Saathi (1968)

This film has melodrama and mindless self-sacrifice, two elements that invariably put me off. And Saathi really was no different: I got thoroughly put off. Oh, it starts off all right—much happiness and flowers kissing etc—but then the lives of the protagonists fall apart so completely, it’s just not on. Nobody should be subjected to so much tragedy, not even on screen.

Ravi (Rajinder Kumar) is an orphan who was brought up by a rich couple whose daughter Rajni (Simi Grewal) is infatuated with him. After qualifying as a doctor in the US, Ravi’s returned, to be greeted by Rajni and their pal, Rajni’s so-called `brother’, Ashok (Sanjeev Kumar). Ashok’s leaving for London to become an eye surgeon.

Ashok, Rajni and Ravi

Ravi tells them he’s joining as chief surgeon at a charitable hospital in Kalka. At the hospital, he meets nurse Shanti (Vyjyantimala), who’s sweet, good and popular with the patients, especially the wealthy, fatherly Mr Phillips (D.K.Sapru)—one of the other doctors addresses him as ‘Mr Flips’.

Ravi is introduced to Shanti and Mr Phillips

Shanti’s mother dies of cancer just after Ravi operates on her. Shanti ends up consoling him and later joins him as his assistant in cancer research. Ravi is beguiled by her sweetness (there doesn’t seem to be great passion on either side at this stage), and proposes. She accepts.

Ravi proposes to Shanti

Back at Rajni’s home, Rajni and her parents are devastated when Ravi tells them about Shanti. When Ravi realises they’d wanted him to marry Rajni, he reluctantly offers to give up Shanti; he feels he’s indebted to this family. But Rajni’s father refuses to have his daughter cause heartbreak.
Ravi returns to Kalka and marries Shanti. This is followed by an idyllic honeymoon in Kashmir. These two are hopelessly in love…

Mera pyaar bhi tu hai

So much in love, in fact, that Ravi begins neglecting his research. His boss (David) draws Shanti’s attention to this fact, and she persuades Ravi to return to his research. She helps, of course (even going so far as to feed him while he studies tomes!), even though she’s obviously unwell herself.

Shanti and Ravi in the lab

It turns out Shanti has a congenital heart condition, and she goes downhill rapidly. Ravi devotes himself to looking after her. When she realises he’s neglecting his patients, Shanti decides she’s a stumbling block in Ravi’s quest for professional excellence. She runs away, aboard a train on which she happens to meet Mr Phillips. He promises to have her treated.

Shanti meets Mr Phillips on the train

The train, however, crashes and falls into a river. Shanti isn’t found; only her bag is discovered. Ravi gives her up for dead and is miserable. He doesn’t get long to mourn, though: a telegram arrives that Rajni’s father is very ill. When Ravi reaches their home, Rajni’s mother (Veena) tells him Rajni’s been moping over Ravi and is obstinate that she’ll never marry anyone else. When Ravi tries to reason with Rajni, she uses emotional blackmail on him: her parents did so much for him, she’s always loved him, etc. Ravi ends up being bulldozed into marrying her.

Rajni coaxes, wheedles and bullies Ravi

Theirs is a ghastly marriage: Ravi feels no love for her at all, not even when she makes feeble attempts to help with his research. He inevitably compares her to Shanti, and it’s always the dead woman who comes up trumps…

Ravi and Rajni

…Only the woman isn’t dead. Away in Zurich, she’s been operated upon and is now well enough to come home. She wants this to be a happy surprise for Ravi, so persuades Mr Phillips to keep mum.
Coincidence being what it is, back in India, Shanti gives a lift in her cab to a doctor on an urgent call. He leaves behind one of his instruments in the cab, and Shanti returns to the home where she dropped him off to return it. When she goes in, she discovers the awful truth:

Ravi gone blind

Ravi’s been blinded in an accident in his laboratory (he’d tried stopping a distraught Rajni from committing suicide). All Shanti wants to do is serve her husband (ugh!), so she offers her services as a nurse, calling herself Sharda. Rajni takes her on and she becomes Ravi’s confidant, but trouble’s brewing in the form of a gossipy maid, a suspicious mother-in-law and a patient who doesn’t want to regain his sight anyway.

Rajni and her mother

What I liked about this film:
Very little, really. The first song (Yeh kaun aaya roshan ho gayi mehfil kiske naam se) is good. Some of the other songs, like Husn-e-jaana idhar aa, aaina hoon main tera and Mera pyaar bhi tu hai yeh bahaar bhi tu hai, were very popular but aren’t personal favourites of mine.
Simi Grewal. She’s very good as the spoilt, selfish girl who’s so desperately infatuated, she’s even ready to bully Ravi into marrying her. Her acting won her a Best Supporting Actress Filmfare Award, by the way.
Sanjeev Kumar. He’s like a breath of fresh air, handsome and pleasant—and as always, a great actor.
And, yes: there are a couple of absolutely gorgeous shots of sunsets, especially on the Dal Lake in Srinagar:

A sunset on Dal Lake

What I didn’t like:
Where do I begin?
Too much self-sacrifice. Shanti is saccharine personified, and just too good to be true. She even shimmies up a drainpipe so she can give Ravi an injection—but then leaves because she doesn’t want Ravi’s and Rajni’s marriage to break up. Even though both of them have admitted it’s a sham.
Too much weeping and high emotion. I prefer my sorrow a little restrained, à la Pyaasa.
Rajinder Kumar. I don’t like him. He’s all right in a lighter vein (as in Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan), but not this, please.

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12 thoughts on “Saathi (1968)

  1. Completely agree with you: waaaaay too much self-sacrificing on everybody’s part, and there was no real chemistry between Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayanthimala. Simi was by far the best thing (I didn’t even remember that Sanjeev was in it!).

  2. True. But one thing I’ll say: nearly all his movies had superb music. Aarzoo, Mere Mehboob, Dil Ek Mandir, Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan…or is it just that lots of movies had great music at the time?

  3. Well, I think a lot MORE films had good music then, but he was amazingly consistent in that. Did he have a lot of input on the music in his films? (Like Rajesh Khanna after him, who was very picky about music, with similar fabulous results…)

  4. No, I don’t think he was as picky as Rajesh Khanna – not as far as I’ve discovered. But frankly, I think I’d sooner watch a Rajesh Khanna movie than a Rajinder Kumar one, usually – if only because Khanna is much easier on the eye ;-)

  5. I never understood Rajendra Kumar’s sway on the crowds. They called him Jubilee Kumar!
    He shadowed all the heroes of his time. Sunil Dutt, such a talented actor was totally sidelined.

  6. I liked the song Mera Pyar Bhi Tu Hai, Yeh Bahaar Bhi Tu Hai
    Tu Hi Nazron Mein Jaane Tamanna
    Tu Hi Nazaaron Mein
    …………and the scenery in it. Of course the two Rajendra and Vaijayanti looked nice couple!

    • Yes, don’t bother searching for it. If it comes your way, well and good – there are some good songs, and some okay acting, but it is absolutely not worth the trouble of looking around for it. :-(

  7. You people who are insulting Rajendra kumar did not know anything about Star-Dom & Acting.He was great actor he was not internetSuper-star like many of young superstars he was not hte darling of Media.Yet he was very very famous Super-star.the biggest super-star in 60s when htere was very tough competition,actors like dilip dev raj dharmendra sunl shammi were there to compete him but he beat all of them in papularity in 60s.Because people love him.
    He was very handsome and Great actor as well.

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