Subhash K Jha gives us the very best of Waheeda Rehman.
I have not seen Waheeda Rehman step out of her comfort zone to display the staggering range of Madhubala, Geeta Bali, Nutan or Sridevi, says Subhash K Jha.
Whenever she did slip away from her restrained histrionics, she gave us characters that will live forever.
On Waheeda Rehman's birthday on February 3, here are five roles that define her.
Rosy in Guide (1965)
Nutan and Nargis may have a wider range, but they couldn't dance to save their lives.
Waheeda's snake dance in Guide is the stunning piece of film dancing in Indian cinema, rivaled only by Vyjanthimala's Hothon Pe Aisi Baat in Jewel Thief.
What was it about Dev Anand that provoked these women to excel themselves?
What can one say about this woman, who thumbs her nose at a bad marriage to pursue her dream: Dancing.
Radha in Khamoshi (1969)
Producer Hemant Kumar and Director Asit Sen were advised to take Nutan in the role of a nurse at a mental asylum, who is asked to feign love for a man suffering a nervous breakdown after being jilted in love.
It's a role of tremendous complexities, performed by the actress beyond her normal serene range.
Waheeda's mental breakdown at the end will give you goosebumps.
Madhavi in Darpan (1970)
Only God and the moral police know why our greatest heroines are never accepted as prostitutes, unless they are the pristine, poetic version, like the tawaif in Pakeezah, Umrao Jaan and Amar Prem.
Otherwise, from Rehana Sultan in Chetna to Shabana Azmi in Bhavna, Mandi and Doosri Dulhan, they have all been rejected.
In the flop Darpan, Waheeda played a prostitute being rehabilitated by Sunil Dutt, a role he played earlier to Vyjanthiamala in Sadhana.
But here, the sex worker was not a simpering poetess and so, she was rejected by the moral police in the screenplay as well as the audience watching the film.
Watch this film for Waheeda's anguished protest in the Lata Mangeshkar song, Mujhe Pyar Karne Haq Nahin.
Watch the film for its courage to cast a top female star as a sex worker.
The film was directed by A Subba Rao, who also directed Milan with Nutan and Sunil Dutt.
Shanta in Phagun (1973)
Psychological complexities abound in this tragic film about a woman, whose marriage to a man beneath her status, breaks up leaving her emotionally fractured and sexually deprived for the rest of her life.
There are scenes where Waheeda's Shanta had to enact a character, who gets attracted to her own son-in-law.
Not an easy emotional outlet for an actress as dignified as herself.
She told me Phagun was a mistake because it relegated her to mothers' roles prematurely.
Gulabi in Abhijaan (1973)
In her only film with the great Satyajit Ray, Waheeda played a free-spirited rural woman -- a widow named Gulabi who does what her heart wants.
Tricked into the flesh trade, she happily sleeps with a man (Soumitra Chatterjee) with no strings attached because she loves him.
Gulabi was a true feminist, long before feminism became fashionable in films.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/ Rediff.com