“Is this news correct?” the iconic Waheeda Rehman asks me suspiciously when I call her for her thoughts on the passing of India’s greatest actor. I reassure her it is indeed true. And since she had done so many memorable films with him, who better qualified to comment on him? “Not so many,” Waheedaji corrects me in her no-nonsense voice. “We did just 4 films together and unfortunately only one of them Ram Aur Shyam did well.”
Agreed, I conceded, but the other three films they did together –Dil Diya Dard Liya, Aadmi and Mashaal are all important powerful films with outstanding performances by both.
“Aapne sahi kaha,” Waheedaji concedes. “These were important films. And I had a wonderful experience working with Dilip Saab in these films. He was such a great artiste. I was so small in front of him. But he never made me feel small. He was the master in front of the camera. He would quietly tell me how to do some of my scenes. I learnt so much from him. I wish we had done more films together.”
What were Waheedaji’s takeaways from Dilip Saab’s performances? “His complete surrender to his characters. His focused energy. Nothing could distract him from his role. But most of all, it was intensity that held audiences in a thrall. One small twitch of his eye could convey more than a thousand words. You know, there are great actors who are not stars. Dilip Saab was a rare instance of a great actor who was also a superstar. Audiences wept and laughed with him. He could do tragic roles to perfection. But later on he started doing comedy with equal ease. I enjoyed working equally with him in the dark Dil Diya Dard Liya as much as the light Ram Aur Shyam. Our sequence in Yash Chopra’s Mashaal, our last film together where he tries to stop a vehicle to take me to the hospital, is talked to this day. We shot it on the road in Fort (Mumbai) at midnight.”
Did they socialize when not working together?
Waheedaji replies in the negative. “No we hardly ever met outside the studio. I don’t know how it is among actors these days. But in our time we didn’t meet outside work. I did the maximum films with Dev Anand. But I never went to his house. My only co-star whom I met socially was Sunil Dutt. And that was because I was very close to his wife Nargisji. I had been to Dilip Saab’s place only once to pay my respects to his brother who had a heart attack.”
Waheedaji’s heart reaches out to Dilip Saab’s wife Saira Banu. “She was a wonderful wife. She looked after him during his illness in his last years. May God grant her the strength to endure the grief and loneliness ahead.”
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