Chhaya (1962)

Like Sujata, Chhaya is the story of a girl brought up in the house of someone she’s not related to. Like Sujata, it stars Sunil Dutt (and looking gorgeous, too!), and like Sujata, it’s got great music. Also like Sujata, it was directed by a Bengali director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee in this case.
That’s where the resemblance ends, because Mukherjee makes Chhaya a less poignant, less socially relevant film than Bimal Roy made of Sujata. Where Sujata focussed on the understated emotion of a family and a `daughter who’s not quite one’, Chhaya focuses on a mother who’s forced by circumstances to yield up her child to another.

Sunil Dutt and Asha Parekh in Chhaya

Shyamlal (Krishan Dhawan) is poor and unemployed. He’s just been told by the doctor that though Shyamlal’s little daughter Munni has recovered from a recent illness, Shyamlal’s wife Manorama (Nirupa Roy) is `ill on the inside’ (Huh? The doctor doesn’t say what’s wrong, and we’re never enlightened either). Shyamlal, who loves Manorama deeply, tries to persuade her to take Munni and go live with her uncle in Lucknow until Shyamlal gets a job, but Manorama refuses.

Shyamlal and Manorama have a chat about their bleak future

Shyamlal’s luck soon turns; he finds employment, and is thrilled to bits. With his first salary, he buys fruit, medicine for Manorama, and balloons for Munni. While he’s skipping merrily home, crossing the road without a care, there’s a screech of tires and then we see the balloons lifting up into the sky. Oh dear.
Manorama has no option now but to take Munni to Lucknow.

A widowed Manorama sets off for Lucknow

Remember that bit in Hamlet about “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”? Manorama gets a taste of that. The uncle’s dead and gone. The man who now lives in his house has no wish to give Manorama shelter. Passing goons ogle her. She stops lactating (that `illness on the inside’, no doubt).
Finally, Manorama becomes so desperate, she sneaks up to a grand mansion and leaves Munni on the doorstep, hoping at least her baby will get taken care of. (Isn’t this rather drastic? What if a wealthy lecher lives here? What if it’s home to a shrew who’ll make the baby scrub the floors as soon as she’s able? Hasn’t Manorama seen any Hindi films, ever?)

Manorama leaves Munni on a doorstep

Anyway, luck’s on their side. The widowed and childless owner of the mansion is a wealthy seth called Jagatnarain (Nasir Hussain). He takes pity on the baby, and since he’s leaving Lucknow to live in Bombay, decides to take her along and pass her off as his own offspring. Fortunately for Manorama, when he sees her at the gate the next day, he hires her to be his new daughter’s ayah.

Jagatnarain hires Manorama as an ayah

So Manorama goes off to Bombay with Jagatnarain and the baby, whom Jagatnarain has named Sarita. In Bombay, Jagatnarain’s long-lost cousin (Lalita Pawar) turns up along with her son Lali, begging Jagatnarain to take them under his wing—which he does, to Manorama’s disadvantage, since the old woman takes an immediate dislike to Manorama.

Jagatnarain's cousin takes a dislike to Manorama

Jagatnarain, however, thinks highly of Manorama and insists she stay on as Sarita’s ayah. Manorama, good woman that she is (and how I hate these syrupy, self-sacrificing, tolerant types!), doesn’t bat an eyelid at the old woman’s haranguing. Instead, as the years pass, whenever Sarita (now Baby Farida) and Lali (now Mohan Choti) criticise Lali’s mother, Manorama admonishes them.

Manorama scolds the children for criticising Lali's mother

Before we know it, Sarita’s grown up (into a radiant Asha Parekh) and has been gifted a piano by her proud father. She has to learn how to play it, of course—and she also needs a tutor for her studies. An ad’s duly inserted in the newspaper, specifying that they need an old man for a tutor (this at the request of Manorama, who probably feels a young man will spend more time gawping at Sarita than teaching her. Why an old man wouldn’t, I don’t know).
Lali’s mother puts in her two cents by saying that her brother-in-law’s son Ramu, now calling himself Romeo, has just returned from abroad and can be hired to teach Sarita the piano.

The family decides to hire tutors for Sarita

A part of the advertisement, in a torn newspaper, ends up in the hands of a penniless poet, Arun Kumar (Sunil Dutt). Arun lives with two sisters (the elder, widowed one is Achla Sachdev). His nom de plume is `Raahi’, and egged on by his friend `Dard’ (Asit Sen), he decides the ad is his chance to finally get a job.

Arun makes a serendipitous discovery

Arun arrives at Sarita’s, and since he isn’t old, she mistakes him for a piano tutor. The rigmarole gets sorted out, and all concerned feel that even though he isn’t old, he’s so obviously shareef, their darling will be in safe hands. Arun starts teaching Sarita, and soon they’re on good terms. Not in love, though, since it transpires that Sarita is besotted by the famous poet Raahi, whose poetry she adores, even though she’s never met the man.

Sarita daydreams about Raahi

For no particularly logical reason (except that this is a common course of action in Hindi cinema), Arun decides to dupe Sarita into believing that he and Raahi are two different people. He tells her that Raahi’s a friend of his, a fat and ugly fellow whose only saving grace is his poetry—which, says Arun, is anyway not as good as Arun’s. Sarita has read all of Raahi’s collections of poetry and is very vocal in her defence of the poet. The fact that he’s had so many books published, and they’ve all been hits, makes me wonder if Arun’s publisher’s been fiddling the books. Who’s getting the royalties?

Sarita speaks up in Raahi's defence

An illusional romance blossoms between Arun/Raahi and Sarita. Sarita gets a friend of hers, who’s a sister to one of Raahi’s acquaintances, to take her to meet the poet—and Arun, who sees Sarita arrive, quickly lays down a stipulation: Raahi will talk to her but from behind a closed door. She mustn’t see his face. They sing a lovely duet (Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa), and Sarita seems quite happy to be falling for a man whom I would’ve classified at least as mysterious, if not deranged.

Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa

Sarita asks Raahi—still behind the door—if he’ll respond should she write to him. He agrees, but says she must write her letters in verse. And guess whom Sarita turns to, to help her draft a poem to the poet?

Arun agrees to draft a letter in verse for Sarita

To cut a long story short, Sarita’s well and truly in love with Raahi, and Arun/Raahi is certainly nuts about her. But one evening, Sarita goes to the cinema with Romeo, and sees Arun sitting there with a girl (Arun’s sister). Sarita gets mad and flounces out of the cinema, and when Arun arrives at her birthday party the next day, spurns him too, leaving him to sing the soulful Aansoo samajhke kyon mujhe. What could this mean?

Aansoo samajhke kyon mujhe

[Aside: In this screen cap, the extra sitting on the far left is wearing a natty suit and tie, with chappals.]

We all know, of course, what it means, and it’s not long before all and sundry do too. And that’s when all the trouble starts, because Arun is so poor (those stolen royalties, I’m guessing) and Sarita is so rich…

What I liked about this film:
Sunil Dutt. Asha Parekh is, as always, beautiful. But this is Sunil Dutt’s film (I’m a woman, hey! And straight, may I add). He is so absolutely mind-bogglingly handsome in Chhaya: just look:

Sunil Dutt in Chhaya

The music. There aren’t too many songs, but they’re lovely, especially Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa. Okay, Mozart should probably get credit for that, but Salil Choudhary did a good adaptation. You need talent to be inspired.

What I didn’t like:
Somehow the film didn’t seem cohesive to me. The Arun-Sarita romance is sweet, despite Arun’s pretending not to be Raahi, and should (I think) have been made the focus of the film. Which it is, to some extent, but there are just too many distractions. The presence of Lali, his mother (whose motives seem utterly mysterious in places; maybe she’s just too irrevocably nasty) and the irritating Ramu-Romeo, seem unnecessary. Then there’s Achla Sachdev, usually a fairly good actress, who gets left by the wayside with only a couple of scenes to her credit.
This isn’t a bad film. It’s formula, generally light-hearted but with some sad turns that you know will turn out all right. There’s plenty of eye candy and the music’s good. But I’d have expected better from Hrishikesh Mukherjee. There was so much scope to explore the emotional relationship between Sarita and Manorama, but Chhaya doesn’t venture deep enough: there are some unsubtle dialogues, a few ham-handed scenes, but that’s it.

A word of caution:
Don’t see the T-Series version of this film. I rented the VCD, and it’s obviously been badly edited by T-Series: bits and pieces of dialogue simply disappeared in the middle of a scene, leaving me to do some smart detective work to figure out what was happening.

39 thoughts on “Chhaya (1962)

  1. I haven’t seen this one- maybe Hrishikesh M was still honing his talents in this one? Seems to be a long-winded affair compared to his later films.


  2. The songs are so beautiful!
    Naturally one would expect more from H.Mukherjee, but expectations (as we know) lead to disappointments. Everybody looks so nice, even Lalita Pawar and Asit Sen.


  3. bawa: Yes, I guess he was! It’s very different from the sheer simplicity of much of his later work, like Anand. But still, though it wasn’t up to the usual Hrishikesh Mukherjee standard, at least it wasn’t as ludicrous as Pyaar ka Sapna, also HM but of the totally sati-savitri bharatiya naari brand of filmmaking. I’ll review that one of these days, as soon as I can screw up the courage to sit through the film all over again…

    harvey: The songs are really the highlight – they’re so wonderful. But then, Salil Choudhary is one of my favourite composers (so is Mozart!)


  4. “In this screen cap, the extra sitting on the far left is wearing a natty suit and tie, with chappals”

    Nobody from Mukherjee’s team thought that you would have such a sharp eye.

    “Isn’t this rather drastic? What if a wealthy lecher lives here? What if it’s home to a shrew who’ll make the baby scrub the floors as soon as she’s able? Hasn’t Manorama seen any Hindi films, ever?”

    Well, I do understand Manorama though. A person in her condition would not look so well-fed like Nirupa Roy. But before she and her child die of starvation, she would prefer her child at least survives. I don’t think the person in question would be in any condition to plan on long term basis.
    Just like the other day I was talking with a friend of mine and we both realised that altough we talk about starvation and well-being of humans, we have never really starved. We might have gone hungry for a few hours or fasted for a few days, but we just don’t know how it is to starve without a prospect of food in the near future.
    But naturally one can ask if she doesn’t have any relative to whom she could go other than her uncle in Lucknow.

    “Sarita seems quite happy to be falling for a man whom I would’ve classified at least as mysterious, if not deranged”

    Had to laugh out loud! You are right! Why do indian film heroines fall for poets, whom they have never seen? Can this be called love? At the most an infatuation. But one shouldn’t expect too much depth in such cases, should we? As far as it entertains!

    Sunil Dutt looks so handsome! *sigh*
    One of this days I should learn how to wear a dhoti properly like him. Everytime I try, I end up showing a leg. Not that my legs are not good-looking, but…. ;-)

    Asha Parekh looks here like an aunt of mine. Jus tlike Bertie Wooster I have a whole flock of aunts.

    Salil Choudhary let himself be inspired by lots of different music genres. Lata Mangeshkar has said somewhere, that she learnt lots about western classical music from Salil. His dil dhadhak dhadhak ke keh raha hai from Madhumati is ‘inspired’ from a Polish folk song. I was thoroughly surprised one day, when a group of Polish colleagues started singing this melody with Polish words!

    This is the first time I’m seeing Asit Sen play a muslim character.

    Looking forward to you review of Pyar ka Sapna. Have never heard of this movie!


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  6. harvey: Yes, I guess you’re right… for people like us, it’s hard to fathom the desperation of someone who has known starvation. For us, not eating can be a conscious decision, not because there just isn’t any money to get food. On the other hand, I thought a film like Do Bigha Zameen dealt with a similar situation – of impending starvation – in a more subtle, believable manner. There, it was a sort of “if we stick together, we’ll be able to come through this.”

    Hindi film heroines tend to fall in love at the drop of a hat with singers, poets, and village men. Why?! Perhaps it seemed infra dig to fall for somebody who worked 9 to 5 in an office.

    I’d heard about the Polish origins of the Dil dhadak-dhadak ke keh raha hai tune. Didn’t know it was still fairly popular!

    And yes, someday I will review Pyaar ka Sapna… maybe once I’ve recovered from Leader!

    bobbysing: Thank you! I’ve noticed your comments on memsaabstory – will certainly have a look at your site!


  7. well, first of all I should say, your lines were very funny. Particularly, “Hasn’t Manorama seen any Hindi films, ever?”. I missed the comic note on my first read.
    But if we look at it from the serious side. Her desperation is indeed very touching and at least for me comprehensible. In Do Bigha Zameen the character of Nirupa Roy has a man on her side and that counts a lot. In Chhaya she has nobody left. So if she wants to go into prostitution to save her life, then she doesn’t want to pull in her female baby child into it. This is how I would interpret it. But naturally there are lots of other possible ways of interpretation.

    BTW, I love discussing such things with you. I’m getting addicted to it! ;-)


  8. Mmmmm.

    “Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha” is one of my alltime favourite songs.

    But yes, a lot of old whine in older bottles @ cuckoo child (that’s what this particular plotline always reminds me of) and the old saw of falling in love with (implausibly) anonymous hero while ignoring his known avatar.

    But still. Asha. Sunil. The song. Mmmmmm.


  9. harvey: Thank you! I’m glad there’s someone out there who likes discussing stuff as much as I do! ;-)
    And, actually, it wasn’t Nirupa Roy’s character in Do Bigha Zameen I meant – I meant all of them. As a family (in fact even Balraj Sahni and his son) were in a terrible situation, literally counting every anna, but the underlying theme was that as a family they’d pull through…somehow. Of course, in Sujata that would’ve been difficult, considering she was a widow. But then there are other avenues that they don’t show being explored: the doctor, for example, who was treating Munni in the first scene, was a kind man and didn’t even want his fees. She could’ve gone to him to ask for help.
    Whatever; it’s just a little drastic to leave your only child at the doorstep of someone you have no idea of. Maybe she should’ve done a little spying first to check out Jagatnarain!

    AKM: Yes, isn’t it an awesome song? Beautiful, and I like both versions a lot.
    Cuckoo child?! I like that :-))


  10. Sounds like Saajan (Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit) more than lifted a few things from this!

    If I can find it on DVD I think I’d enjoy it. Am watching Sunil now in a 1969 film with Asha (Chirag) and he’s still handsome :-)


  11. There is an Eros-Dvd out, and I bought it with a bunch of cheap movies I got of them. I watched it only recently; and it seemed perfect for a Saturday afternoon but nothing ground-breaking. Some things dragged on for too long (like the poet in disguise bit, or the father not realising who the ayah might be when it was basically spelled out for him), but nothing grated too much.


  12. Well, you said men were ogling and I in my hindi film thinking mode added 1 + 1 and came up with 11.
    You are right, there were surely many more options open.
    She could have gone to the doctor and then starteda new life as a maid servant or something similar.

    memsaab: a review of chirag coming up?


  13. memsaab: Yes, it does look as if Saajan drew some inspiration from this. The hero, fortunately though, isn’t flawed (or thinks he is) and there’s no friend for whom he’s willing to give up his love. Chirag, for me, is best for its music – I love Teri aankhon ke siva and Jab dekh liya toh chhupenge kahaan, though the self-sacrificing sadness of the heroine jarred. But: I saw it long, long ago and could be wrong about the nuances of the story. I don’t remember it too well. Can we hope for a review? :-)

    Gebruss: Yes, it’s neither ground-breaking nor grating, just basically time-pass! And I agree about the things dragging, too: in my opinion, the film could have been at least half an hour shorter, probably more.

    harvey: Exactly. If she’d seen more Hindi films (Aradhana style? – though it wasn’t yet made!), she’d have known what to do! ;-)


  14. LOL! at the man wearing a suit and chappals.
    The list of Sunil Dutt films to be bought is increasing. :-)
    Just saw him in Khandan.

    Even before Chaaya was ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’ (1960) with Madhubala’s character in love with a poet because of his poems (without having ever seen him) played by Bharat Bhushan.
    I think it might have been the case then with media not discussing and publishing pictures of famous people as much as they do today. Quite romantic though.

    I think in those simpler times people probably trusted others with babies.


  15. Khaandaan is one I don’t remember having seen. Worth watching?

    Yes, the girl falling for the poet she hadn’t seen (or at least not even spoken to) was there in Barsaat ki Raat and also, to a lesser extent, in Mere Mehboob (perhaps in Pakeezah, in a convoluted sort of way – his written comment on the beauty of her feet is sort of poetic!) These days, people have wisened up and realise that just because someone writes well or sings well or whatever doesn’t mean they’re good marriage material.


  16. Khaandaan is melodramatic, with a lot that happens because the writer wanted it that way, logically it would have gone the other way.

    Sunil Dutt is handicapped. He tried untangling a kite from an electric pole and suffered from an electric shock.
    Nutan doesn’t have much to do, but fits into all the khandani problems.
    In the beginning Om Prakash and Sunil Dutt have some witty dialogues, though often not politically correct, but still it showed promise. This didn’t last.

    I accept melodrama quite patiently so didn’t mind it.
    It’s just a typical film of those times with the handicapped hero being the novelty.


  17. Oh, okay… now that you recount the story, I remember seeing this long back when we didn’t have invertors to back up electricity – the electricity went midway through the film so I only saw parts of it. A bit too melodramatic for me.


  18. The songs in this film are lovely and the idea of falling in love with a poet and him turning out to be Sunil Dutt is awesome! ;-) I remember liking it when I saw it long ago, but havent been able to re-watch because my new DVD wont play… From your review, it seems like I should be content with the songs and not yearn for more!


  19. Oooh, yes ;-). I’m totally for the idea of falling in love with someone unseen and having him turn out to be Sunil Dutt! He is particularly gorgeous in this film.

    But yes, it’s not really worth the effort of trying to watch it again. The songs are nice, but it left me unsatisfied. I’d expected more of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This is definitely way below his usual standard.


  20. Pingback: Ten of my favourite Talat Mahmood songs «

  21. dustedoff, I am glad you sent me this link. I actually did not have the issues you had with the movie – methinks I was in the mood to be entertained, and I was. :) More to the point, I hadn’t heard of this movie before and therefore went in with very little expectations. It is only later that I realised that this was a Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie.

    This is one film where I actually *liked* Nirupa Roy! Was it bollyviewer who commented on her propensity to lose her children? (That was a good one!) At least in this movie, she not only *found* the child again, but managed to stay and look after it too. And she didn’t cry once! Praise be to the green spaghetti monster in the sky!

    Another movie of hers where she didn’t do any of the above (no crying, no losing children, no self-sacrifice) was Kangan.


    • I use to be more forgiving earlier, but over the last couple of years, I’ve become much less accommodating when it comes to cinema-watching, which is why I guess I have issues with a lot of films that I see! But good music will make me see just about any film, so I’m really not complaining!

      Kangan is one I haven’t seen, but a Nirupa Roy who doesn’t weep or lose her kids or be the martyr must be a refreshing change. She wasn’t bad in Razia Sultana either – and it was unusual to see Nirupa Roy as the warrior queen!


  22. nice movie,but not as great as expected from hrishida.Some great songs the way,while i was watching the film,i was dying to see the song ‘Aankhon mein masti sharab ki’,which is there in the audio cd of chhaya,but sadly could not find in the movie.did you either?


  23. well, T-Series actually cut that song away.after searching a lot,i did find the video of the song aankhon mein masti.It’s youtube url is song was actually shot.For a long time, i was thinking that this song was probably going to join the unfortunate league of those two op nayyar masterpieces hamne toh dil yeh aapke qadmon pe rakh[mere sanam] and main pyaar ka rahi hoon [ek musafir ek haseena].both these songs seem to have no video picturisation.were they ever shot or simply edited out of these film’s cd’s and dvd’s.I for one could not find any video of these two songs soo far.


    • Oh! I had no idea there were two missing songs from Mere Sanam and Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena – both films of which I love the music, by the way. It’s sad when songs so beautiful are not put into the film, since a lot of associations of songs are through the films one has seen them in not, not necessarily the records/tapes/CDs one hears the album on…

      Probably the most famous “lovely song never included in the film” was the beautifully emotional Chain se humko aap ne jeene na diya, from Praan jaaye par vachan na jaaye.

      P.S. Have been listening to Humne toh dil ko aapke on this link on Youtube. According to the discussion in the comments, it seems the song was</i. initially picturised, but appears to have later been deleted from the film:


  24. It surely seems that O.P.Nayyar was very unfortunate when it came to getting his beautiful songs picturised.SOOOO SAD.BAHUT NAA INSAAFI HAI.


  25. I don’t like Asha Parekh. Don’t find her particularly attractive and find her voice irritating. BUT, I loved her in this film (and Bahaaron Ke Sapne).

    And Itna Na Mujhse is a song I can watch on repeat.


    • I am an Asha Parekh fan, though I admit I find her irritating when she’s either being overly melodramatic or too ‘cheeky’ – as in, say, Ziddi. She’s fine in this, and I do love her in films like Teesri Manzil or Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon. :-)


  26. I have seen the video of aankon se musti sharab ke and it is avey mischievous duet in which Sunil,dutt is absolutely gorgeous. This is available in you tube as a whole movie Chaya for download.


    • No, sadly I haven’t seen it. I remember it was shown on DD long ago when I was a kid, and I recall my parents watching it, but (child that I was!), I thought how boring it would be for a film to have just one actor. So I never saw it. Must look out for it, actually, and see it sometime.


  27. i love this movie for dutt saheb and aasha ji. so all flaws ignored. i think there should be a post in which hero teaching heroine and they fall in love films should be counted. like in Maa beta lalita pawar scolds amita that neeyat mai khott tha and all. favourite will be mere mehboob only. haai.


  28. It happens quite often, while watching old classics on youtube. Some scenes look totally mismatch due to ‘editing’. It happened today too, how Nirupa’s husband dies. While watching this film, I got confused with its story too. Actually she was in love with whom – her teacher or poet? If she was attracted towards poet, then why did she leave the theatre seeing her teacher with a girl?
    When poet writes her a letter, why couldn’t she identify her teacher’s handwriting?
    Yes you said it right…. a celebrated poet with a fan following crowd, and huge respect in society, yet tagged as ‘Poor’. Haha


    • I have to admit, it’s been so long since I watched this film, I’ve forgotten the details of it. But if I were to watch it again, I have a feeling I would be even more forgiving. Over the past almost nine years I’ve been writing this blog, my patience with bad cinema has worn thin!


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