Sanjh Aur Savera (1964)

A weepy melodrama starring Meena Kumari at her sacrificial-lamb finest, somehow made bearable by the presence of Guru Dutt and director Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s light touch with what could be (okay, IS) very heavy going.

Here’s our first look at Gauri (Meena Kumari), accompanied by the plaintive wailing of violins:


I steel myself for a soap opera where duty, honor and tradition mean that everybody suffers, especially Gauri.

She has just lost her father and his best friend Advocate Madhusudan (Manmohan Krishna) has arrived to take her home with him. He lives with his nephew Prakash (Mehmood) who is devoted to the uncle who took him in, and is a tabla-playing musician with some strange ideas.


Madhusudan also has a daughter named Maya (Zeb Rehman) who is in college in Delhi. He is planning to get her married soon to a wealthy doctor in Bombay. Gauri and Prakash help him plan the wedding and bring Maya home for it. Maya is not happy being married off, since she is in love with someone named Ramesh already. She goes through with the wedding, but “faints” at the end of it and is carried up to bed and given time to recover.

Predictably, she is gone the next morning and has left a note saying she has eloped with Ramesh. It’s not clear to me why she goes through the entire wedding since her eventual plan is to marry Ramesh—she could have pretended to faint before it was over, saving many people a lot of misery—but of course there would be no plot then.

Madhusudan tries to kill himself as his honor is now tarnished, but suffers a heart attack instead. To save him, Prakash suggests to Gauri that she take Maya’s place as the bride, since the groom and his family have not seen Maya’s face yet. This means of course that when the truth comes out (as it always does) Gauri’s honor will be in tatters and she’ll lose any chance at happiness herself.



Easy for him to say!

Meanwhile, Maya realizes that Ramesh is a scoundrel who has no intention of marrying her. She decides to kill herself (and him) and wrests the steering wheel away from him as he drives, causing a terrible crash.

Gauri arrives at her new home and meets her new family. Her suffering is writ large upon her face:


It is exacerbated by her mother-in-law’s sweet and warm welcome and by the fact that her husband Dr. Shankar Chaudhry (Guru Dutt) is kind and understanding when she asks him to leave her alone the first night. She tells him that she has made a vow for their well-being; he tells her to go to sleep.

The next day when he finally sees her face as she sleeps, he is smitten (well, she is beautiful and not crying at that moment). Over the next few weeks he courts her sweetly with patience and small gifts, but she continues to evade him.


I think this must have been one of Guru Dutt’s last roles; he committed suicide in 1964, the year this movie was released. He seems weighed down with sadness—which could be my imagination, although the role demands it too. But somehow his presence manages to give all the melodrama some dignity and credibility.

At home, Madhusudan has recovered and is angry with Prakash for making Gauri take Maya’s place. He vows to go to Bombay and tell the Chaudhrys the truth, but Prakash stops him and says he will do it since he is responsible for the whole thing. When he arrives in Bombay, he tells the family that he’s come to take Maya on the traditional post-marriage visit home to her family. Shankar’s mother convinces Shankar to accompany them, and they set off for Benares (where Madhusudan has gone to begin a pilgrimage).


(This screen shot is only here because I love the little bat-eared puppy looking at the camera crew.)

On their arrival, Madhusudan tells Prakash that he has discovered that Maya is dead, killed in a car crash. Nobody seems really upset about this, possibly because they already have enough problems. Anyway, Prakash hits on the brilliant idea of marrying Gauri and Shankar for real—without telling Shankar anything. To me this seems like the perfect time to tell the truth, but again, the plot would be derailed. So another wedding takes place, and now Gauri feels free to accept her husband even though he still thinks she is Maya. Shankar thinks he understands her previous reticence.


They begin their life together, and everything for a while is sweet. Meena-Gauri-Maya even smiles!


Prakash comes to live with the Chaudhrys, and is like a brother to Gauri. He meets and falls in love with Radha (Shubha Khote), whose mother Manorama (Praveen Paul) is a spiteful witchy creature—and she’s from Gauri’s village. Oh no! She has harbored ideas of getting Shubha married to Shankar, and is very disappointed to hear that he has already married. And Gauri (who is by now pregnant) sees Maya at the hospital—not dead—being treated by Shankar for amnesia and other injuries suffered in the accident.

What could possibly go wrong? Since at this point we are only halfway through the film—a LOT.

So even though I managed to stick with it all the way through—and even kind of enjoyed it—I will spare you any more details and say this: if you love Meena Kumari’s “Tragedy Queen” persona, melodrama, Mehmood’s antics, Shankar Jaikishan’s music, and/or Guru Dutt, and understand that suspension of disbelief is part and parcel of most Hindi films, you might like this.

If people making improbably poor decisions and each other miserable is not your cup of tea—avoid, yaar.

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18 Comments to “Sanjh Aur Savera (1964)”

  1. hey, never heard of this movie. And I thought I knew all guru dutt’s movies.
    Thanks for making me humble again! :-)
    has touches of Bahu Begum.
    A loves B, B loves A, A has to marry C, C is considerate enough to let A go to B, B is not there, A goes back to C, B pops up again and wants A back.

  2. Well, I adore Guru Dutt, but this film made me crazy after a while. It was too full of misery—and it was self-inflicted misery, the worst kind!

  3. yeah, it is a pity, that people are the same in real and reel life! :-)

  4. well, memsaab, if you want to undergo the same treatment like in Sanjh aur Savera again and that too in colour and with fatter Meena Kumari, you have to watch Chandan Ka Palna (1967)
    It is simply outrageous, to say the least!

  5. I would rather stick needles in my eyes than see a version of this in color with a fatter Meena! Thanks for the warning :-)

  6. Harvey, I found Chandan Ka Palna outrageous – till something very similar happened to somebody I know. The real life story was, not as dramatic and less outrageous, but very close. I used to wonder if such characters as they show in old Hindi movies exist – beleive me, they do.

  7. bluelotus: Nahiiin!
    Don’t tell me that! How can anybody be so silly? Well, reel and real life then do run parallel, huh?
    Well, I’ve heard men abandon there wives to marry somebody in the hope of getting children or whatever, but the wife making her husband leave her by acting as if she is now a “fallen woman” (i.e., drinking and making a damn nuisance of herself) is, let us say euphmeistically, DUMB!!
    But then, meena kumari thrived on such films and the audience flocked the cinema halls to see it. And, some as you say, go and imitate it at home!
    I don’t know whom to blame!
    *tearing my own hair*

  8. Quite surprised at the fact that you make sure you rip apart the late and wonderful actress meena kumari, maybe its jealousy or pmt, but whtever it is , its very ugly!!

  9. It’s not personal to Meena, it’s the awful character she plays in this. I don’t really understand why people like you don’t get that. If you read some other films I’ve reviewed with her in them (Miss Mary, Mem Sahib) you’ll find that I quite like her when she’s not crying buckets of tears from situations that she’s created herself!

  10. I think Sanjh aur Savera forces us to confront a very important question – does Gurudutt look sadder with or without a mustache?


  11. I beg to differ. The story and characterization and everything in the movie was much much much better than typical suhagan, Saas-bahu , parivaar ki nautanki and all foolish, low IQ serials which are aired right now on all the channels.

    The point is the segment who watched all the typical rona dhona and useless movies in black and white era is till very much there. But Ekta Kapoor has revolutionized those characters by the dresses (expensive and gaudy) and absolute dirty jewellery. And the way they talk to themselves about all the cruel and inhuman plans in their minds.

    I sincerely feel that being a sacrifice- lamb was much better. Because th e misery and pains in that era and now-a-days serial heroienes are self-inflicted.

    They want sympathy and most of the ladies of so called 21 century watch these idiotic , never-ending, sympathy-seeking serials and even write on forums about the characters.. Atleast Meena Kumari was a better perfomer and had decent dialogues…

  12. You are of course welcome to differ :-) but for me these self-sacrificing heroines are just no fun to watch at all. They make life for themselves AND everyone around them so miserable. Ugh. I wouldn’t tolerate them around me in real life, and I can’t tolerate them in films either…although having said that, I did like parts of this film as I said in my post.

  13. Music director of “saanjh aur savera” is “shankar jaikishen”, not S.D.BURMAN(as you mentioned in your review).

    1.Further, (for your artist identification project)actress “RUBI PAUL”(as credited in “saanjh aur savera”) has got another name as “PARVEEN -PAUL”.

    2.The actress who played the role of “maya” is credited as “PREETHIBALA”, who has got another name “ZEB REHMAAN”(who acted in 1.”Bahu begum”(as meena kumari`s friend)
    2.”Mere huzoor”(acted as jhonnywalker`s love interest and mala sinha`s friend)
    3.”Jeevan mrithyu”(who sings a mujra type gazal at dharmendra`s party, on screen)
    4.”Aankhein(who appears alongside dharmendra, when mala sinha sings “gairon pe karam, apnon pe situm”at a party)
    5.”Chitralekha”(as meenakumari`s maid servant)
    6.”Fariyad”(who sings suman kalyanpur`s “Haal-e-dil unko sunaana tha” on screen
    7.”Heer ranjha”(directed by chetan anand)

    • Oops! I will correct the music director in the post, thanks :) I did know that Praveen Paul went also by Ruby Paul, but did not realize that Zeb Rehman was also called Preethibala…life would be so much easier if these people could stick to ONE NAME! :)

  14. Dear Memsaab,
    I’ve not seen this movie, but I just adore the songs! The title song does a great job of lifting my spirits up and the classic Ajahun na aaye balma is a rib tickler. I always love songs pictured on Mehmood and Shoba Khote…

  15. I’ve just seen this movie – and guess what? I actually liked it. :-)

    Ok, so there’s a sacrificing Meena Kumari but she does have her half hour of fun and smiles with her husband before disaster strikes again.

    What I liked about the movie is that there is a flow – and no unnecessary diversions from the storyline. It’s a Hrishikesh Mukherjee direction – and that always means high-quality editing too.

    Even Mehmood is much more watchable in this movie than in many of his other movies where he’s often part of an annoying CSP. Here he has a substantial and substantive role.

    I quite liked the songs too.

    So, yes, there were misery elements – and some unrealistic ones too – but overall, I quite liked it. Maybe my expectations from movies of that period aren’t all that high anyway, so I often get pleasantly surprised. I had NO expectations at all from this movie, so there was no question of disappointment either. :-)

  16. I cannot watch such movies, enjoying them is a far cry. Issue is, Hindi tele is full of dumb, sacrificing(when not needed), crying buckets female characters. They seldom are strong and if they are, the TRPs never soar -_-
    n to the ppl who think we r making fun of the wonderful Meena, well, learn to differentiate bet. an actor n char. lol

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