Bollywood

Book | Conversations with Waheeda Rehman

One of the major reasons any biography or a tell-all tale of a celebrity achieves good book sales is gossip. Big revelations about the industry, which is a pretty close-knit family, have intrigued outsiders forever. When reading about famous individuals from any field of life, we the readers, mostly due to basic human nature, are eager to know about their skeletons in the closet, concealed facts, and secrets that only a few are privy to. If that is what you want or so desire, then this is certainly not a book for you.

Conversations with Waheeda Rehman brings together two celebrated figures from the Indian film industry; Nasreen Munni Kabir, a journalist avant-garde who has covered different aspects of Bollywood over many decades in the form of books, TV series, and documentaries. The other being among the most admired film actress ever to have worked in Hindi films, Waheeda Rehman.

Right from the beginning, it is evident that neither the interviewer nor the one being interviewed is using this opportunity to boost sales. The conversations that take place are personal and subdued, and there is a bold line drawn between what is right and what is gossip.

Instead, what we get is a better understanding of the woman that is Waheeda Rehman; her childhood and the events that led her to enter the Indian film industry along with great insight into the world that exists just behind what we see on the silver screen.

Waheeda Rehman, in accordance with her character that we have seen many times on screen and otherwise in public events, comes across as extremely humble and down to earth. There’s a motherly feel to the way she talks about herself and the people of the industry that have been an integral part of her life. It is these personal anecdotes, the moments that defined her life, the photographs from her private collection, and the openness with which she discusses life that is both charming and nostalgic at the same time.

While the conversations between Nasreen Munni Kabir and Waheeda Rehman follow a rough timeline, it does jump around from decade to decade allowing a much-needed comparison between the way films were made in the 1950-70s and the way they are made now. Something equally surprising is the knowledge that Ms Rehman has of the various features of filmmaking. At times she is quite descriptive about lighting, music, direction, and of course dance and acting.

Conversations with Waheeda Rehman is a book that celebrates cinema through one of its leading ladies. Ms Rehman manages to showcase films as an art form and not just a medium for entertainment. In doing so, she also opens up about her co-actors with a viewpoint of an insider of the industry. Add to that her dignified life outside of films and she epitomises grace amongst the stars of yesteryears.

Early on in the chapters, Nasreen Munni Kabir states how she convinced Waheeda Rehman to do the book, and that the format of questions and answers would work better than an autobiography. Having read the book, I agree with this and believe that sometimes a back and forth conversation between two learned individuals can tell a lot more than a book that presents one side of a story.

Conversations with Waheeda Rehman is a brilliant read for any individual remotely interested in knowing more about the legendary actress, but also for those who want to get a glimpse into films being made during a time that is often termed as Indian cinema’s “Golden Period”.

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I know you are wondering how a book on Indian Cinema ended up here, in the middle of a travel blog. Last year, around this time, I went off on a tangent and decided to focus on films, via reviews, which captured different aspects of life from across the world.

Similarly, I feel that Indian Cinema is an integral part of who we are here in this country. Most of us breathe movies, love them, and hate them, with equal passion.

Going to the cinema is second nature to Indians. It is a chance for the family to enjoy a “masala blockbuster” together. A way for lovers to hide in the darkness of the theatre for some intimate time. And of course, an opportunity to forget about real life and lose ourselves in the stories on the silver screen for a few hours.

So, this time I decided to feature books based on Indian Cinema (and on a couple of occations World Cinema) that should hopefully give you an insight into what films mean to the people in India and also highlight some individuals who made “Bollywood” what it is – the largest film industry of the world.

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Note: This article contains Amazon affiliate links. If you use these to buy the book, you get it for no extra cost, while I get a small commission from Amazon in return. Thank you

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