Indian film fans and critics and “writers” can barely think beyond Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan, Rajesh Khanna, et al when talking of the “greatest actor” produced by Bombay’s film “industry”.
The writer and academic Mukul Kesavan undertakes the necessary course-correction in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“Waheeda Rehman is, by some distance, the best actor produced by Bombay’s film industry in the 1950s and 1960s, and arguably the best actor in the history of Hindi cinema….
“While Guru Dutt is crucial to Waheeda Rehman’s stardom, her roles in his films are circumscribed by his narcissism. Her main task is to look ravishingly beautiful and this she does. It is to Guru Dutt’s credit that he frames her in ways that highlight her loveliness. But that is her role in his films; she’s a lovely prop.
“She is there so that the Guru Dutt character can be reliably loved by someone beautiful while he works his way through several sorts of male angst. It is a tribute to her abilities as an actor that within these constraints she comes across as a believable character.
“Waheeda Rehman is Hindi cinema’s greatest actor but it is a mistake to make that claim, as often happens, on the basis of her work in Guru Dutt’s films. Guru Dutt sprinkled her with stardust; as an actor, she made herself.”
Read the full article: An actor of genius