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Conversations with Waheeda Rehman One of the major reasons any biography or a tell all tale of a celebrity achieves good book sales is gossip and big revelations When reading about famous individuals from any field of life we the readers mostly due to general human nature are always eager to know the secrets that they might be hiding or better yet the concealed facts they might be privy to of others in their field If that is what you want or so desire then this is certainly not a book for you Conversations with Waheeda Rehman brings together two celebrated figures from the Indian film industry; Nasreen Munni Kabir is a journalist avant garde who has covered different aspects of Bollywood over many decades in the form of books TV series and documentaries The other has to be the most admired film actress ever to have worked in Hindi films Waheeda Rehman Right from the start it is evident that neither the interviewer nor the one being interviewed is using this opportunity to boost sales The conversations that take place are personal and subdued and there is a bold line drawn between what is right and what is gossip Instead what we get is a better understanding of the woman that is Waheeda Rehman; her childhood and the events that led her to enter the Indian film industry along with great insight into the world that exists just behind what we see on the silver screen Waheeda Rehman in accordance with her character that we have seen many times on screen and otherwise in public events comes across as extremely humble and down to earth There’s a very motherly feel to the way she talks about herself and the people and industry that has been an integral part of her life It is these personal anecdotes the moments that defined her life the photographs from her private collection that she shares and the openness with which she converses that are both charming and nostalgic at the same time While the conversations between Nasreen Munni Kabir and Waheeda Rehman follow a rough timeline it does jump around from decade to decade and this allows a much needed comparison between the way films were made in the 1950 70s and the way they are made now Something eually surprising is the knowledge that Ms Rehman has of the various aspects of film making At times she is uite descriptive about lighting music direction and of course dance and acting Conversations with Waheeda Rehman is a book that celebrates cinema though one of its leading ladies Ms Rehman manages to showcase films as an art form and not just a medium for entertainment In doing so she also expands on a much needed insider’s viewpoint on her co actors and her life outside of films especially now when not having acted in one for a while she has become an epitome of grace amongst the stars of yesteryears Early on in the book Nasreen Munni Kabir states how she convinced Waheeda Rehman to do the book and that keeping her initial concerns in mind this format of uestions and answers would work better than an autobiography Having read the book I agree with this and believe that sometimes a back and forth conversation between two learned individuals can tell a lot than a just book that might end up being one sided Conversations with Waheeda Rehman is a brilliant read for any individual remotely interested in primarily the actress but also for anyone who wants to get a glimpse into the films being made during a time period that is often termed as Indian cinema’s “Golden Period” I grew up watching her on screen in dusty theatres that showed re runs of black and white films I sat in awe as her perfection filled the screen her beauty so natural her acting so effortless that often I uite forgot I was only watching a film unfold Along with Meena Kumari and Nutan Waheeda Rehman remains one of my favourite heroines of all time So when I heard that she'd finally agreed to a book about her life I was thrilled The author was Nasreen Munni Kabir whose Conversations with Lata was a wonderful addition to my collection of movie lore I'd also previously liked her Talking Films a conversation with Javed Akhtar So I promptly put the book on 'my list of books to order before I go to India' It was already waiting for me when I got to my sister's flat First impression? 'That's it?' It was a slim volume and perhaps I'd expected it to be in the format of the Lata Mangeshkar book A week later I was flying down to my hometown to bring my parents back to Bombay with me so I happily took the book along and finished it during the flightReading books about celebrities is a bit like voyeurism You have already seen them on screen and for many viewers their impression of the actor in front of them is coloured by the characters he or she essays Then we get to read their interviews and we colour in the spaces left blank by our imaginations There is an image of that actor in our consciousness and when we read a book about them we hope we expect to hear the voice we have already been hearing in our brain We are eager to know our idols; we want them to speak to us in words that we have already scripted for them Like our gods we cast our idols too in our own image An entire generation of film goers have placed Waheeda Rehman on a pedestal she is the elusive Chaudhvin ka Chand the earthy Gulabo and the defiant Rosie; she is the worldly Hirabai the principled Chameli and the doomed ShantiAnd so we are eager to know not just about Waheeda Rehman the actress the person but also the world she inhabited Conversations with Waheeda Rehman is a window to that world Written in the A format that author Nasreen Munni Kabir has perfected through her earlier books the name of the book argues a singular lack of originality though the latter gives the gracious actress a platform to shed some light on her life and career And reading this memoir for make no mistake that is what it is brings back memories Of not just Waheeda but the cinema of her time One word of warning though if you expect to read about the Guru Dutt Waheeda Rehman romance you are going to be disappointed Neither does she go in for the big reveal there's no salacious gossip about her co stars no big secrets about her own life The actress fiercely circumspect always only lets the veil drop this far no further Yet what she does talk about she does with an honesty that is endearing And expectedJournalists have always known that getting Waheeda Rehman to sit down for an interview is akin to one of the labours of Hercules Despite her very public career the actress has maintained the distance between her public persona and her private life In fact though she had agreed to talk to Munni Kabir for the latter's 1989 documentary on Guru Dutt and the book on Lata Mangeshkar in 1990 she had consistently refused the idea of a biography Who would be interested? Well fans of the actress for oneAnd so you are glad that Munni Kabir persisted through the hurdles of 'Memsaab baahargaaon gayi hai' From the beginning where you learn that Waheeda youngest of four daughters was asthmatic to where her father Mohammed Abdur Rehman an IAS officer was castigated for 'allowing' his daughters to learn classical dance even though he was a 'good Muslim' the narrative is interesting Waheeda is nothing but frank and forthright and having agreed to talk chronicles her entry into the big bad world of films from her first appearance on screen And so we hear about how Rojulu Marayi led to that epic meeting with Guru Dutt and how that led to her move to Bombay How Akkineni Nageshwara Rao told her gently to face the camera 'You don't have a bad face' How the Hindi film industry differed from the South in their way of working How the song that made her famous Eruvako sagaro ranno chinnannna inspired none other than SD Burman How her insistence on retaining her own name and on inserting a clause about final veto over costumes did not go down well with director Raj Khosla Waheeda comes across as unusually courageous for one so young This is not the only time she had a fight with him a serious one involved a scene in Solva Saal where she was given a chiffon sari and sleeveless blouse When she refused because of the context of the scene reuired her to be 'lajwanti' shy Raj Khosla erupted And Waheeda swore never to work with him again They eventually made up much later; as she puts it they both grew upWhat is even better is the trivia that comes along in the stories' train some known others not as much How Pyaasa was being written when CID was being filmed How the legendary Zohra Sehgal was the choreographer for Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana Why Waheeda wore a duppatta for that song Why the Censor Board had issues with the picturisation of the colour version of the title song of Chaudhvin ka Chand They felt Waheeda's eyes were too red and sensual How Teesri Kasam was shot near Powai Lake How Satyajit Ray had initially wanted to film Guide and wanted Waheeda to play RosieHow Dev refused to be called 'Devsaab' and how he was a decent flirt How he had initially hated 'Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai' from Guide How Dilip Kumar was a gentle person with a lovely smile How Rajendra Kumar always cried in his films and she once asked him 'If you cry so much Rajendraji how will I cry?' How it was difficult to understand what the legendary K Asif wanted in a scene because he spoke in monosyllables How Rehman was very protective of herHow Lata Mangeshkar once told her 'The orchestra was there to give us singers a rest Today we singers are there to give the orchestra a rest' How Manmohan Desai when asked about some plot hole in Coolie would tell her 'Waheedaji it's a Manmohan Desai movie there is no logic No truth no reality' Or how Rishi Kapoor having heard about Waheeda's cereal asked her on the sets of Chandni 'Arre Waheedaji you've started a serial? Where do you do the shooting?' She talks about the way films were made then contrasting it with the way they are now and mentions her landmark films where she played atypical characters We learn that there were two characters that she would have loved to have played Radha in Mother India and Suchitra Sen's role in Mamta And how her dream role is that of Meryl Streep's in 'The Bridges of Madison County' She describes how difficult it was to maintain mood and emotion through the numerous retakes and how she much preferred her silent reaction shots to ones where she had to speakNo book about Waheeda Rehman would be complete without a mention of Guru Dutt And she talks about her mentor and friend with affection and talks about her work with him in landmark films such as Pyaasa Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Kaagaz ke Phool She talks about his trolley shots and his suabbles with his camera man VK Murthy how he listened to the opinion of even his valet Waheeda had uestioned the placement of a song that had been picturised on her in Pyaasa how he was upset when she and Murthy nattered away in Tamil she is reticent about her personal relationship with him but that doesn't feel remiss considering the focus is on their professional collaborations She does set to rest one controversy though Abrar Alvi did direct Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Guru Dutt never came on the sets unless he was wanted for that day's shooting or Alvi wanted his input He did however shoot the songsWaheeda is a very good storyteller Along with her honesty that is apparent when she talks about herself how her work isn't very good when she does not believe in her character or motivations for instance there is a sense of humour that peeps through the narrative The episode with Raj Kapoor for instance while they were shooting Teesri Kasam On their way back from Bhopal where they were shooting the train was stopped by the local students who had not been allowed to watch the shooting They wanted to see their favourite stars Raj Kapoor was asked to go and calm the crowd After he spoke to them they wanted to meet Waheeda Taking one look at the crowd Raj refused His refusal enraged the crowd which attacked the train Their insistence infuriated Raj Kapoor so much that he wanted to open the compartment doors and confront them When the production team couldn't control him they finally pushed him into the ladies' compartment where Waheeda her sister Sayeeda and her hairdresser had to physically sit on him to stop him from tackling the unruly crowd single handedlyShe talks about her parents and her sisters her marriage to co star Shashi Rekhy and her children and life beyond cinema with a forthrightness and honesty that is remarkable So also is admirable the way she tackled the vagaries of her life and how she let herself go grey much to the shock of her friends and familyIt is these personal recollections and rare photographs that make the book interesting to the layman Also on record are her close friendships with other actresses one that has withstood the test of time Nanda Asha Parekh Shammi Helen Sadhana The launch of this book was postponed because Waheeda Rehman was so overwrought when Nanda died Conversations with Waheeda Rehman reveals a side of the reclusive actress as much as she cares to revealI won't say that I'm completely bowled over by the book It could have been better Munni Kabir's uestions are sometimes longer than Waheeda's answers But if you look it less as an 'interview' and as the titular 'Conversations' it makes sense I do wish however that the conversations had been in depth and that Munni Kabir had pushed a little to get details However it does paint a picture of Waheeda as she was and is and it is a very likable picture indeedIf you're a fan of the actress however or even if not this is a good addition to your collection of movie lore for an insider's look at the movie industry of the past Oh how I love good interviews with amazing artistsThis book helps you learn somewhat about cinemas then through the eyes of an artist who is bold hardworking logical critical straightforward woman who knows her own mind and is disciplined in life You cannot call her after 930 pm unless you are a family or close friend She has to be on time no matter when her co actors decides to show up She wears what she's comfortable in She doesn't sign a contract without having this clause And if she thinks any emotion or behavior is off character if the scenes in films aren't working be it her own she just doesn't hesitate to speak A worthy read This is an almost biographical book on one of the finest actresses in Indian cinema; someone whom I admire a lot The book details her relationship and working rapport with two of the greatest actors ever Guru Dutt and Dev Anand The book tells us Waheeda was a voracious reader and always carried a book with herShe first performed a dance in a Telugu movie Rojulu Marayi days have changed; S D Burman copied the song and kept one of the original words Bambai se aaya hai babu chinnannaaShe also acted in Abhijan by Satyajit Ray which was based on Tarashankar Bandopadhyay's novel Also I learnt from the book that the Nobel Prize winning novelist Pearl S Buck wrote the English screenplay of Guide Also thay Guru Dutt had learned dance under Uday ShankarSome of her most memorable films include Pyaasa Kaagaz Ke Phool Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam Guide Teesri Kasam Kabhi Kabhie Lamhe and most recently Rang De BasantiThe book is a must read for an unabashed Bollywood fan like me It has everything that our movies have love sadness courage destiny and most importantly friendship I could relive for a while that era of movie making I enjoyed the conversation between the actress and the author However I felt a little disappointed as I did not receive a better picture of the actresses herself This book of conversations has some very interesting anecdotes which makes it an interesting read Waheeda Rehman was a uick learner and had a keen observations She never compromised and lived the life on her own terms Renowned for her natural talent and haunting beauty Waheeda Rehman’s career spans an astonishing array of key films in Indian cinema including Pyaasa Abhijan Mujhe Jeene Do Guide Teesri Kasam and Rang De BasantiIn this engaging book of conversations with Nasreen Munni Kabir Waheeda Rehman proves to be a lively raconteur speaking about her life and work with refreshing honesty humour and insight from the devastating loss of her parents when she was young to making a life in cinema on her own terms from insightful accounts of working with extraordinary film practitioners like Guru Dutt Raj Khosla Satyajit Ray Raj Kapoor Dev Anand and Vijay Anand to her friendship with stars like Nargis and NandaA slice of cinema history told through compelling anecdotes and astute observations Conversations with Waheeda Rehman provides a rare view of a much adored and award winning actress of Indian cinema For an entire generation which includes me Waheeda Rehman is the epitome of the kind of woman we want to be like Fiercely independent a class apart in her profession graceful and an enigma I was very excited when the book was announced simply because it would shed light on her life By the time I finished reading I was a bit conflicted If you are not a Bollywood buff then the book gives great insights into the life of actress however if you are like me who loves to read up about Bollywood there were few things which were new If you are looking to pick up this book to know about the Guru Dutt Waheeda relationship beyond their work I have a simple advice for you don't For most parts Rehman is circumspect in the book especially when it comes to her personal life This book is not a door into the world of Waheeda Rehman it is like a look in through the window She only let's you see what she wants nothing My biggest problem with the book as with previous Kabir's book are her uestion Sometimes her uestions are like one full page and the answer is two lines That jars The idea of the book is to know about the subject not the knowledge of author about camera angles and shot settingsSo why the 4 stars? Because the book does not demystify Waheeda Rehman but enhances the enigma of the actress And how can that be bad? I read about this book by Nasreen Munni Kabir The review was wonderful and Waheeda Rehman looked stunning on he cover Since I am her fan I bought a e copy of this book Everyday for close to 15 days I read this book during my car journey from home to work The book has a great flow The uestions are not personal and yet they are intriguing Waheeda Rehman's answers were truthful and her persona shines through I enjoyed reading the book The book does not reveal any secrets and is not at all juicy In fact the book provides the reader an insight into the kind of person Ms Rehman must be SHe comes across as a tough strong confident and above all an indepedent personThe book has some real nice anecdotes and also has her take on some of the newer breed of actors Read thebook for its flow and to know the kind of person Ms Rehman is In fact after reading the book I felt I ought to meet this person over coffee Not for anything else but just to ensure that after meeting her I would be convinced that I have met yet another fine humanbeing This is an interesting book Waheeda Rehman is of course an excellent actress and a graceful dancer Teesri Kasam and Guide have been some of the most remarkable movies I've had the fortune to watch and its mostly been her presence that has made these movies enjoyable This book also pretty much rests on her wit grace and elouence The authoress can tend to go into random tangents and gives herself time in the book instead of prodding Waheeda to talk to us There is also no organization and the conversation meanders a little But inspite of that you can pretty much hear Rosie talking to you out of these pages and that pretty much makes this a great buy

  • Hardcover
  • 256 pages
  • Conversations with Waheeda Rehman
  • Nasreen Munni Kabir
  • English
  • 25 July 2016

About the Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir

Born in India documentary filmmaker and writer Nasreen Munni Kabir lives in London where she has made several programmes on Hindi cinema for Channel 4 TV including the forty six part series Movie Mahal and The InnerOuter World of Shah Rukh Khan Her several books include Guru Dutt A Life in Cinema; Talking Films and Talking Songs with Javed Akhtar; The Spirit of Music with A R Rahman; Lata