Re­mem­ber Wa­heeda Rehman? That’s a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion, by the way. Who could for­get Rosy of Guide, Jabba of Sahib, Biwi aur Ghu­lam, Gu­labo of Pyaasa, Daima of Lamhe? She may not be in heady lime­light now, but her dig­nity and sense of poise is still in­tact

Society - - CONTENTS - By Na­yare Ali

Who could for­get Rosy of Guide, Jabba of Sahib, Biwi aur Ghu­lam, Gu­labo of Pyaasa, Daima of Lamhe? Wa­heeda Rehman may not be in heady lime­light now, but her dig­nity and sense of poise is still in­tact. Here’s a Novem­ber 1992 So­ci­ety in­ter­view with the true diva.

Yes­ter­day, a mati­nee idol. To­day, a ma­tronly mama and man­u­fac­turer of a break­fast cereal. Not many can make the tran­si­tion grace­fully, but Wa­heeda Rehman’s match­less dig­nity and un­ruf­fled com­po­sure has seen her through. Here, for Wa­heeda-watch­ers, a full-blooded nos­tal­gia trip that trav­els with the ac­tress from her ob­scure ori­gins in a small town to her as­cent as one of Bol­ly­wood’s all-time greats, and back again to rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity—each role per­formed with the per­fect poise of a su­perla­tive ac­tress. The Wa­heeda Rehman legacy is an en­dur­ing one. Any­one who’s seen her in her early films, par­tic­u­larly un­der Guru Dutt’s bril­liant di­rec­tion, would have been less than hu­man had they not caught their very breaths in won­der at her over­whelm­ing beauty and fresh­ness. And the en­chant­ment of her smile! It’s a sub­ject wor­thy of a the­sis, that smile. Bril­liant, open, all-en­com­pass­ing, sud­den, it flits across her face like a king­fisher skim­ming through the air, and the ef­fect on the viewer is just the same—a sense of grat­i­tude at hav­ing wit­nessed one of na­ture’s phe­nom­ena. Later, through her long in­nings in the film in­dus­try, that youth and charm set­tled into a more mel­low dig­nity, that ki­netic physique took on more ma­tronly pro­por­tions. The en­chant­ment she had once wo­ven around her view­ers melted away into a more en­dur­ing re­spect for her wom­an­li­ness. She was no longer a flam­ing beauty, but even in her dig­nity and un­ruf­fled com­po­sure, she stood out from the rest. For, that was the time when film stars were loved, cov­eted, adored—but sel­dom re­spected.

To­day, as a housewife set­tled in Ban­ga­lore, and a busi­ness­woman run­ning a flour­ish­ing break­fast cereal ven­ture, that same sense of dig­nity and wom­an­li­ness con­tin­ues to dis­tin­guish her, and it is easy to see that it is the pos­ses­sion of th­ese qual­i­ties that has car­ried her grace­fully through her tran­si­tion from the high volt­age life­style of an ac­tress, to the more in­ti­mate de­mands of a house­hold. Her house, Gharounda, is si­t­u­ated in the out­skirts of Ban­ga­lore. A sprawl­ing garden aglow with bright-hued flow­ers and well-fed lawns en­case the at­trac­tive, pros­per­ous look­ing house. As you try to at­tune the house and the garden with the per­sona of the ac­tress, there she is, in per­son. Those same darkly pic­turesque eyes ap­praise you, that smile, oh, that smile, slightly shy at first, breaks grad­u­ally into a warmer one. She still sports the ubiq­ui­tious chignon, you note, but age, on the whole, has glided grace­fully over her—the odd wrin­kle or grey strand of hair merely em­pha­sis­ing her match­less dig­nity.

She’s ill at ease even as we ex­change pleas­antries, so we de­cide to break the ice with a photo ses­sion. She smiles apolo­get­i­cally as she leads the way into the garden, but her trans­for­ma­tion from awk­ward­ness to con­fi­dence be­fore the cam­era is al­most in­stan­ta­neous. The shoul­ders arch back au­to­mat­i­cally, the face swings to ex­hibit the best an­gle, and the hands ad­just the folds of her turquoise blue crepe silk. The ac­tress within her, it is ob­vi­ous, is not quite dead. Which is the cue to hark back to where it all be­gan. In a quiet cor­ner of South In­dia, in a low pro­file town called Vishaka­p­at­nam, ex­cite­ment was rife. The viceroy of In­dia, C Ra­jagopalachari, was pay­ing a cer­e­mo­nial visit, and the lit­tle town was leav­ing no stone un­turned in its ef­forts to fur­nish the dig­ni­tary with suit­able en­ter­tain­ment. Came a no­tice from pro­to­col that he as­pired to wit­ness lo­cal tal­ent. Overnight, the of­fi­cials landed at a novice 12-year-old’s doorstep. And, thus it was that Wa­heeda Rehman took her first step to­wards a ca­reer that lasted 30 years and sparked her as one of the film in­dus­try’s all-time greats. “It was in my des­tiny. I am a great be­liever in fate. It’s amaz­ing how peo­ple meet when they are des­tined to do so,” she ex­claims. And you can’t help nod­ding at the di­vin­ity that shaped her ends. “Just the viceroy coming to Vishaka­p­at­nam, we (my sis­ter and I) be­ing ap­proached to dance, in­stead of a troupe of well-known dancers. It’s amaz­ing. Our pro­gramme made news at that time, the news­pa­pers praised our per­for­mances, and pub­lished our pho­to­graphs with the viceroy. As a con­se­quence, I got of­fers for Tel­ugu and Tamil movies, but my father re­fused. Not be­cause he was nar­row-minded, but I was at a dif­fi­cult age. I could nei­ther be a child artiste nor a lead­ing lady. My father used to main­tain that no pro­fes­sion by it­self was bad, it was how you con­ducted your­self that earned the pro­fes­sion its rep­u­ta­tion. I have al­ways made sure that no mat­ter what I do, I al­ways con­duct my­self with dig­nity.” Spot on. Her father passed away, and, she con­tin­ues, “I started get­ting of­fers once again. I begged my mother to al­low me to act, plead­ing lone­li­ness, as my older sis­ters were mar­ried. Mum was re­luc­tant since it was a ma­jor de­ci­sion and she was scared to agree. Even­tu­ally, a pro­ducer who hap­pened to be a fam­ily friend, man­aged to con­vince my mother to let me per­form at least a dance se­quence in his film. The Tel­ugu movie, Ru­dra­ma­ray, went on to be­come a block­buster. The song se­quence by it­self was con­sid­ered one of the high­lights of the movie.” She stops to take a breath. “You know, I had a very strong gut feel­ing that I was go­ing to make it big,” she con­fesses. “Af­ter the film com­pleted 100 days, we went from place to place in Andhra Pradesh for the premier and wher­ever I went, the au­di­ence would clam­our for me. The di­rec­tor was very clever. He would hold back for a while and then push me, with a ‘Now, go.’” Her voice is charged with the eu­phoric con­fi­dence the young ado­les­cent must have ex­pe­ri­enced. A 16-year-old Wa­heeda was still liv­ing on the lau­rels of her maiden film, and was in Hyderabad to at­tend its sil­ver ju­bilee. The renowned Guru Dutt hap­pened to be in the same city. In­trigued by the surg­ing crowd chas­ing a car, he made in­quires with

“It was in my des­tiny. I’m a great be­liever in fate. It’s amaz­ing how peo­ple meet when they are des­tined to do so.”

his dis­trib­u­tor, and that’s how the pair that cre­ated movie magic on screen, first came to hear of each other. When Guru Dutt heard that the pop­u­lar ac­tress was an Urdu speak­ing Mus­lim, he in­sisted on meet­ing her. Re­calls Wa­heeda. “I was given a call, and naturally, I agreed, be­cause I was anx­ious to do Hindi movies, es­pe­cially since Urdu was my mother tongue. Be­ing young, I was ner­vous about go­ing to Bom­bay on my own, and asked for time to con­sider the of­fer. Six months later, he sent his man­ager again and this time we went to Bom­bay.” She con­tin­ues her roller coaster ride down mem­ory lane. “When my mum and I were down in Bom­bay, ini­tially, I was fas­ci­nated by the Vic­to­rias. I used to pester my mum to take me, ar­gu­ing that I was still un­known, so we ought to en­joy the anonymity be­fore I be­came too pop­u­lar. My mother was so wild with me. She was very up­set at my over­con­fi­dence. Do you know, she re­fused to talk to me for one week? That ex­pe­ri­ence left such an in­deli­ble mark that I never be­came ar­ro­gant, even dur­ing my peak days.”

The year 1955, the film CID. A thin veil partly cam­ou­flag­ing her face, the cam­era slowly pans on her face, as the eyes, darkly pic­turesque, peep out of the shel­ter, os­ten­si­bly to look at the hero, Dev Anand. Wa­heeda, in a cameo role, played the saucy-eyed but street smart gang­ster’s moll, who even­tu­ally sees the light when she falls in love with CID, Dev Anand, and sac­ri­fices her life for him. “I was thrilled to be work­ing with Dev, be­ing a fan of his. I was not cam­era con­scious, hav­ing worked in a movie be­fore. But, I had a lot of prob­lems with my voice, which I felt was not very good.” She has point there, for her ini­tial movies be­tray an in­ex­pe­ri­ence in voice mod­u­la­tion, per­haps the only trace of her pro­vin­cial back­ground. “Other­wise,” she con­tin­ues. “Most of my roles were unique. Nor­mally, the hero­ine’s role is so pre­dictable. Ei­ther she falls in love and dis­closes it to her par­ents, or she elopes with her lover. Not a def­i­nite char­ac­ter you could iden­tify with. In my movies, the cir­cum­stances were dif­fer­ent, the sit­u­a­tions were dif­fer­ent.” She speaks the truth. Who can for­get the slav­ishly de­voted nurse of Khamoshi who falls in love with a men­tally dis­turbed Dhar­men­dra, and nurses him back to san­ity, only to be handed over an in­vi­ta­tion card to his wed­ding? The sec­ond time over, she falls in love with Ra­jesh Khanna, to be met with the same fate. The last scene shows a dis­traught and emo­tion­ally de­hy­drated Wa­heeda, piti­fully clutch­ing the barbed wires of the asy­lum win­dow, her hands mov­ing “You know, I had a very strong gut feel­ing that I was go­ing to make it big. Af­ter the film com­pleted 100 days, we went from place to place in Andhra Pradesh for the premier, and wher­ever I went, the au­di­ence would clam­our for me.” down in claw­ing mo­tion, her face streaked with tears, de­spair in her eyes. She read­ily ad­mits to bask­ing un­der the halo of pop­u­lar­ity and glam­our. “I en­joyed it. It felt great. And though I was so sure of mak­ing it big, still when it did hap­pened, it was like, ‘Oh my god, how did this hap­pen?’

Not all was beer and skit­tles, though. “One thing I didn’t like was be­ing touched by them. I mean, why push and touch? Talk to us, but don’t push, I didn’t like that,” she as­serts, wrin­kling her nose in dis­tance. She con­tin­ues, “At shoot­ing, we some­times in­vited by­standers to par­tic­i­pate in a scene. There was this guy who came and stood next to me. ‘Wa­heedaji, you don’t recog­nise me?’ he said later. I said I’m sorry. I don’t rec­ol­lect hav­ing met you. ‘You came to Delhi for a premier of one of your films and at­tended a party for five hun­dred peo­ple. I was one of them.’ I apol­o­gised for my poor mem­ory, but he started threat­en­ing me. ‘If you don’t recog­nise me, I will jump into the sea af­ter pack up.’ I got a lit­tle worked up and con­fided to David Abra­ham, who was a well-known char­ac­ter artiste in those days, and who was a part of that scene with me. David saab marched across to where I was and told him, ‘Make sure you tie a stone to your­self so that you don’t come up.” Like all beau­ti­ful ac­tresses, she has had many ar­dent ad­mir­ers and has re­ceived sev­eral pro­pos­als of mar­riage. One even ad­dressed her as his wife in one of his letters. “Oh, that was re­ally funny,” she laughs, plung­ing head­long into yet an­other hu­man com­edy. “One night, an army ma­jor tried to forcibly get in and was re­strained by my re­tain­ers. He told them I was his wife, that he had writ­ten to me and was wait­ing to see me. He cre­ated such a scene that fi­nally

we had to call the po­lice, be­cause he be­came very ag­gres­sive and dra­mat­i­cally an­nounced, ‘I will kill you. You are not al­low­ing me to go to my wife.’”

Such are the per­ils of en­chant­ment. Yet, de­spite all the glam­our and glit­ter of her ex­is­tence, she re­mained res­o­lutely down-to-earth. Says she, “Af­ter all, we are as hu­man as you. It’s the public which places us on a pedestal, cre­ates su­per­nat­u­ral spec­i­mens out of us, as­so­ci­ates mys­tery and un­ap­proach­a­bil­ity with us. Why do you for­get we are nor­mal as you are? We are al­lowed no pri­vacy. We are self-con­scious all the time. We have our fair share of syco­phants who flat­ter us into pro­ject­ing an air of su­pe­ri­or­ity. We are ex­pected to be per­fect, we are ex­pected to be po­lite, we are ex­pected to be smil­ing, it’s an un­nat­u­ral life.” She con­tin­ues, “Sev­eral times, I have re­volted against the norms, I would dress up ex­actly the way I de­sired, even af­ter I be­came a star. My hair would be dressed in two pig­tails, my dress code was un­starry. Ini­tially, a lot of peo­ple would be out­raged, but I would re­tal­i­ate with, ‘I know I’m a star, but I’m hu­man too. I dress for my sat­is­fac­tion and my hap­pi­ness. My fans hap­pi­ness does mat­ter, but I think I owe my­self some per­sonal joy, too.’” At that time, in the en­tire in­dus­try, only Nar­gisji and I would be seen around in cot­ton saris. It is a dif­fi­cult ma­te­rial to main­tain, since it tends to get creased, be­cause I was par­tic­u­lar about not look­ing un­tidy. Other­wise, I was very com­fort­able in a cot­ton sari, be it for my af­ter­noon shots, or shop­ping trips. My for­mal saris, I would re­serve for even­ing par­ties.” Starry par­ties, on the whole, left her cold. “Of course, the one com­pul­sive en­gage­ment on my di­ary was the New Year party at Dutt saab and Nar­gisji’s place. Nor­mally, our par­ties were very in­ti­mate gath­er­ings of close friends like Nanda, Jabeen and Shak­ila, and their fam­i­lies, along with mine. Those days were real fun. We would go out on pic­nics to­gether and once a year, I would take time off to travel. I love trav­el­ling by car and my fam­ily and I would travel to An­janta, El­lora, Hyderabad, prac­ti­cally all over the south, and I’d love it if the car broke down.” She stops for sus­pense. “Be­cause I had a very con­ve­nient ex­cuse to reach Bom­bay late.” Even as we chuckle over this, she breaks in with a lengthy nar­ra­tive. “Once, I had gone to Ko­daikanal for a hol­i­day with Nanda, her brother, my sis­ters, niece, nephew and my­self. One day, we vis­ited Mun­nar, a tea estate, which was 90 kilo­me­tres away. It was so beau­ti­ful, we de­cided to stay back for the night. The care­taker of the lodge was a very dark guy, in spot­less white. He was eerie. Nanda had once ex­claimed, ‘I wish I could drink chilled “I was thrilled to be work­ing with Dev (Anand), be­ing a fan of his. I was not cam­era con­scious, hav­ing worked in a movie be­fore. But, I had a lot of prob­lems with my voice, which I felt was not very good.” Thums Up, and lo, the care­taker came in with just that, along with English tea. When we re­quested him for rooms, he agreed on one con­di­tion. The men with us would be boarded in an an­nexe away from the main build­ing. Nanda got re­ally sus­pi­cious. “He’s a scary dark man in stark white dhoti kurta, we didn’t ask him for Thums Up. How did he know? In those days, Gum­naam had just re­leased and Nanda was very in­flu­enced by it. I just dis­missed her fears, and af­ter she had dozed off, I opened the win­dows. Sud­denly, she jumped up with a scream. ‘Why have you left the win­dow open? She shouted. That dark fel­low, first of all. Af­ter see­ing Gum­naam, how can you keep the win­dow open?’” she gig­gles un­con­trol­lably. Well, we ddin’t sleep too well that night, but I just can’t get over Nanda’s ‘How can you for­get Gum­naam, one man killed 10 peo­ple.’” With Nanda, her bo­som buddy, she shares a gen­uine friend­ship, time tested over decades. Her ela­tion over Nanda’s en­gage­ment to Mam­mo­han De­sai is no ar­ti­fice, but a full-blooded emo­tion. “If she is happy, then I am happy.”

Wa­heeda ad­mits to shar­ing an easy go­ing ca­ma­raderie with all her male co-stars, par­tic­u­larly Dev Anand and Su­nil Dutt. “I acted in two of Su­nil’s home pro­duc­tions, Reshma Aur Shera and Mu­jhe Jeene Do. I would tell him, ‘Su­nil, your body is okay, but look at your face. You look like a Glaxo baby.’ He would pre­tend to get very an­noyed. ‘Wa­heeda, don’t tell me that. Don’t for­get I’m play­ing a da­coit now.’” No ac­count of Wa­heeda Rehman would be com­plete with­out the men­tion of the ir­re­sistible Wa­heedaGuru Dutt com­bi­na­tion, the tun­ing of a fine ac­tress and a sen­si­tive film­maker, a pro­fes­sional chem­istry that spelt

magic on screen. That the magic con­tin­ued off­screen is well known, but Wa­heeda, with char­ac­ter­is­tic ret­i­cence, re­fuses to be drawn into dis­cussing the sub­ject. Nev­er­the­less, some of her most unforgettable films and mo­ments are owed to him. Who can for­get Gu­labo’s word­less se­duc­tion of Vi­jay, the ghazal singer, whom she wills up to her room by the mere use of her eyes?

Wa­heeda takes up the nar­ra­tive thread once more. You see, when I joined as an ac­tress, I was too young to dis­tin­guish be­tween a good di­rec­tor and a bad di­rec­tor. And be­sides, he was too se­ri­ous and in­tense a per­son. Both CID and Pyaasa were be­ing shot at the same time, so I was both scared and shy of Raj Khosla and Guru Dutt. What was most com­mend­able about Guru Dutt was that de­spite his se­ri­ous­ness, he could make a light movie like Mr & Mrs 55. His movies by them­selves were so vastly dif­fer­ent from one an­other, be it, Kagaz Ke Phool, or Pyaasa. In fact, I re­cently saw Pyaasa, and couldn’t help ad­mir­ing his ge­nius. Now that I have mas­tered a few tech­ni­cal de­tails, I re­alised that he had brought in zoom ef­fect when there were no zoom lenses avail­able. He was very fond of tak­ing close-ups, be­cause he felt you could con­vey so much more through fa­cial ex­pres­sions, and I like that be­cause I hated lengthy di­a­logues, thanks to my in­hi­bi­tion about my voice. I think his ge­nius was truly recog­nised only af­ter his death. Even to this day, he in­flu­ences di­rec­tors. What I’m most grate­ful to him about is that de­spite my minis­cule roles in the movies, peo­ple still re­mem­ber and com­pli­ment me.” Ph­a­gun proved to be a costly mis­cal­cu­la­tion that aug­mented her down­ward slide as the lead­ing lady, when she stub­bornly stuck to her de­ci­sion to play Jaya’s mother in the movie. She re­flects, “Change is an in­evitable part of life.”

How did she find the shift from a star to liv­ing the life of an or­di­nary mor­tal? “I al­ways like to face re­al­ity. That’s why I found it easy to ac­cept this new phase of life. And I feel there’s noth­ing wrong in grow­ing old grace­fully. Age­ing is a nat­u­ral process, you can’t stop time from tick­ing, I think my in­nings got over a lit­tle too fast, from ’71 on­wards. What I did feel a lit­tle bad about was, the mo­ment I did a mother’s role in Ph­a­gun, ev­ery­body jumped to the con­clu­sion that I had shifted to char­ac­ter roles just be­cause I played mother to an­other ac­tress. In fact, well-wish­ers ad­vised me to do a dou­ble role—but I was adamant about not do­ing it.” So im­mersed was she in ca­reer build­ing and growth that mar­riage caught up with her at the rel­a­tively ad­vanced age of 34. “Well, I was search­ing for the right per­son. When you are in a pro­fes­sion like act­ing, it re­ally takes time to know the per­son. My hus­band was an ex-ac­tor with whom I worked in Sh­a­gun. His screen name was Kan­wal­jeet. He acted in a few movies, but they did not click, so he mi­grated to Canada, and started his busi­ness there. Once every cou­ple of years, when he vis­ited Bom­bay, he would drop in to say hello to me. But we were not even good friends,” she at­tempts to con­vince me. “So, like usual, he came over to see me in ’74. This time, he came down for six months, and he men­tioned that he had some­thing im­por­tant to dis­cuss with me. “Well,” her tone takes a dra­matic air, “I didn’t sus­pect any­thing, you see. He was very friendly with my nephew, who is also in the gar­ment busi­ness like him, so I pre­sumed he wanted to dis­cuss some tech­ni­cal de­tails with me, but I must con­fess that in my sub-con­scious mind, I had de­cided that if he were to pro­pose, then I would ac­cept it…” Ah, ah, out came the con­fes­sion. Why, you blurt out. “I al­ways felt that he was a nice, de­cent, sober Pun­jabi and I sensed that he was,” she pauses for ef­fect, “very fond of me. In fact, he ad­mit­ted it later, that he ad­mired me for my down-to-earth sim­plic­ity. We had a small wed­ding, with 55 peo­ple to be pre­cise, be­cause I don’t like too much of shor and hungamma.” “In fact, I started work­ing in Kabhi Kabhi only af­ter my mar­riage. At that time, we were plan­ning to set­tle abroad. But, only af­ter I com­pleted my as­sign­ment. Since I got mar­ried sud­denly, I had al­ready signed Yashji’s Kabhi Kabhi, and he in­sisted on me do­ing the movie. Sim­i­larly, the pro­ducer of the Amitabh-star­rer Adalat re­fused

“With Nanda, her bo­som buddy, she shares a gen­uine friend­ship, time tested over decades.”

“I feel there’s noth­ing wrong in grow­ing old grace­fully. Age­ing is a nat­u­ral process, you can’t stop time from tick­ing, I think my in­nings got over a lit­tle too fast, from ’71 on­wards.” to let me go. So, the tran­si­tion from films was a grad­ual one. In time, my pri­or­ity shifted to­wards start­ing a fam­ily, since I was get­ting on in years. The very next year, my child was born. Late mother­hood makes you more pa­tient. You un­der­stand the psy­chol­ogy of the child bet­ter. Once, my three-year-old son picked up an ob­scene word from the build­ing boys and re­peated it, prob­a­bly for shock value. At first, I pre­tended I didn’t hear it, so he re­peated it to gauge my re­ac­tion. I said, ‘ Beta, it’s not very nice,’” she crin­kles her nose. ‘It’s bad. Good chil­dren don’t use such words.’ He prob­a­bly ex­pected me to yell at him, so he was rather dis­ap­pointed. Once, he spilt a cold drink on our sofa while we had guests. He lit­er­ally shud­dered with fear. I said noth­ing, and he later asked me, ‘Mummy, why didn’t you get an­gry “The tran­si­tion from films was a grad­ual one. In time, my pri­or­ity shifted to­wards start­ing a fam­ily, since I was get­ting on in years. The very next year, my child was born.”

with me?’ I said, ‘You did not do it on pur­pose. It was a mis­take.’ He hugged me tight.” The ma­ter­nal glow brings a warm flush to her face. “We are friends with our kids. I al­ways tell them you can feel free to dis­cuss any­thing with me. That is the kind of re­la­tion­ship we have al­ways as­pired for.” I ex­pected the kids to rush out any mo­ment, but no, I am told the kids are study­ing at Ko­daikanal In­ter­na­tional School. “My son is do­ing his school finals and he most prob­a­bly will leave for the States to do his MBA. My daugh­ter is in her 10th. She hasn’t de­cided as yet, but I’d like her to take up en­vi­ron­men­tal sciences. It does get a lit­tle lonely with­out them, so I go to Ko­dai prac­ti­cally every month to see them,” she ad­mits with a sheep­ish smile. She may miss her kids, but time doesn’t ex­actly lie idle on her hands. For, she has a flour­ish­ing busi­ness, man­u­fac­tur­ing Farm­house break­fast cereal, a ven­ture she started four years ago. “In In­dia, we don’t have much va­ri­ety for break­fast. Fur­ther, with both spouses work­ing, no­body has the time to pre­pare elab­o­rate morn­ing meals like parathas, idlis and dosas. And break­fast must be a nu­tri­tious and ful­fill­ing meal since it is the first of the day. So, my part­ner Ashrafa and I ex­per­i­mented with this for­mula which is very much like Swiss muesli. We tried out a va­ri­ety of recipes, gave them to our friends to test, and so­licited feed­back on what they liked and dis­liked. Then, we took the sam­ple to Mysore Univer­sity, and had the food value an­a­lysed by con­sul­tant ex­perts; fi­nally, we pack­aged them in plas­tic jars.” How was it re­ceived? “Oh, it’s do­ing very well. It’s tasty, nour­ish­ing. It has dry fruits and cereal. The whole fam­ily can en­joy it and women love the plas­tic con­tain­ers. Later on, a lot of ladies pointed out that though they were thrilled with the jars, they were get­ting too nu­mer­ous to col­lect. At any rate, I was al­ways anx­ious to con­vert to car­tons, which are lighter, and eas­ier to carry. We have a tiny fac­tory close by, and we have some­how ended up em­ploy­ing women. Though it in­volves a lot of hard work, it is sim­ple pro­ce­dure, and we felt it was a nice way to en­cour­age women. I su­per­vise only dur­ing my part­ner’s ab­sence. It is not pos­si­ble for me to do so ev­ery­day. Be­sides, I am away for eight months with the kids at Ko­dai. How­ever, I do keep my­self in­formed of the day-to­day ac­tiv­i­ties. Right now, we dis­trib­ute it over the coun­try—Bom­bay, Madras, Delhi, Chandigarh, Cal­cutta, Bi­har, and Ker­ala, as also the in­te­rior re­gions of the south. Af­ter a lit­tle while, I want to ex­pand fur­ther in the same line, though,” she very en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ex­plains. To­day, Wa­heeda di­vides her time be­tween her fam­ily, her busi­ness, and an­other love, gar­den­ing. “It takes a lot of my time since I have a big garden.” Does she talk to her plants, I ask her. She’s em­bar­rassed but shyly ad­mits to do­ing so. “Peo­ple think I’m mad but it is said that the sound waves fa­cil­i­tate quick growth. I be­lieve even mu­sic helps in the same man­ner…” she gig­gles. She’s the quin­tes­sence of nor­mal­ity, the very pic­ture of a con­tented housewife, pre­oc­cu­pied with her home and fam­ily. Fate has been more than kind to her. Af­ter el­e­vat­ing her to fame and great­ness, it went one step fur­ther and de­posited her back gen­tly to earth, safe, sound and in­tact. Wish that the trauma-rid­den hero­ines whose predica­ments she cap­tured so evoca­tively were half so lucky.

26th July, 1974—wed­ded bliss

Three is a com­pany: New Year’s party at Nar­gis’ house with the host­ess and Nanda

A cel­e­bra­tion of life in Mu­jheJeeneDo

The earthly god­dess–in BaatEkRaatKi

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