Recalling some of Waheeda Rehman’s superb on-screen dances


Sharada Iyer

Waheeda Rehman with her exquisitely chiselled features, a rare simplicity, amazing grace and immense talent had a truly transcendental appeal. Her beautiful presence lent dignity to every character she portrayed in her long and illustrious career spanning more than three decades. From the vamp of CID in 1955 to the grandmother of Delhi-6 in 2009, she was fortunate to have got a variety of roles and her career graph is not only studded with memorable performances but also some remarkable on-screen dances.



Waheeda Rehman danced like a dream and being one of the few dancing heroines to have entered the industry she brought with her the beauty of our cultural arts. She put life into all her dances and her eyes beautifully captured the different emotions and nuances required for the song situation. Apart from typical classical dances she also performed other lighter styles and left her graceful stamp in all of them.

This blog is an attempt to highlight her memorable dance numbers which remain a delight for the viewer even today…

Waheeda Rehman attributes her entry into Hindi films to be nothing short of divine intervention for she never really went out of her way to approach anyone and offers just landed on her lap. Her entry into the industry happened because of her dancing talent. Born into a Tamil and Urdu speaking family in Chengalpetu near Chennai in Tamil Nadu, she and her elder sister Sayeeda learnt Bharatnatyam from a young age and they used to perform on stage for some shows. Seeing her talent and beauty, she started getting offers from Telugu and Tamil films but her parents felt it was too early to think about a film career.

Tragically she lost her father when she was only thirteen and they continued the stage shows to keep the money coming. When she was seventeen she got a call from the director Tapi Chanakya to do a dance number in his Telugu film Rojulu Marayi. This time she decided to give it a try little knowing that this song was going to transform her life and catapult her onto the journey eventually turning her into one of the best actresses of Hindi cinema!

ROJULU MARAYI (music director- Master Venu)

Even though the film had top stars like Nageshwar Rao and Sowkar Janaki, it was the song ‘Eruvaaka Sagaroranno Chinnanna…’ picturized on debutante Waheeda Rehman that became a sensational hit! People flocked to see the film only to see this dance and she became an overnight celebrity. (Incidentally S D Burman used a part of this tune for his song ‘Dekhne mein bhola hai dil ka salauna…’ in the film Bambai ka Babu)

CID (music director- O P Nayyar)

Fate intervened and it was at the success party of the Telugu film in Hyderabad that actor-producer-director Guru Dutt spotted her and offered her to come to Bombay (now Mumbai) and join Hindi films. He cast her in the role of a vamp in her first film CID, directed by Raj Khosla. She had a simple dance number in her first film itself ‘Kahin pe nigahen…’ which scaled the popularity charts in no time and she was noticed by one and all…

NEEL KAMAL (music director-Ravi)

Throughout the sixties she had many melodious dance numbers picturized on her. In 1968 came the film Neel Kamal starring Waheeda Rehman with Raj Kumar and Manoj Kumar. It was re-incarnation saga where she had been a dancer in her previous birth and Raj Kumar’s ghost haunts her and takes her back in time in an attempt to make her remember the past when they had been lovers.

In the current birth she is married to Manoj Kumar. Here is a dance number on stage where he is sitting in the audience. Waheeda Rehman surprisingly dances both as the female and male dancer simultaneously- wonder how she was supposed to have accomplished it!!! She is also seen in a western getup for a small part which is a rare sight…

EK PHOOL CHAAR KAANTE (music director Shankar-Jaikishen)

In 1961 she teamed up with Sunil Dutt in this light-hearted comedy where Sunil Dutt has to impress four of Waheeda’s uncles to get Waheeda…hence the apt title (meaning one flower and four thorns). The song  ‘Matwaali naar thumak thumak  chali jaaye…’ by Mukesh became very popular and is remembered for Waheeda’s graceful dancing.

MUJHE JEENE DO (music director- Jaidev)

In 1963, Waheeda Rehman once again teams up with Sunil Dutt in this dacoit drama where she essays the role of a courtesan Chamelijaan.  When performing at a wedding, the dacoit  Jarnail Singh is so infatuated with her (as can be seen from Sunil Dutt’s lusty expressions) that he abducts her right after her dance. Jaidev’s brilliant composition is lifted to divine heights by Lata Mangeshkar’s soulful singing and Waheeda Rehman’s dance steps are in perfect sync with the enigmatic setting of the song.

Pandit Lachhu Maharaj choreographed the song beautifully and gave delicate mudras and soft facial expressions to her. In the song she dances on a plain mirror which had been painted black and reflected everything thus making the lighting of the set technically very tricky but managed to impart a mysterious effect…

SHATRANJ (music director Shankar-Jaikishen)

Waheeda Rehman and Rajendra Kumar came together in this spy thriller in which she played an Indian dancer. The song featured here is a spectacularly mounted peacock dance and giving her company in the dance is Madhumati. I wonder if this kind of setting and choreography has been seen in Hindi cinema…

TEESRI KASAM (music director-Shankar Jaikishen)

In 1963, lyricist Shailendra decided to produce a poignant film about a dancer and a bullock cart guy and Waheeda Rehman was his first choice for the dancer’s role while Raj Kapoor was offered the hero’s role. The film had magnificent songs which included some lovely dance numbers picturized on Waheeda Rehman:’Paan khaaye saiyyan hamaro…’-a bouncy and lively Asha Bhonsle number which remains a cult song till today, ‘Aa aa aa bhi jaa, raat dhalne lagi…’- a sad song by Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Hai ghazanb kahin taara toota…’-another lively Asha number. Note the difference in Waheeda’s expressions and dance movements…

As the songs are not permitted to be included here, one has to see them on YouTube only

GUIDE (music director- S D Burman)

The character of Rosie essayed by Waheeda Rehman in this bilingual easily ranks among the top five all-time remarkable characters ever played by heroines in Hindi cinema. Incidentally she won the ‘Filmfare’ best actress award for the Hindi version and the best actress award at the Chicago Film Festival for the English Guide. The music of the film also remains one of Burmanda’s career-best efforts. The story which had scope for some fabulous dance sequences were brought to life on screen by the combined efforts of the lyricist-music director-singer and the actress.

Here is an outstanding song-cum-dance sequence from the film:

There is another brilliant song ‘Mose chal kiye ja…’ and it has an interesting trivia. Incidentally the ‘tabla’ in the song has been played by the Santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. In a recent interview on radio he disclosed how R D Burman managed to convince him to play the instrument and the results were spectacular! Very few are aware that Shivkumar Sharma used to play the tabla before he decided to concentrate only on the santoor…

KAUN APNA KAUN PARAYA (music director- Ravi)

This 1963 film had her act opposite Vijay Kumar, brother of comedian actor Johny Walker. Vijay did  not have much of a personality and seemed to lack any special screen presence due to which he never really made it in films. But the song here is a melodious number which gives Waheeda Rehman a chance for a dance number…

DHARTI (music director-Shankar-Jaikishen)

Waheeda Rehman teams up with ‘Jubilee’ Kumar once again in 1970 after her successful outings in Palki and Shatranj. The story which involves around Princes, Princesses, usurping of territories, villains, disguises, etc., had enough scope for dance sequences as well…

A very catchy number where Rajendra Kumar is disguised

An item number by Waheeda Rehman- an avatar of hers not seen often during her career but beeing Waheedaji, the song is very decently picturized…

Here is another dance number form the same film:

PREM PUJARI (music director –S D Burman)

This is the first film directed by Dev Anand and the story revolves around a soldier who after being court-martialled he becomes a spy. The song here is sung at a party where Waheeda Rehman is shocked to see her beloved not only refusing to recognize her but introduces himself as Zaheeda’s husband! This song conveys disbelief, hurt, humiliation, anger and pain –all brought out beautifully by the lyrics of th song and her apt expressions…

EK DIL SAU AFSAANE (music director- Shankar Jaikishen)

A romantic drama of 1963, the film starred Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman with Lalita Pawar as Raj Kapoor’s grandmother proving to be the obstacle in their path. But for a change, Raj Kapoor has the guts to get married to Waheeda and walk out of the house and thy decide to lead a happy life…

BAAZI (music director-Kalyanji-Anandji)

A 1968 suspense thriller with a murder and some mysterious events also thrown in, the film had our dashing Dharmendra joining Waheeda Rehman along with Mehmood, Johny Walker and Helen. Though the music of the film did not become very popular, there was a dance face-off between Waheeda Rehman and Helen which makes for an interesting watch. Coincidentally, the golden wig worn by Waheedaji seems to be uncannily similar to the one she is wearing in the song from Dharti…

PHAGUN (music director-S D Burman)

This film released in 1973 had Dharmendra playing her husband and Jaya Bhaduri as her daughter. Somehow after this film she did not get any heroine roles as such and slowly she graduated to doing character roles. This song picturized during a Holi celebration in the film is easily one of the most ‘decent’ picturization of a Holi song…

DELHI-6 (music director- A R Rahman)

In this film released in 2009, she plays grandmother to Abhishek Bachchan and sportingly agreed to shake a leg during this song which has catchy beats. Though not a proper dance, it is her last Hindi film to be released on the big screen and thus becomes precious. She will be seen in Kamal Hassan’s ambitious bilingual Vishwaroopam 2 to be released this year…

Here are two dances where there is no song and she dances to only a music piece. The first one is a dance in a temple in front of Lord Shiva’s deity. Her proficiency as dancer of high calibre has been brought out beautifully in this dance piece…

ROOP KI RANI CHORON KA RAJA (1961, music director- Shankar-Jaikishen)

GUIDE (1965)

The ‘Snake’ dance from the film Guide was one of the highlights of the film. The number of hours of hard work Waheeda Rehman put in to perfect the choreographer Hiralal ‘s steps almost broke her bones and by the end of the final shoot she was feeling dizzy. But the brilliant results of her relentless efforts have been preserved forever in the film and continue to dazzle us every time we see it…

For her outstanding contribution to Indian cinema, Waheeda Rehman has been the recipient of many awards important among them being Filmfare awards (Neel Kamal, Guide), National Award (Reshma aur Shera), the coveted Padma Shri in 1971 and the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 2011.


7 thoughts on “Recalling some of Waheeda Rehman’s superb on-screen dances

  1. Yet another great post!
    As to the same dancer playing a male as well as a female, Sandhya in V Shantaram’s Navrang also comes to one’s mind.
    Patthar ke Sanam also had a song where she waltzed into our hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for liking the post..
      .In the said song,if you see she comes as 2different people on stage as a boy and a girl making it look like double role…And it is a live stage show…So the makers have just taken liberty to have fun I guess…It is v different from Sandhya’s song picturization …
      You may understand when you see the song… 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your opening lines describing this great legendary one-of-her-kind diva perfectly echoes my own opinion of Waheedaji. When you think of our dancing heroines, she comes to your mind only after Asha Parekh and Vijayantimala. Maybe, it’s because she is such a superbly talented actress too…..and one of the most beautiful ladies to have graced the screen. In fact, when I was watching ‘raat bhi hai kuch..’ just now, I realized, it’s the greatest item number ever. She is so consciously seductive and he is so seduced…and the beauty is, there is absolutely nothing vulgar about anything she does. Waheedaji is my all time favorite and I could just go on and on watching her dances. Thank you for compiling them all so beautifully , lovingly and respectfully. She deserves this .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Mala… Waheeda Rehman never looked vulgar or indecent and maintained the dignity of a heroine in all gets-ups and characters …Indeed one of a kind… 👍👍🌼🌼


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