Nasreen Munni Kabir | My biggest problem is, who next?
The author on discovering Waheeda Rehman, the storyteller
Nasreen Munni Kabir’s previous book-length conversations have been with Javed Akhtar, Lata Mangeshkar, A.R. Rahman and Gulzar. Waheeda Rehman was an inevitable subject, given Kabir’s extensive work on Guru Dutt, but she proved to be difficult to pin down initially. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Why Waheeda Rehman? Did she take persuading?
She is a history maker. I first met her in the 1980s when I was doing my documentary on Guru Dutt. She also featured in my film in the early 1990s which I made on Lata Mangeshkar. It took a long time to persuade her—she did not agree immediately, saying that she wasn’t sure who would be interested. I believe it is modesty, rather than false modesty. When you use words like cinematic history with her, they sound grand, and she doesn’t think of her life as part of that world.
What was she like to talk to?
It took her time to open up and to relax. When she starts relaxing, she tells incidents in a story-like form. She would get very animated. It’s typical of people of that generation—they remember what people told them, and it’s less about themselves and more about the scene. Their anecdotes are rich and detailed. For instance, Waheeda provided textured details of what kind of lenses Guru Dutt used, which I felt to be unusual since I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that women of that generation were unaware of technical details.
Rehman is quite frank about her problems with Dutt’s long-time collaborators, Raj Khosla and Abrar Alvi.
She wasn’t camouflaging tensions and disputes that the artistic process often involves. She is outspoken and not someone who budges easily. It isn’t stubbornness, but a finite idea of what she will or will not do.
You have done several books and documentaries on various phases of Hindi film history. What are the missing pieces?
Among the biggest missing pieces is access to serious interviews and research on the writers and lyricists of the 1950s, who gave cinema its political edge. I am also angry with myself for not having pursued Raj Khosla and Vijay Anand. My biggest problem is, who next?
Also Read: Excerpt | Conversations With Waheeda Rehman
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