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Serendipity in the form of a buffalo helped Guru Dutt discover Waheeda Rehman. A driving accident with a buffalo cart badly damaged his car and Dutt was stranded in Hyderabad for three days with friend and working partner Abrar Alvi.
Alvi narrates the story in Sathya Saran’s book, Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey.
Dutt and Alvi decided to kill time by visiting a distributor friend, whose office was in Secunderabad. While there, they heard a commotion. A newly famous dancer, Waheeda Rehman, from a hit song Kallaakapatam in successful Telugu movie Rojulu Marayi was visiting its distributor in the office opposite.
Dutt hadn’t seen the song but their friend suggested a meeting, which was quite uneventful. They watched the Telugu movie after that and Alvi liked her.
Dutt still wasn’t fully convinced but something about her stayed with him.
He remembered her while casting CID and Pyaasa for his production house. The roles required an actor who could sing, dance and seduce the hero in both movies and she seemed like a right fit. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 had released around the same time.
Rehman was called over to Mumbai and offered a 3-year contract. She recalls the chain of events in Nasreen Munni Kabir’s Conversations with Waheeda Rehman.
First up, Raj Khosla, who was directing CID, thought her name was too long and wanted her to change it. She categorically refused. Guru Dutt was seated and silent during this entire exchange. After a week of thought, they agreed to leave her name intact.
Just before the signing, however, Rehman had another condition. She would have the right of refusal to wear any costumes she was uncomfortable with. This time Dutt sure had something to say.
“I don’t make films of that kind. Have you seen any of my films?”
“Alright. Mr. & Mrs. 55 is running in town. Go and see it. We will talk about the costumes later.”
After watching the film, Rehman still wanted the clause added. Madhubala had worn sleeveless blouses! Dutt still agreed. For a newcomer, Waheeda was quite demanding.
Dutt was patient because he had finally seen her potential and appreciated her spunk. It didn’t take long for her to turn into his muse.
She starred in all Guru Dutt productions after that: Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool, Chaudavin Ka Chand and their last outing, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.
Rehman worked with others and was successful even without him, pairing with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar in other hit films. Guide, her landmark movie, was made by Vijay Anand.
Dutt officially directed her in only two ventures yet their association is most remembered by one and all.
Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com, from where this article was curated. She writes on cinema, tv, culture, women, and social equity.
This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.