Waheeda Rehman Wins India’s Highest Film Honor

Revered Indian actor Waheeda Rehman has been accorded the Dadasaheb Phalke award, India’s highest film honor.

The award is given for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema and is named after Phalke, director of “Raja Harischandra” (1913), India’s first full-length feature, who is considered the father of Indian cinema.

Rehman, the 85-year-old grande dame of Indian cinema has worked with most of the legendary filmmakers of her country during her career and the roles she chose were in films that are considered classics in the annals of Indian cinema. She worked with Guru Dutt in “Pyaasa” (1957) and “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959), Satyajit Ray in “Abhijaan” (1962), Basu Bhattacharya in “Teesri Kasam” (1966) and Yash Chopra in “Kabhie Kabhie” (1976), among many other memorable roles.

But it is her role as Rosie in Vijay Anand’s “Guide” (1965) that Rehman remembers with the greatest fondness. “When I signed ‘Guide’ more than 50 years ago, my friends told me that it would be my last film, because, in the very first scene I leave my husband and enter a live-in relationship with a tour guide. It seems normal today, but it wasn’t so back then. The direction was beautiful. The extra-marital affair was not portrayed as cheap or vulgar,” Rehman said during an event at the 2017 Singapore International Film Festival.

Rehman has been in semi-retirement since Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s “Delhi-6” (2009). She returned to the screen for Aparna Sen’s “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation “Arshinagar” in 2015. She was coaxed out of her hiatus again by Anup Singh for “The Song of Scorpions” (2017) and since then has featured in Kamal Haasan’s “Vishwaroopam 2” (2018) and Manjari Makijany’s “Skater Girl” (2021).

Announcing the award on Tuesday, Anurag Thakur, India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister posted: “I feel an immense sense of happiness and honor in announcing that Waheeda Rehman ji is being bestowed with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award this year for her stellar contribution to Indian Cinema. Waheeda ji has been critically acclaimed for her roles in Hindi films, prominent among them, ‘Pyaasa,’ ‘Kaagaz ke Phool,’ ‘Chaudhavi Ka Chand,’ ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam,’ ‘Guide,’ ‘Khamoshi’ and several others. In her career spanning over 5 decades, she has essayed her roles with extreme finesse, leading to a National Film Award for her role as a clanswoman in the film ‘Reshma Aur Shera.’”

Past winners of the Dadasaheb Phalke award include filmmakers Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal and Tapan Sinha, actors Soumitra Chatterjee, Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Rajkumar, Sivaji Ganesan, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Shashi Kapoor, Asha Parekh and Rajinikanth and musicians Manna Dey, Bhupen Hazarika, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.

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