The timing of the award, announced on X (formerly Twitter) by Union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, couldn’t have been more perfect for the 85-year-old actor.
“Her journey in Indian cinema has left an indelible mark. A beacon of talent, dedication and grace, she embodies the best of our cinematic heritage. Congratulations to her,” posted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It came on a day when Hindi film enthusiasts were celebrating the birth centenary of Dev Anand, a co-star she was fond of and frequently collaborated with.
In Dev Anand’s Guide (1965), which was based on writer RK Narayan’s novel, Rehman delivered one of her most defining performances as Rosie, a woman who refuses to be silenced in a bad marriage and dares to walk out to pursue the abandon of love and freedom. Rehman’s performance is real and riveting in a role many remember her by.
It was almost a decade ago in another Dev Anand box-office smash, CID (1956), that Rehman first marked her presence playing a part with negative shades. The two stars were also paired in the hit romantic comedy, Solva Saal (1958), among the first of Hindi film remakes of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) and a bunch of other black and white movies such as Kala Bazar (1960) and Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962) that continue to draw old-timers on YouTube and OTT channels.
CID was produced by Guru Dutt, who brought her into Hindi films and with whom she created some of the most stellar moments of her career. She played a prostitute who stands by the forlorn poet in Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957) and a girl who becomes an accidental star in the tragic Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). With Dutt, she also delivered one of the biggest hits of her career: Chaudhvin Ka Chand.
Other notable films in her career include Sayajit Ray’s Abhijan (1962), where she played the sensuous Gulabi, the amiable nautanki dancer in director Basu Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam (1966), the sensitive nurse who only finds love in madness in Khamoshi (1970), and the clanswoman in Sunil Dutt’s desert classic, Reshma aur Shera (1971), for which she received the national award for best actress.
Thakur, also minister for youth affairs and sports, posted on X that the award was being given for Rehman’s her “rich body of work that is an intrinsic part of our film history.”
“A Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee, Waheeda ji has exemplified dedication, commitment and the strength of a Bharatiya Nari who can achieve the highest level of professional excellence with her hard work,” the Union minister posted on X.
“At a time when the historic Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam has been passed by the Indian Parliament, her being awarded with this lifetime achievement award is a fitting tribute to one of the leading ladies of Indian Cinema and one who has dedicated her life after films to philanthropy and the greater good of society,” he said.
In recent years, Rehman has also featured in Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vishwaroopam 2’ (2018) and Manjari Makijany’s ‘Skater Girl’ (2021). The award will be conferred on the Grand Dame of Indian cinema during the government’s flagship International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa in November.
Devika Rani was the first recipient of the award, which was instituted in 1969. The last four previous recipients were: Vinod Khanna (2017), Amitabh Bachchan (2018), Rajinikanth (2019) and Asha Parekh (2020).
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