Was ‘Guide’ ever offered to Zaheeda?
Waheeda Rehman tells the whole story of how she agreed to do ‘Guide’, after two directors were changed
In no other part of the world do actors talk about the roles that they did not do. Imagine Warren Beatty bragging that he turned down The Godfather! In Bollywood actors are constantly talking about roles they turned down. Some of the claims sound pretty hollow.
I am pretty sure Dev Anand never offered Zaheeda the immortal role of Rosy in Guide. At least not seriously. And such claims about roles and performances as iconic as Guide should be made carefully.
For those who came in late, Zaheeda is Nargis’s niece, the daughter of character actor Anwar Hussain who made her debut in Asit Sen’s Anokhi Raat. She caught Dev Anand’s attention and he cast her in two of his films Prem Pujari and The Great Gambler
But Guide?? Seriously? It required a dancer. With due respect, I’ve seen Zaheedaji “dance” in a film titled Prabhat. She had to dance to a fabulous Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar melody Saqiya qareeb aa. Unable to get a single step right, the director finally ordered two dancers to do their thing on both sides of the frame while Zaheedaji sat in the middle lip-syncing to the song. Imagine what Zaheedaji would have done to Piya tose naina lage re and Mo se Chhal kiye jaa. Not to mention the legendary snake dance.
Some years ago in an interview with me, Saira Banu had claimed that she too was offered the unforgettable part of Rosy in Vijay Anand’s Guide.
When Waheeda Rehman who is grace personified read this she was very hurt. She told a very close friend of hers, “But why is she talking about this after so many years? What purpose does it serve?”
Exactly the point. What purpose does it serve, if Waheeda Rehman was to proclaim she was offered Shyam Benegal’s Ankur before Shabana Azmi? For the record, she was.
To set the record straight, Guide was seriously offered to only two actresses-- Vyjanthimala and Waheeda Rehman. The Guide director Vijay Anand wanted Vyjanthimala whereas film’s producer and leading man Dev Anand was keen on Waheeda Rehman.
It’s hard to believe anyone but the timeless Waheeda Rehman playing the mercurial memorable Rosy in Vijay Anand’s classic study of the Indian housewife’s emancipation in Guide. But she almost said no to the offer.
Waheedji shocks me with this revelation. “Guide is not just my most iconic film, it was also Dev’s most celebrated work. Yes, you can act as shocked as you like. But the fact is I almost didn’t do Guide. Hua yun ke, shuru mein Guide was to be directed by Raj Khosla. Raj Khosla and I had a difference of opinion during an earlier film. I never worked with him after that. And I wasn’t willing to change that for Guide or any other film.
“But you know how persuasive Dev was. He called up and said, ‘Come on, Waheeda. Let bygone be bygone. Everyone makes mistakes.’ But I refused to budge. I asked Dev why his brother Goldie (Vijay Anand) wasn’t directing. But Goldie was busy with Tere Ghar Ke Samne. Eventually, Raj Khosla was replaced by Chetan Anand. But he didn’t want me! I laughed. Yeh to achcha hua. One director I didn’t want and the other director didn’t want me. I think Chetan Saab wanted Priya Rajvansh ji. But Dev was adamant. They needed a dancer. And Priya ji couldn’t dance. Eventually, Goldie directed Guide. That’s how I got the film. The rest, you know. It’s a film I’m very proud of.”
Waheeda ji did seven films with Dev Anand, including Solva Saal, Kala Bazar and his directorial debut Prem Pujari.
“So you can imagine our comfort level. In fact, my very first film in Hindi C.I.D. was with Dev Anand. I was a big fan of Dev Anand and Madhubala. So can you imagine my excitement and nervousness at doing a film with him.
“On the very first day on the sets, when I called him ‘Dev saab’ he turned around and said ‘No no, call me Dev’. I couldn’t bring myself to call him by his first name, that wasn’t my upbringing. So I suggested I call him ‘Anandji’. He glared at me and said, ‘Do I look like a school teacher to you?’ The next day when I called him ‘Dev saab’, he looked around as though he didn’t know whom I was addressing. I had to finally call him ‘Dev’. And ‘Dev’ he remained until the end,” she said.