Mera Saaya (1966)

I have long been meaning to watch this Raj Khosla film again. I saw it a few years ago but remembered little about it except one Sadhana dance which is spectacular: “Jhumka Gira Re Bareilly Ki Bazaar Mein” and a vague feeling that it was pretty good. And it is pretty good—really good in fact! I was riveted and (thanks to my dismal memory) not completely sure I had the mystery figured out until the very end. The performances from Sunil Dutt and Sadhana are wonderful, and the competently plotted story moves along briskly with tension building ever so gradually: the direction and editing are masterful. It’s also beautifully photographed and just chock-full of pretty, especially the locations in Udaipur (and Sunil and Sadhana!). Any quibbles I have are minor: the end is a bit flat after the marvellous buildup, and I got tired of the title song after the umpteenth time hearing it—pretty as it is—but that’s about it.

We begin with tragedy. Geeta (Sadhana), the beloved wife of Thakur Rakesh Singh (Sunil Dutt), is taken ill suddenly while he is abroad furthering his law career.

Rakesh returns just in time for her to die in his arms, and his grief knows no bounds. He stops eating or meeting anyone outside the house, and spends his days listening to a melancholy tune she used to sing (the aforementioned title song) in front of her garlanded portrait. He is lifted from this lethargy finally by a visit from Inspector Daljit (Anwar Hussain), who brings a strange story about a girl who looks exactly like his deceased Geeta.

In a police encounter with some dacoits, a girl accompanying them has been arrested and accused by local villagers of helping the dacoits loot their village by distracting the population with a song and dance (I call it the “earring Bareilly marketplace” song, and I love it).

The girl, identified as Raina, has a different story to tell though. She insists that she is the Thakur’s wife Geeta, not a dacoit. The whole area knows that Geeta has just died and been cremated, but Daljit needs Rakesh to verify that she is not Geeta in court, where she will be tried as a bandit.

He takes Rakesh and his mother (Ratnamala) and the household servants (Dhumal, Mukri, Kumud Bole) to the jail to see her. They are astonished at the likeness.

Raina is not fooled by two men which Daljit sends in to see her posing as Rakesh, and when Rakesh himself enters the room she rushes to him joyfully. Rakesh himself though is both stunned and horrified: he backs away and rejects her vehemently. After all, Geeta did die right in front of him! He returns home to his memories (and the song “Nainon Mein Badra Chhaye”) as she pleads with his mother and the servants, who also turn away from her.

As her trial begins, the dacoits she is accused of colluding with, led by Suryavar Singh (Prem Chopra), discuss her and the fact that the Thakur has refused to recognize her as his wife.

Cryptic!

In court, the prosecutor (KN Singh) presents the witnesses who have seen her with Suryavar Singh’s dacoits, and then she is asked for her testimony. She is adamant about her innocence and that she is Geeta, the Thakur’s wife.

When told that she can appoint a lawyer for herself, she says she needs only one:

I love Sadhana in this. She is decidedly de-glamorized (except in flashbacks as Geeta) and very convincing as a woman who wants the court—and Rakesh—to believe her story. Since Rakesh is a prime witness for the prosecution, he clearly cannot act as her lawyer and she refuses any other representation. She also says she has only one witness in her defense: Rakesh, again. He is called to court to testify.

I am a huge fan of Sunil Dutt too—I think he made some amazing films in his lifetime. But he could *occasionally* be accused of chewing up the scenery and spitting it out in chhoti chhoti pieces. As Rakesh, though, he is great. It can’t have been an easy role to play: grief-stricken husband haunted by memories of a woman who to all appearances is now standing before him, although he knows that according to all logic it cannot really be her. He nails it.

As the trial continues and the woman on the stand reminds him of things that only Geeta could know, he struggles to find explanations for how this accused dacoit could be so familiar with such events. At home (he lives in the Lake Palace, lucky man!) the strain of the daily courtroom events takes its toll and his loved ones worry as he sinks ever further into sorrow and confusion (and I grow weary of “Mera Saaya Saath Hoga”).

Flashbacks of their happy marriage acquaint us with the woman Geeta was, while her testimony under Rakesh’s cross-examining acquaints us with the woman claiming to be her now.

Is she the same person? If she is, who is the Geeta who died in front of her husband and friends? If not, what game is she playing? Who is she to Suryavar Singh, a man determined to get her back?

I’m not telling! You’ll have to watch it to find out, and if you haven’t yet you will be glad you did. The lead pair have lovely chemistry:

and even the CSP is funny and not at all over done—just the right touch to occasionally relieve the tension and sadness.

Madan Mohan’s music is pretty if not amazing (except for the dance I mentioned above, which is just fab), and the performances, direction, photography, almost everything is just right. See it, do!

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54 Comments to “Mera Saaya (1966)”

  1. isn’t this part of a trilogy? (I mean the stories have nothing to do with each other.. but Sadhana & suspense was common in all three!) Woh Kaun Thi was one.. and I forgot the other’s name.. I sooo want to watch this!!

    Sadhana looks so pretty in all your screencaps!!

    • Anita?

      This is my favorite of the three by far, although I liked Anita quite a bit too :) I don’t know if they were supposed to be a trilogy, but they also all have Raj Khosla in common.

      • you are right — Anita!! (and I see that you’ve reviewed that film already!).

        many sites refer to the 3 movies as Raj Khosla’s trilogy with Sadhana.. not sure if he had a “trilogy” in mind, or it just happened.. nevertheless, all 3 sound interesting! (i’m a sucker for suspense movies/stories :D)

  2. Good, to hear. I’ve been meaning to watch this for some time so now I can look forward to it. Love the songs and haven’t as yet gotten tired of them.
    Just curious, do you think Sunil Dutt is a good actor? Opinions vary but they are usually not complimentary. I haven’t seen enough Sunil Dutt myself.

    • I love a couple of the songs, although mostly they aren’t ones I would listen to over and over (Madan Mohan is like that for me—lovely, melodious, fit the film well, but not addictive) :)

      I think Sunil Dutt could act, but needed a good director. He was also really capable of overdoing it a la Mala Sinha :D But I always love him, especially as a filmmaker and for the choices he generally made of films to work in.

  3. Oh, this is an absolutely fantastic movie. The end is a bit flat, as you say, but otherwise it is one hell of a movie. I just love it – Sadhana and Sunil Dutt are very very good right through the movie. Sunil Dutt has put in a very credible performance as a man grieving at the loss of his wife. I have always liked Sunil Dutt. Not one of the big 3 or 4 but his movies of the 1950s/60s have usually been meaningful and lovely to watch.

    Madan Mohan’s music is just divine. My favourite is “nainon mein badra chhaye” (it just sinks into my subconscious when I listen to it with my eyes closed). I like all the songs though – it is that type of movie.

    • Yes, what you said about Sunil Dutt. And he is lovely with Sadhana in this—they play off each other perfectly in all the different scenes they have to enact together. All the songs are pretty and they flow with the film perfectly…

  4. Jhumka gira re is really spectacular. It’s a nice movie, I had liked it a lot when I had seen it a couple of years back. Don’t remember all the details but everybody has performed so well. I really like Sunil-Sadhana chemistry – they look great together.

    • It’s the main thing I remembered about this, although now I’ll remember more! But that song I had to rewind and replay a few times before I felt like moving on :)

  5. I saw this several months ago. I remember the deglamourized Sadhana very well though, and also Sunil Dutt.
    They were both so good, and I agree completely with you about Sunil Dutt. That’s how I remember it.

    ‘Jhumks gira re’ is a classic. IIRC it is based on a folk song.

    Doesn’t Sadhana look like Kareen Kapoor? Especially their jaw line and the general bone structure. She’s her aunt, so no surprise.

    • It has a very folk song feel to it :)

      I don’t really see the Kareena-Sadhana resemblance (and genetically they aren’t strictly speaking aunt and niece either, since Babita and Sadhana are cousins) but they are both gorgeous, for sure!

    • Yes for sure……….from a long time……Kareena always reminded me of Sadhna specially in some expressions………I wasnt knowing about their relation at that time…..Later I came to know that Sadhna was Kareen’s aunt………….!!!!

  6. I love this one – good suspense film, good acting, great music. Perhaps another reason I really, really like it is that there’s this photograph of Sadhana (Geeta, I suppose I should say) that Rakesh keeps on a table – a photo which looks exactly like my mother. Every time I see that (it appears at the end of Mera saaya saath hoga, when the flashback from piano song to mourning-hero ends)… I’m reminded of Mommy. :-)

    • Awwww. A Mom who looked like Sadhana—no wonder you are so beautiful too :)

      • I wish I was!!! But that’s sweet of you – thank you. :-)

        Shortly after my parents got engaged, a cousin of my father’s came around to meet him, and saw Mommy’s photo on Papa’s desk. This cousin had never met Mommy, and had never even seen a photo of hers, so he remarked: “I didn’t know you were such a fan of Sadhana’s. You even keep her photo on your desk!”

  7. I liked this movie. The old timers also remember it for the engaging court drama.

  8. So Memsaab, we did it again. I just watched ‘Mera Saaya’ 2 days ago. :)

    I did think it went on a wee bit too long, but Sadhana and Sunil Dutt were so good, and looked so fab, and it was Udaipur.

    He looked pretty lost in the Lake Palace though. It’s humungous. :)

  9. I like Naino me badra chahye best. Its a lovely song. Jhumka gira is so energetic. Mera Saaya tires you after a while as you say. It used to be all over the radio.

    I like the sudden tension that develops over the diary. “Where is the diary?” Sunil roars, Sadhna replies like a harried wife, “in the almirah, I am sure”

    I have seen the same movie in Marathi as well, I cant tell which came first. But in glorious Hindi film tradition, it is more likely to be remade from a regional hit. Hindi one had lovely music and was more glamorous.

    • I’ll bet it was on the radio all the time! It has become quite the earworm for me too. Yes, the diary was a superb twist, and Sunil and Sadhana were just so fabulous in this. Loved it.

    • I’ve seen it in Tamil(Idhaya Kamalam) about a year before I saw the Hindi one. Like Ava , I do not know which one came first. I liked the heroine K R Vijaya in the Tamil one better and I preferred Sunil Dutt as the hero!

      • I agree KR vijaya has acted better than Sadhana.
        Can you please tell were I can download Idhaya Kamalam songs?
        Rajamani

  10. I LOVE this movie. I grew up listening to the songs from this movie and loved them so I was well primed to like it when I finally saw it but then I managed to see it at just the right spot of tween angst when this would be profoundly affecting – she loves him and he doesn’t recognize her! SOB! He’s driving her mad! SNIFF! Oh, she loves him so! And look at him, weeping for her! WAHHH! Love HURTS!!

    Erm. It was my Twilight.

    I was relieved when I found out that it was still a good movie after I grew up. Good taste: I haz it.

  11. I’m a fan of this one too. No entertainment in the world is more satisfying, IMO, than a Hindi film in which all the elements – good plot, great performances by pretty people, beautiful locales and timeless melodies come together. And Mera Saaya fits the bill nicely.

    Sadhana playing the air guitar with her dupatta in the “nainonwali ne hai mera dil loota” never fails to make me smile.

  12. And did you hear the song “woh bhuli dastaan” from Sanjog wafting in!
    I forget when. But it had me all confused, cause for years I would associate the song with Mera Saaya. It fits in so well in the movie.
    Just love this film!

    • Yeh Khamoshiyan, yeh tanhaiyan is another song that reminds me of Mera Saaya. That movie has Sunil Dutt in another court room drama–maybe that’s the connection.

    • Wo bhuli dastaan was another Madan Mohan composition. He used the tune here as background, but turned it into a complete song in Sanjog. I have heard bits of the tune that made up the song ‘Tere liye hum bhi jiye’ in Veer Zaara in some other movie as well.

  13. Thanks memsaab for a good review of a truly good old movie. I liked the movie very much and also the songs all of them including the title song. Some of these songs I have heard on radio (good old vividh bharati ie All India Radio)! Indeed sunil dutt has acted in some good movies in the 50s and 60s. I think he was very good in Bimal Roy’s Sujatha and also in Milan. He did well in Padosan too which remains famous to this day.

  14. I have heard of Sadhna but didn’t know that Sunil Dutt was the hero. Is that the film that has the famous song by lata “Aurat ne janam diya mardo ko, mardo ney unhe bazaar diya” ?roughly translates as a woman gives birth to men and the men send them to brothels (bazaar in this context means something like that)

  15. I first came across the title song of Mera Saaya in a national integration clip that got aired on Doordarshan back in the day. A bunch of kids — all from different parts of the country — share their lunch while this song plays in the background. Or something like that, anyway.

    Fell in love with the song, then got to watch the movie a couple of years later. Can’t say it worked for me, though — probably because I had a gigantic crush on Sadhana and HATED Sunil Dutt for giving her a hard time :-)

    But the songs stayed with me, especially Nainon mein bhadra chaaye. After this one and Haqeeqat, Madan Mohan went to the top of my charts and has stayed there ever since.

  16. Awesome movie, and a review well written memsaab!! I have always liked the songs, and the scenes of this movie, oh so romantic….”nainon meh badra chaye” is beautiful indeed! I don’t know why you got tired of the title track because I really liked the haunting music in the background; but that’s just me :)

  17. One of my all-time favourite films! And as for Madan Mohan, he’s more of an acquired taste (in my opinion), but if he clicks with you, you’re hooked. As I am.

    • Yes, I think that on listening his music improves…but I have so many new things to discover still that I just don’t do it :) I like his music, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t LOVE it yet…

      • I’m sure you will; from what I’ve gathered, you have great taste in music. :-) Personally, I got interested in Madan Mohan because of my mother; ‘Jhumka Gira Re’ was her favourite Hindi song.

        • Well good for her—it’s long been one of my favorites too :) I actually think that how his music flows with the films they are in so nicely is an underrated skill; they don’t intrude, but they add to the whole ambiance in a very subtle way.

          and ps: thanks :)

  18. iI feel sad whenever someone remarks about madanmohanji in a sarcastic way.since i have been listening to hindustani/carnatic classical right from a tender age of 10,my ears are tuned to perfection and I can confidently say that Madanmohan was the best music director this land has seen and we are not likely to get a replacement to him in the near future.The beaty of his compositions are that when you listen to his songs-for the first time,it may not leave an impact immediately,but as you hear more and more you become an addict.The way he chooses classical ragas apt to the situation,his cluster of instruments,his inimtable majestic laya,his sitar etc makes one wonder how a person could be so talented and still can get unnoticed.If you can watch the picturisation and the song”aap ne apna banaya” by nutan-dharmendra in “dulhan ek raat ki”you would realise this aspect.It was madan who elevated the audience to listen
    to better tunes.he may not have any oscar but raising the standard of the audience
    to his level of creativity is a phenominan which he did so effectivly,he shoud be given a “BHARAT RATNA”for his work and dedication to music(700 odd songs and nearly
    100 films from 1951 to 1974.my humble pranams to this great soul.
    the story,the powerful performance of sunildutt,the graceful presence of sadhna,etc made viewing this film a pleasant experience.thanks for your review though belated.
    j natarajan

  19. I watched this great suspense film several times and just love it because of the great performances from the leads and the gorgeous songs. Sunil Dutt gave magnificent performance and Sadhana was just indescribable.
    Sorry but I was laughing about the resemblence between Sadhana and Kareena Kapoor. This is like comparing lace and denim! Sadhana is exquisite, graceful, and ladylike. I love so many of her films and 3 of my favorite songs ever were picturised on her, Mera Saaya, Mere Mehboob, and Lag Ja Gale.

  20. Dear Memsaab,
    Waiting for Radio Silence to be broken again. Anyway, I agree with Ranya that this movie was part of the suspense trilogy by Raj Khosla, and had an engaging storyline, although I would have liked him to continue with Manoj as the lead actor. SD may be more handsome and a better actor than Manoj, but I could not standing his roaring his lungs out at angelic Sadhana. Manoj would have handled it better.
    I liked all the songs and the view of the Lake Palace. Specially “Naino me badra chhaye” with its haunting melody. For the first time, I felt a genuine admiration for Prem Chopra; he was outstanding as a sinister dacoit with a kindly heart. He also handled the climax scene perfectly. But one character remained shrouded in mystery- the young maid( what was her real name?) and her evening strolls to a remote part of the house. What was her motive?
    One side message for Dustedoff: If you have another relative within the age group of 18-24, who bears a striking resemblance to Sadhana(hairstyle,complexion, smile) please mail me her address and her cell no. I would be indebted to you for my whole life. This is not a joke; this is A LIFE-AND-DEATH matter for me.

  21. Whoops, forgot to give my email ID: tanushyamghosh@yahoo.com

  22. Well, I simply had to watch this movie because of the twins’ names and because my mother had told me the story so many times. And I was spooked again even though Sadhana was in colour, those French doors and the lighting ( Woh Kaun Thi, watched when I was old enough to know better, had me running scared for a couple of weeks because kohl-lined eyes pack an extra eerie punch in B/W, when it is suggested they belong to a recent human, at that). Then, when the movie was practically drawing to an end, hubby says, hey, they cut out `Jo Humne Dastaan apni sunayi’ and I had to say, no, that was WKT and this one had Aapke Pehloon Mein ( I hope I’m right, I’ve been merrily mixing up my movies in various other posts).
    Yes, the maidservant’s nocturnal strolls were never explained and it bothered me. And yes, it is startling when gentlemanly Sunil Dutt shouts. Prem Chopra’s performance stuck in mind too. Your review brought it all back
    for me. Thanks.

  23. beautiful synopsis…..One of my favorite films……….haunting music and a touching story

    :)

  24. Reblogged this on coolone160 and commented:
    a great and haunting storyline……….

  25. I understand Mera Saaya was the remake of a Marathi film called Pathlag, which dates to 1962(?). Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a copy of that movie till date, so its impossible to comment on it. I’ll be indebted to anyone who can get me a copy of Pathlag (don’t need subtitles, since I can understand Marathi perfectly well).

  26. Thank you Memsaab for getting me started on Sunil Dutt (Loved him in Usne Kaha Tha, even though Rajesh Khanna remains my #1:)
    Really loved the movie, good plot, good direction, good acting and music. Fast paced too.
    I have a strange connection to ‘Zumka gira re’. In 5th grade, my college-age sister choreographed the song on me when I participated in a local variety show. I had no idea about the lyrics then but now that I do, I can’t imagine how strange it must have looked on a 9 year old! Never got to see the movie then but later when I could, the title song killed my interest so much that I never watched the movie. Didn’t know what I missed out on.
    Thanks for the wonderful review.

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