Rehana was a top actress of Hindi cinema in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She is regarded as Hindi cinema’s first ‘jhatka queen’, her dances catering to the frontbenchers or the ‘chavani class’ as they was called then, while being labelled vulgar by the educated gentry! Today when one looks back, one finds her dances and stagey eye-popping acting pretty harmless wondering what the furor was all about. Rehana, however, loved her sex-pot image and was known to have quipped, “Am I Sexy? Good, I like that!”
Rehana was born Mushtar Jehan in Bombay, now Mumbai. After beginning with dancing roles and small supporting roles in films like the KL Saigal – Suraiya starrer Tadbir (1945), Rehana was cast as one of the leading ladies in the Prabhat drama, Hum Ek Hai (1946) co-starring Dev Anand, Kamala Kotnis and Rehman. The film was the beginning of a fruitful partnership – in more ways than one, it is said – with the debutant director of the film, PL Santoshi, a partnership that would go on till 1952 through films like Shehnai (1947), Khidki (1948), Sargam (1950), Chham Chhama Chham (1952) and Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo (1952).
Shehnai and Sajan (1947), both made for Filmistan, were Rehana’s breakthrough films that made her a star. The former, pairing her with Nasir Khan, also established director PL Santoshi and music director C Ramchandra, whose super-hit song for the film Aana Meri Jaan Meri Jaan Sunday ke Sunday was hummed though out the country. Sajan saw her paired with Ashok Kumar and remains one of her most well-known films.
Rehana entered the best phase of her career from 1948 – 1951 as she did a variety of films paired opposite most of the top heroes of the day – Prem Adib (Actress (1948)), Raj Kapoor (Sunehre Din (1949), Sargam (1950)), Dev Anand (Dilruba (1950)), Shyam (Nirdosh (1950), Surajmukhi (1950)), Shekar (Ada (1951)) and Premnath (Sagai (1951)). Two of her biggest hits from these were Sargam (1950) and Sagai (1951). Most of the films preferred to capitalize on her seductive dances rather than make any great acting demands on her. In particular, C Ramchandra’s light-hearted ditties in the last two films went extremely well with her ‘moves’.
However, post Sagai, Rehana’s career sharply went on the decline as films like Rangeeli (1952), Chham Chhama Chham, Hazar Raaten (1953) and Samrat (1954) all sank at the box-office. And soon, Rehana found herself playing second lead in films like Dhola Maru (1956) and Delhi Durbar (1956). In fact, Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo, starring Rehana, Sadhona Bose and Ranjan even had the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting overturning the Universal certificate granted to the film and banning it altogether citing its ‘low moral tone’. The ban was later revoked but killed any chances the film might have had at the box office. With her career on the decline in India, Rehana migrated to Pakistan with the hope of continuing her career there. Her last released film in India was Mehfil (1957).
Rehana’s films in Pakistan like Shalimar (1956), opposite Sudhir, Wehshi (1956), Apna Paraya (1959) failed at the box office. The only succesful film she really had in Pakistan as leading lady was Raat Ke Rahi (1960). Aulad (1962) was also successful but by then she was no longer leading lady and Nayyar Sultana played the heroine of the film. Rehana married the producer of Raat Ke Rahi, Iqbal Shehzad, but it was a short-lived affair. After separating from him, she married businessman Sabir Ahmed. She had a cameo dance number in the Zeba-Syed Kamal-Mohammed Ali starrer Dil Ne Tujhe Maan Liya (1963) after which she faded away from the film scene.
Rehana resurfaced in Pakistan in 1995 as a member of the jury for the Nigar Awards. After her husband’s death, she has lived a largely secluded life. It is said she had begun teaching the holy Quran to children in her later years.
Rehana passed away in Pakistan on April 23rd, 2013.