decadent husband in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Rehman played characters of all shades. Born in 1923 in Lahore (now in Pakistan), Rehman moved to Jabalpur where he completed his education. He joined the Indian Air Force, but quit soon to join Prabhat Studios as third assistant to director Vishram Bedekar. His first brush with acting happened almost by chance. Director D.D. Kashyap, whom Rehman was assisting at that time, urgently required someone to play the role of a Pathan in his film Chand. Since Rehman was the only one on the sets who could tie a turban the Pathani way, he landed the part.
The cameo in Chand was followed by more substantial parts in Hum Ek Hain, Nargis, Paras, Pyar Ki Jeet, Dil Diya Dard Liya, and Dost. But it was director Guru Dutt who gave Rehman his best roles in films such as Pyaasa, Chaudhvin Ka Chand, and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Perfectly tailored by Guru Dutt and played admirably by Rehman, these remain amongst the most vivid characters portrayed in Hindi cinema.