On the suave actor's 96th birth anniversary (23 June), a look back at how he landed a chance role in DD Kashyap's Chand (1944) and kick-started his film career.
How Rehman became an actor
Mumbai - 23 Jun 2017 9:00 IST
The actor Rehman, who was on course to become a pilot in the Royal Indian Air Force until he failed a test, turned to acting quite by accident. Like his good friend Guru Dutt, he got his initial film training at Pune's famous Prabhat Studios where he was third assistant to filmmaker Vishram Bedekar during the shooting of Lakharani (1945).
Rehman earned practically nothing as an assistant, but he did not mind because, as he explained in a 1963 interview, "Prabhat was a fine studio, something made out of love. It had a homely atmosphere, lots of facilities, even a swimming pool to splash in and horses to ride on".
After his apprenticeship with Bedekar, Rehman moved on to assist filmmaker DD Kashyap on Chand (1944) which got released before Lakharani. It was on the sets of this film starring Prem Adib and Begum Para that Rehman began his acting journey. For a dance sequence, a group of extras required a Pathan.
Rehman explained, "It was soon found that I was the only one in the studio who knew how to tie the Pathan turban, and I could do that only around my own head. So director Kashyap asked me to don the turban and make-up and join the crowd before the camera."
When the song ended, Rehman had to turn around and say the following dialogue to the dancer in the song, “Wah, wah! Kitna achcha naach tha. Saaz ki lehron pe chand ka naach tha [Wow! How nicely you danced, like the dance of the moon on the waves of music].”
Rehman had some difficulty saying the line and ended up going through 30 takes. The director, clearly fed up, ordered him off the set. It was Sheikh Fatehlal, a partner at Prabhat, who intervened and asked DD Kashyap to bring him back. After around 50 takes, the scene was okayed by Kashyap.
His first experience on camera had been what Rehman later termed “awful”. However, this was not the end of his acting career but only the beginning.
Prabhat Studios cast him again in PL Santoshi’s Hum Ek Hain (1946), a story of a mother (played by Durga Khote) and her adopted children. Her three sons were Hindu, Muslim and Christian, respectively, while her fourth child, a daughter, was a Harijan. Rehman played the Muslim son and a newcomer, called Dev Anand, played the Hindu son.
The movie was a success and Rehman never had to look back.