Ten of my favourite Waheeda Rehman songs
Waheeda Rehman! Just spelling out that name conjures a vision of great beauty for me. Beauty yes, but not coquette, not of a siren, very down to earth beauty, which radiates warmth. A smile, which brightens up your day. Grace, which mesmerises you. Eyes so expressive, that they could show a whole kaleidoscope of emotions and of a depth that one could lose oneself in it. An ethereal beauty! You would say how do a down-to-earth and ethereal go together. Well, that is what Waheeda Rehman is all about. Bringing together contradictions like truth always is. And truth is beautiful and divine. No wonder Guru Dutt sings and describes her a chaudhvin ka chaand (the full moon) in the film by the same name.
There was and is more to Waheeda than her beauty. A versatile actress, she proved her acting prowess again and again in different films. She showed their highs and lows, their dark and brighter sides, but what she gave them all was a human quality. A vulnerability, which made them connect to you. It might be the street smart hooker of Pyaasa or the career-oriented Rosie of Guide or the repentant Shanta waiting for her husband in Phagun. You could relate to all of them. You might not agree with them, but you could empathise with them.
Choosing ten songs from her films was not easy. Thus I laid some criteria for choosing them.
a. The film must have her in a main role.
b. It must be a solo song
c. Waheeda must be lip-syncing to the song.
Dustedoff and Sunehriyaadein have already published a post of their favourite Waheeda Rehman songs and Anu of her favourite Waheeda roles. This post began as a comment at Sunehriyaadein’s post. Over the years it has changed indeed! Enjoy!
1. badle badle mere sarkar – Chaudhvin Ka Chaand 
MD: Ravi; Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Jameela devoted to her husband to the point of being a masochist, can’t understand that he is not interested in her anymore. No more songs from him in moonlit nights, no more sweet nothings. He is morose and she doesn’t know why? The fact is he is torn between his lady love and loyalty to his friend. A few serious talks would surely clear the matter, but we wouldn’t have a film story extolling the virtues of Lucknow. Waheeda’s Jameela, though a door-mat, remains restrained and commands empathy but never pity.
This is Lata Mangeshkar’s first and last song for Guru Dutt Film Productions in Guru Dutt’s lifetime, though not for a film under his direction.
Although Waheeda would become famous as a dancer-actress, Guru Dutt never gave her an opportunity to show her dancing skills in his films. The only song from Guru Dutt Films, where she gets to dance is kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana from C.I.D , which was directed by Raj Khosla.
2. tum to dil ke taar chhed kar – Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja 
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Shailendra; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
I haven’t sent this film and discovered this song only a few years back. This is one of the few cases, where I like the female version of a song better than the male one. Such a sweet song of longing and still with a tinge of teasing in it.
Jaba, a strong, liberal, open-minded, courageous young lady grown up in the tradition of Brahmo Samaj, is suddenly confronted with her past at her father’s death bed. News, which suddenly makes her go to her roots. It just doesn’t convince me that a liberal character like Jaba could do such a thing. Waheeda though plays it with such a conviction and strength, that she makes it appear plausible.
Chamelijaan, a nautch girl, one would say of no convictions and hardly any scruples. She goes on to reform her kidnapper, the dacoit Jarnail Singh. The above song is her first encounter with him. Jaidev’s music reflects the heat and sultriness of the song.
5. o jaadugar pyaar ke ye bataa – Ek Dil Sau Afsane 
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
An unusual song with a western touch. I find it hard to classify it any order. A sweet song with lovely dance accompanying it.
A marathon song of 9 minutes! The song charts Rosie rise in her career. The first scene in the song is that of a private audience for influential men, where the colour-effects are all done by hand. The second scene sees her in the same costume dancing at an annual function of an educational institution. From there on it is a meteoritic rise for her. The different costumes symbolising different regions of India, shows her tour throughout India signifying her popularity is pan-Indian. More than that, the song gives Rosie an opportunity to express her love for Raju. Till then in the film, it is Raju, who is sacrificing his family, his social-status and money for her. He is encouraging her to become independent and listen to her inner voice. Now she gets to say thanks for all that and tell him how much she loves him. Without this song, she would come across a very selfish lady, who just takes from Raju and never giving anything in return. This song, on different levels, thus not only takes the story ahead but also fills in the gaps and holes of the plot. So if somebody asks you why Indian films have songs, show them this example.
Heerabai a dancer in a travelling theatre-troupe meets Heeraman (a bullock-cart driver) on her journey from one town to the other. The story of the film is not only her journey but also the journey of their affection for each other. Affection, love, desire, sacrifice have never been shown more subtly in Hindi cinema. Basu Bhattacharya shows his skills learned under his mentor Bimal Roy in best possible light.
Watch Waheeda’s dance steps in the song! They are not intricate Kathak steps, although she seems to be dressed for it. They are simple steps, which one would expect from a nautanki dancer, but Waheeda gives them such a grace, that they appear very refined! Hats off to all the people involved in the making of this classic film!
What does a Hindi film heroine (or for that matter any Indian film heroine) do when she sees her lover with another woman? Well, she sings, drinks and dances! No, not out of joy, but to express her grief. And does she get to express her grief here!
I find some of the dance steps here a bit awkward, but the song is fabulous! A little bit of trivia: S. D. Burman allegedly asked Neeraj explicitly to start the lyrics with the word Rangeela.
Another marathon song by Lata for Waheeda, this time from S. D. Burman’s assistant Jaidev. A music director, who never got his due! Reshma and Shera, the Rajasthani Romeo-Juliet, start sending messages to each other with the help of camels till it comes to the actual rendezvous. The song documents this development in their relationship. Listen to Lata sing/hum/whisper kahaan bujhe tan ki tapan (where can this fire get relief)! A lovely odyssey through feelings and emotions of a blossoming love but also through highs and lows of music and sound.
Shanta, whose husband has left her, for being insulted by her for spoiling her sari during Holi celebrations, is awaiting his return. She expresses her melancholic state of mind and loneliness in this poignant song. A very beautiful composition by S. D. Burman.
Few months back, it was reported, that Waheeda Rehman has quit films for good. That is indeed a sad news for the film industry.She didn’t quit films, because she was old and tired, but because she hardly gets any strong roles. A very sad situation for a film industry, where such great talents lie neglected. But maybe this signal will rally directors to offer her substantial roles.All said and done, we, the audience, have hardly any reason to complain. Waheeda has left behind a body of work, which still lets us discover new aspects and angles to it. Thank you, Waheeda, for this immensely rewarding movies that you have gifted us! Thank you!
Enjoy the playlist!