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SGIFF: Movie Legend Waheeda Rehman Lauds Contemporary Indian Cinema

Waheeda Rehman, the 79-year-old grande dame of Indian cinema who has worked with most of the legendary filmmakers of her country during her 62-year career is very complimentary about the kind of films being made today.

“All kinds of stories are being today,” Rehman said. “Back in the day, films used to be formulaic. There was a hero, heroine and a villain, and there would be a cabaret number thrown in for good measure. I got very bored and began looking for different roles.”

Rehman was speaking at an In Conversation event for “The Song of Scorpions” that showed as a special presentation at the Singapore International Film Festival on Friday. Other speakers included director Anup Singh and producers Shahaf Peled and Saskia Vischer.

The roles Rehman 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.

Though she has lip-synced to hundreds of songs on screen during her career, “The Song of Scorpions” marks a first for Rehman – she has recorded two songs in her own voice for the film.

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 Singh, because, “I saw his film “Qissa” and fell in love with it.”

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