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Indian actress Waheeda Rehman.-Photo by AFP

Waheeda Rehman, the star of ageless classics such as "Guide" and "Kaagaz Ke Phool", feels the golden era of Indian cinema was not in her day but now when it is getting global appreciation and also evolving in terms of subjects, performances and technology.

Waheeda, as charming as ever at 76, also feels "sorry" for the younger lot who she says are burning out because of multi-tasking.

"People come up to me and say that when I did films, that was the golden era, but I don't agree with that. With our films getting appreciation abroad, I feel now is the golden era," Waheeda told Times of India in an exclusive interview.

"I feel actors burn out fast these days because they do too many things. Other than movies, they take up endorsements, stage performances, promotions, and it takes up so much of their time. I feel sorry for the fact that they have to do so much."

Before entering Hindi movies with the 1956 release "C.I.D", Waheeda had been a part of successful Telugu and Tamil films like "Jayasimha", "Rojulu Marayi" and "Kaalam Maari Pochu".

Then came unforgettables like "Pyaasa", "12 O'Clock", "Kaagaz Ke Phool", "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam", "Chaudhvin Ka Chand", "Teesri Kasam" and "Mujhe Jeene Do" - all landmarks in Hindi cinema.

Waheeda, who has spent over five decades in filmdom, in what is now commonly known as Bollywood, feels the industry has changed for the better since her time.

"There have been a lot of good changes - be it technically, or in terms of subjects and performances. There are very good movies made like 'The Dirty Picture', 'Kahaani', 'Black', 'Paan Singh Tomar' and 'Peepli Live'."

"But there is too much of uncertainty too. Movies have become very expensive and fortunately for them, within a week they get back their money. But it is not a question of money; it is also about the quality of movie," she said.

Waheeda also appreciates actors for playing all kinds of roles, something that was unheard of during her heyday.

"In our times, even for a small negative role, people used to be like, 'I am a leading lady (so) how can I say this dialogue, or slap someone?'," she said.

She never shied away from unconventional or bold roles. "Guide" is a case in point. The 1965 film, in which she was paired with Dev Anand, saw her playing a dancer who walks out on her husband to pursue her dreams to be a dancer.

"I was very different. When a scene demanded an abuse or a slap, I used to do it. Actors were always conscious about their public image. They had complexes those days, but now they don't have, which is a good thing," she said.

Was she image conscious?

"I was never conscious of this. I thought an actor should be able to do any role with conviction and sincerity. Script is the most important thing and if the script is good, then whatever role you are doing, it's fine," said the actress, who also excelled in character roles in "Mashal" and "Namak Halaal".

After her appearance in "Lamhe" (1991), she retired from the film industry only to return after 11 years with "Om Jai Jagadish" in 2002 followed by "Rang De Basanti" in 2006; she was last seen in 2009 "Delhi 6".

An accomplished, talented dancer herself, the actress feels good dancing skills are important but not vital in current scenario.

"For an actor, one doesn't have to be a dancer. But because our Hindi movies have so many song and dance sequences, it is preferred if they are good dancers. It's always advantageous to know dance. But if you don't, it's okay," she said.

With the changing scenario, Hindi movies lack the element of classical dances.

"It's not possible to have classical dances in the movie unless the subject demands so," she said, citing "Guide" and "Umrao Jaan".

"I don't like people dancing unnecessarily in the film, but it has become a part of movies nowadays. We Indians are musical- and dance-minded people. If a child is born or on a wedding, birthday, we dance. But when a song starts unreasonably, it irritates me," he said.

Comments (9) Closed

Madan Mohan Joshi Oct 16, 2012 09:16am
In the history of Indian films, a name called Waheeda Rehman will always be written in golden letters. A complete personality mesmerising all viewers for decades, she has a significant place among Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan, Sadhna, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Shabana and a numerous lot marvels of Indian Cinema. For an average Indian she is perfect Bhartiya Naari or a woman of thiis sub continent. How can you forget her as an estranged and cheated wife in Guide, Teesri Kasam's nautanki wali bai, a courtesan and a lover of Mujhe jeene Do, a beauty of woman in Reshma Aur Shera apart from her memorable roles in Pyasaa, Kagaj Ke Phool, Khamoshi. She indeed is a living legend. Hats off for her such a rich contribution.
Javed Oct 16, 2012 08:24am
My dream girl for ever......
sri1ram Oct 16, 2012 04:20pm
A natural flair for acting and grace - that was Waheeda Rehman. Flitting away so naturally in Guide is one of the main images I picture whenever I think about Waheeda along with the beautiful lyrics - Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hain..
Kim Oct 17, 2012 04:53am
An American male teenager, who was my classmate at a school in Lucknow, confided that he had a crush on Waheeda and thought she was the sexiest actress alive after seeing "Chaudvin ka Chand." He then saw that movie several more times.
BEA Oct 16, 2012 09:46pm
I agree she is one off hte best actors India has ever had she is just fab even at htis age she is stunning a timeless beauty they do not make them like her anymore.
kausik Oct 16, 2012 10:37am
She is a great actor with phenomenal grace and charm and talent.It is interesting that Bollywood always blessed and encouraged talented Muslim artists like the legend Dilip kumar,meena kumari(screen names),most beautiful with mischievous smile Madhu bala.Present day Khan trio dominating with talent and bringing joy to millions of followers.The Great play back singers the Ghazal king Talat with his silky voice and Rafi provided the best songs I ever enjoyed.Thanks to all of them
gashirazi Oct 16, 2012 06:32pm
I agree with her. Indian movies have become irrelavant. We need to get away from the "formula" and get real.
janjuah Oct 17, 2012 10:01am
it has nothing to do with muslims or hindus...why this element is not ignored as artists have no religion...
Brian Oct 16, 2012 05:26pm
She is always the best!