Introduced to Hindi cinema by Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman is considered by the media and the contemporary film industry to be one of the most accomplished actresses and classic beauties from 1950s and 1960s Hindi cinema. Born in the southern city of Hyderabad, Rehman studied the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam and made her screen debut in a telugu film in 1955. Her second telugu film, Rojulu Marayi, released in the same year was a colossal hit bringing her to Guru Dutt’s attention. He cast her as a vamp in his production CID, which also launched the directorial career of his assistant, Raj Khosla. Rehman’s skillful performance in the film led Dutt to give her one of the leading roles, that of the sympathetic, sensitive prostitute, in Pyaasa. The commercial success of Pyaasa resulted in many film offers for Rehman, and though she had an exclusive contract with Dutt, he allowed her to work in films by other producers.
Dutt and Rehman’s romance is another legendary love story within the film industry. However, they co-starred in only four more films (Twelve O’ Clock, Kaaqaz ke Phool, Chaudhvin ka Chand, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam) as her successes elsewhere and his already being married led to the end of their professional and personal partnership. Ironically, their break-up was foreshadowed in Kaagaz ke Phool where Dutt plays a director and Rehman his discovery whose success leads to their estrangement.
Rehman’s other successful pairing was with Dev Anand – they starred in seven films together. She managed to combine both critical and commercial success throughout the 1960s, balancing conventional romantic roles with more somber ones. Although she appeared in many tearful dramas, Rehman’s understated acting style steered her clear of melodramatic excess. Her most significant role was as Rosie in Guide, the dancer who walks out on her domineering and impotent husband to pursue her passion for dance and her love for a tour guide. The film also showcased her dancing abilities. After a series of critical successes and commercial failures, Rehman got married in 1974 to a businessman who had co-starred with her in Shagun (Blessing; 1964). She settled in Bangalore, raising a family as well as successfully marketing her own brand of breakfast cereal. Rehman continued to act selectively in Hindi films through the 1970s and 1980s, primarily with Amitabh Bachchan and for Yash Chopra – Tejaswini Ganti