Mera Saaya (1966)

Permit me one last Sadhana-related post before I put aside my unexpected (even to me) sadness at her untimely death. I know I’ve already been through two tribute posts, but even as I was writing those posts, I couldn’t help but think of the Sadhana films I haven’t reviewed on this blog (and there are several of them, including all the ones she made with Rajendra Kumar). When I think of Sadhana, I always think of her in Raj Khosla’s suspense films. Three of them, two opposite Manoj Kumar (Woh Kaun Thi? and Anita), and this one, opposite Sunil Dutt, with whom Sadhana also starred in Gaban and Waqt.

Sadhana in Mera Saaya

Mera Saaya gets off to a flying start—with a doctor (Shivraj) hurrying into a grand haveli, accompanied by the bustling munshi (Mukri) of the absent owner of the haveli, a lawyer named Thakur Rakesh Singh (Sunil Dutt). From the hurried exchange of instructions, voiced frustration, and anguish, it emerges that Rakesh has gone abroad. Now, his wife Geeta (Sadhana) has fallen ill, and that too so desperately ill that the doctor, when summoned, realizes there’s little to be done for her.

Geeta on her deathbed

Two women—Rakesh’s Radha mausi (Ratnamala) and a maid named Sargam (Kumud Bole) are in attendance. The doctor chastizes Radha Mausi: why has Geeta’s condition allowed to deteriorate to such an extent? While scurrying about, ordering oxygen to be got from the hospital and so on, he tells the munshi to contact Rakesh and call him back to India.

Rakesh arrives, hurrying through Udaipur Airport, in the car, and into the house—up to the bedroom, where Geeta is lying in bed, so dazed that she barely seems to recognize Rakesh. He clutches her, sweeps her up into his arms—and she dies. [No, that is not what a Hindi film heroine is supposed to do, at least not in the first 10 minutes of a film].

Geeta dies in Rakesh's arms

The suddenly bereaved husband is left seriously bereft. Rakesh is inconsolable; even as the days pass, we see him unable to forget his dead wife. He has a memorial chhatri built for her in the grounds of his home [with a sadly misspelt ‘Geeta Smriti’ inscribed on a tablet outside]; he spends his days listening to old tapes of her singing love songs to him and staring at her portrait.

A bereft widower

… and is sitting beneath that very photograph when a friend, Inspector Daljit Singh (Anwar Hussain) turns up. Daljit Singh bears some very odd news. And a photograph, which he shows Rakesh. Does Rakesh recognize this woman? It’s a photo of Geeta [looking far from her usual chic self, which should have made Rakesh suspicious at once, but doesn’t]. Rakesh wonders where the inspector got Geeta’s photo, and the cop reveals the scoop of the century.

Inspector Sahib comes visiting

This isn’t Geeta, but another woman. Recently, in an encounter between the cops and a gang of dacoits, two dacoits were killed and this girl, Raina, was arrested. When she was brought before the villagers who’d been preyed upon by the dacoits these past months, one man recognized her. Sometime back, he said, this woman had danced in front of the temple—a dance performance that had turned out to be mere distraction, serving to draw people’s attention away long enough for the dacoits to attack.

Raina dances in a village square

In front of his very eyes, this woman had stabbed someone to death. She’s the devil.

... and is identified as one of the gang

But Raina staunchly denies that she is the killer, or that she had anything to do with the dacoits. She claims she’s innocent. And—here comes the shocker—she claims she is Geeta, Thakur Rakesh Singh’s wife.

What nonsense, says Rakesh. His Geeta died in his very arms. He’s not baffled or surprised, or anything of the sort: he’s pure angry at this unseen woman, who by her wild claim, is pouring salt on his wounds.

The inspector agrees. But the woman must be exposed, he says, and her claims proved to be lies. For that, if Rakesh and his household will come to the police station to formally identify [un-identify?] her, that will be perfect. Rakesh assents, so the next day, the main members of the household—Rakesh, Radha Mausi, Sargam, Munshiji and his opium addict friend Baanke (Dhumal)—arrive at the police station.

Munshiji and Baanke come to the police station

Daljit Singh tries a ruse to catch Raina out: he summons a man, calling him “Thakur”, and implying that this is Geeta’s husband, but Raina denies that this is him. The inspector tries it with yet another man, with the same result. Then, Rakesh enters—and Raina runs to him, hugging him and asking him where he’s been, cribbing about the inspector’s trying to foist odd men onto her as him, and so on. Rakesh flings her away and storms off, leaving the woman looking very distressed indeed.

Raina flings herself at Rakesh

She now notices Radha Mausi and Sargam peering in through the barred window, and rushes to them, addressing them by name, which of course surprises them. Radha Mausi bristles when the woman says, “Mausi, don’t you recognize me?!” and replies that Geeta didn’t call her Mausi, so she cannot be Geeta. At which Raina says Oh, yes: she had forgotten. The entire household called her Mausi, but when Geeta tried calling her Mausi, Radha Mausi said no, Geeta should call her Ma instead.

This shakes Mausi and Sargam up so, they leave. How could this woman, who looks exactly like the dead Geeta, know this tiny detail?

Radha Mausi and Sargam are taken aback

Meanwhile, we get a brief glimpse at Raina’s ex-colleagues, the dacoits, who’re encamped in their lair. The leader of these men, Suryavar Singh (Prem Chopra), is tense and remarks gruffly that since the woman will now be going on trial, they need to do something…

Suryavar Singh decides something must be done

… which we get a hint of [though no more than a hint] in the next scene. Raina, preparatory to being taken to court, is in the police station, seated on a bench along with some other women prisoners. An old woman—caught brazenly picking pockets right outside the police station—has been arrested; she comes in, plonks herself down next to Raina, and quickly hands over a tiny note to Raina. As soon as Raina’s read it, the old woman snatches it back and chews it. Raina looks horrified [yes, well. Paper isn’t high on nutrition, is it?].

An old woman brings instructions, presumably

And we’re in court. Here, Raina again denies being Raina and insists she is Geeta, Thakur Rakesh Singh’s wife. When asked by the judge (an avuncular sort) if she’d like to appoint a lawyer to represent her in court, she refuses. Why should she need any lawyer other than her own husband? He is one of the best lawyers in the city.

Rakesh, of course, refuses outright. In the meantime, the public prosecutor (KN Singh) has announced that Rakesh is his key witness—and Raina, when informed by the judge that she may plead her own case, has also said that Rakesh will be her main witness.

The court clerk, therefore, comes to Rakesh’s house to serve the summons. While Mausi mourns over the way the law is not letting Rakesh get over the death of Geeta, Sargam listens in at the window, looking as if she’s up to no good [you can always tell in Hindi films, can’t you?]

She then turns away and flounces out of the courtyard, passing on the way her two admirers, Munshiji and Baanke. These worthies, over a game of chess, have been discussing the case (with Munshiji contributing most of the meaningful conversation, since the opium-addled brain of Baanke is incapable of retaining any lucid thought for any length of time). The two men gaze, dreamy-eyed, at Sargam, and when she’s gone, wonder where the girl goes off to every evening. They forget it the very next moment and go back to their chess, their views on the case, and Sargam.

Sargam and her two admirers

Baanke is baffled about why some strange woman, just because she happens to look like Geeta, should be trying to pass herself off as Thakur Sahib’s dead wife. Munshiji supplies the answer: Thakur Sahib is very wealthy. The woman is after his wealth; what else?

But there is something very odd about Raina’s claim to being Geeta. When Rakesh appears in the witness box, she gets confused. Her questions aren’t questions; more incoherent babbling. But, with some encouragement from the judge, she begins to talk, to ask Rakesh questions, and to provide proof that she is Geeta. She talks about their wedding, about minute details—how the pallu of her saree had caught in the car door as she was getting in; what Rakesh said in praise of her as they drove on.

In court

Rakesh, though, is not so easily won over. He calmly informs the court that the description of their wedding—down to Geeta’s pallu getting caught in the car door—appears in a book he had written. Anybody could have read it there. And there had been a chauffeur in the car; he could easily have overheard the conversation between Rakesh and Geeta.

Inspector Daljit Singh and the Public Prosecutor, discussing the case in the prosecutor’s chambers after court, agree that this is a baffling case indeed. Both are inclined to think, too, that one of the members of Rakesh’s household—a servant, easily bribed—is responsible for this woman knowing so much about Rakesh and Geeta.

The doctor, the cop and the lawyer discuss the case

But the next day, Raina (or Geeta, as she insists she is) hurls a bouncer: she tells Rakesh something even he hadn’t known about himself. That he has a mole on his back, near his right armpit. Sure enough, when Rakesh is egged on to take off his shirt [odd sort of court, this], there it is, clear to everybody.  And when the woman requests a face-to-face meeting, alone with Rakesh, she tells him some startling facts nobody but Geeta could have known.

The evidence appears to be piling up; everything points to this woman being Geeta. But Geeta had died in Rakesh’s arms, in full view of most of the people of his household. Everybody knows—most importantly, Rakesh knows—that Geeta is dead, and this woman cannot possibly be Geeta. Then how does she know so much? How can she possibly know even the most intimate details of Rakesh and Geeta’s life together? Who is she?

What I liked about this film:

The screenplay and direction. One major plus point of Mera Saaya is that while it’s very obviously—what with the songs and the (admittedly very thin) comic element, in the form of the Baanke-Munshiji-Sargam relationship—in the masala film mould, it’s a good example of a suspense film. The scripting is taut, with nothing that’s superfluous (even Baanke and Munshiji’s brief comic dialogues tie in with their impressions of what’s happening in court, or who Raina is). The songs, yes, are there, but these too often serve some purpose: mostly to reinforce Rakesh’s relationship with Geeta (which further reinforces the sense of desolation he feels at her death, and the ensuing frustration—even anguish—when Raina surfaces, claiming to be Geeta).

The songs, composed by Madan Mohan. The title song (repeated in snatches throughout the film) is lovely; Nainon mein badraa chhaaye is romantic in a beautifully classical way; and Aapke pehloo mein aakar ro diye is the very embodiment of grief. There’s the playfully teasing Nainonwaali ne ek matwaali ne, and the cheeky, still-popular street performance of Jhumka gira re Bareilly ke bazaar mein.

There are Sunil Dutt and Sadhana, who look good, and have believable chemistry.

Sadhana and Sunil Dutt in Waqt

… not just as the young couple so deliriously in love with each other, but also as the deeply suspicious and angry man facing the desperate woman who wants him to believe she’s his wife. There’s resentment on his part, because she is digging up his wounds, reminding him of the woman he loved—and yet, perhaps her face and her voice are too much like his beloved Geeta’s to let him be completely oblivious. In particular, there’s a touching little scene where Rakesh, now in his lawyer’s robes and interrogating Raina, suddenly finds her bursting into tears. There’s confusion, even pain, in his eyes for a few moments before he snatches his hand away from under hers and reverts to his gruff, lawyerly self. Almost as if, for that brief spell, he had forgotten that this woman was an impostor…

A sudden moment of awkwardness, and of indecision?

What I didn’t like:

Some of the court scenes, which go really haywire [getting a man to take off his shirt in court? Really?] Several times during the court scenes, too, I found myself gritting my teeth and wondering why nobody had the common sense to ask certain very basic questions that would have helped solve the mystery a little sooner. For instance, why did Rakesh spend all his time trying to shout down Raina’s claim of being Geeta, instead of asking her—as any logically-minded person would—who had died in his arms, then?

And the red herrings. Oh, how irritating that they should have no logical explanation, really.

But, despite all of that (and it’s not much, no matter what I write), this is still one of the best suspense films made in 60s Bollywood. Gripping, interesting, and with great songs. Do watch, if you haven’t yet.

Little bit of personal trivia:

My mother remembers the lead-up—newspaper advertisements, posters, etc—to Mera Saaya’s release in Calcutta, where she lived until she got married. “A lot of people were scandalized by the name of the film,” she says. Because, in Bangla, ‘saaya’ refers to a saree petticoat. Why anybody would want to name a film ‘My Petticoat’ was beyond comprehension. And in deplorably poor taste.

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76 thoughts on “Mera Saaya (1966)

  1. One of the films I thoroughly enjoyed. The title song, of course, was iconic. Additionally, my mum used to sing Naino mein Bandra chaste … ( I shall make a request for it tomorrow morning). Also,this article reminded me of the singular single sinister smile that was a trademark of KN Singh, usually accompanied by the sinister raising of a single eyebrow.

    • Nainon mein badraa chhaaye is a lovely song, isn’t it? Your mother must be a very good singer, because I always think that song is difficult to sing.

      Yes, KN Singh and his sinister smile, accompanied by the lifting of that single eyebrow… I think it’s more prominent in Woh Kaun Thi? than here, probably because in this film, he’s definitely on the side of the law, not being portrayed as a possible (and very likely) suspect.

    • I know now which is my favourite song . for years i was confused between naino mai badra chaaye and mera saya saath hoga. i know now that naino mai badra is my favourite. and yes even in bihar saya means petticoat. i have only one complain with the movie that the servant girl close up are shown like she knows something.but never revealed. i feel mera saya is combination of romance and mystery. woh kaun thi has more mystery touch to it. i think i was satisfied with explanation effort in poonam ki raat . another manoj kumar flim of this kind. i really liked the effort to explain things why and how ?? the reason was not scientific. getting attacks on purey chaand ki raat. but i like it. another theory is floated in mera saya by any people that real wife died and the twin sister survived. i read a comment on youtube. and it was convincing one.

      • Long time since I watched Poonam ki Raat… I should really watch it again and do a review.

        That’s an interesting theory about Mera Saaya. Would you remember the argument for the twin sister being the one who survived? It sounds very intriguing, and now that I think of some of it, also plausible…

        • acc to me 50-50! like why the daku prem chopra comes and says she is your wife ?? and anybody can read diary and gets intimate details ? its 50-50 ! my heart says real died and duplicate survived !

          • On the other hand, I don’t see the motive behind the daaku telling the lawyer that she was his wife, unless – as he was dying – he decided to be altruistic towards the woman. I can see a motive for her claiming to be his wife (his wealth and status will be hers), but why should the dacoit support her in that claim?

        • it could happen same in woh kaun thi . that wife died and her sister survived. after watching mera saya again and again i realised woh kaun thi has more subplots of suspense. mera saya now i feel is mixture of suspense and romance. I feel better to be confused between both movies . I
          love sunil dutt and sadhna and like woh kaun thi for songs and sadhna.

          • Woh Kaun Thi? also has more red herrings that come without any explanations (the windshield wipers, for example). Plus, from what I remember, I don’t really see how the wife/sister combination could have worked in that film… must watch it again and see if that makes sense.

  2. Very nice post Madhu didi! Your review is as gripping as the movie itself.. :). I remember my mother telling me the story a few months back though I don’t remember the ending.. But the title track was truly haunting.. Madan Mohan at his best.
    Also the screenshots you’ve posted are also very good.. Raj Khosla worked under Guru Dutt for sometime so his camera angles were excellent.. Thank you for the post!

    • Thank you, Rahul! Glad you liked the review. :-) If you haven’t seen it, I would strongly recommend this (especially if you don’t recall the ending). I do remember watching this the first time, and being very intrigued by what was going on: I couldn’t figure out what was happening.

  3. ROTFL at ‘My Petticoat’. That sounds like a title of a Broadway musical.
    I saw this movie ages back on DD and remembering to have liked it a lot and being completely bowled over the songs by Madan Mohan. More than that remember strongly the feeling of being let down by the tame ending and was faced by exactly the same questions, which you are asking here. But one does tend to forgive Hindi ffilms a lot, doesn’t one?
    The Marathi original film Pathlaag was nice too. I saw it after Mera Saaya. Hadn’t you planned once to review it?

    • There was a Cary Grant-Tony Curtis film (I don’t remember if it was a musical, but it was definitely one of those screwball comedies – quite sexist, really) called Operation Petticoat. :-)

      Now that I think of it, the ending is tame. Not so much the revelation of what had actually happened (which I still find interesting) but how the entire thing is resolved. I found that too quick, too convenient. But, as you point out, we do forgive Hindi films a lot.

      Pathlaag – yes, I’ve been wanting to watch that ever since someone (was it you?) told me about it. But all these years, I hadn’t been able to find a subtitled version. Now, after many tries, I finally managed to find the subtitles and download those. Then I downloaded the film (in five chunks) off Youtube, joined the chunk on Movie Maker, and can watch it! So, after much beloing of paapads, I will probably be watching and reviewing the film this coming week. :-)

      • Operation Petticoat does sound like one of those Cary-Crant movies, something to do with a subamrine being painted pink or something.
        No, it wasn’t me, who recommended Pathlaag to you. I think, it was Samir. Looking forward to your review of it. BTW, Pathlaag can also mean a chase. So if one thinks that the title song of Mera Saaya is stalky, the title and title song of Pathlaag is more so. :)
        Come to think of it, I don’t think, I’ve ever recommended a pre 70s Marathi film to you.

        • Yes, there was a pink submarine in Operation Petticoat. I like Cary Grant (and Tony Curtis), but I remember not liking this particular film too much. Perhaps my expectations of it had been a little too high.

          I went to my blog’s dashboard and checked out old comments to see who had first mentioned Pathlaag, because I was curious. And yes, you’re right – it was Samir. Later, coolone160 also mentioned it. Let’s see: will watch it soon.

      • Re Paathlaag: Advance warning – it’s a good film,but the leading lady (Bhavna) is a total disaster, and the leading man, Kashinath Ghanekar is basically an old school thespian whose performances are loud to the point of being melodramatic. Not surprising as he acted mostly on the stage throughout his career. Marathi audiences of that era unfortunately tended to lap up those hammy performances of his in play after play. Besides, his chocolatey looks made him quite a favourite with the ladies in the audience.

        The haunting title song, “या डोळ्यांची दोन पाखरे फिरतील तुमच्याभवती, पाठलाग ही सदैव करतील, असा कुठेही जगती” (literally, the two birds of these eyes will flutter around you, they will follow you always, wherever you may be in this world. Awkward, like any literal translation, especially of poetry, but you get the gist.) is one of the classics of Marathi film music, and most Marathi-speakers who’ve heard both it & “तू जहाँ जहाँ चलेगा” would probably rank the Marathi song higher (purely on a poetic and musical basis, not chauvinistically. Lata’s sung both, so there’s question of singer bias, either.) Btw, Harveypam in his comment below says, “Pathlaag can also mean a chase.” I’m not sure what he means by “also”. Paathlaag means chase/to follow. Perhaps he can clarify what other meaning he had in mind, and how it’s relevant in the context of the film.

        • “Advance warning – it’s a good film,but the leading lady (Bhavna) is a total disaster, and the leading man, Kashinath Ghanekar is basically an old school thespian whose performances are loud to the point of being melodramatic.

          LOL! Thank you for the warning! I will keep it in mind. In any case, whenever I watch films that are themselves remakes or have inspired remakes, I tend to watch them with a view to a comparison as well, so I’m prepared for stuff that is at times definitely very different from what I’ve already seen.

        • As you said, it can mean chase as well as follow, although more often used in the former sense. Chase would rob the verses of its romantic angle, thus I would use the word follow, if I’d to translate paathlaag. But the title songs of both the version, do give one a feeling of stalking, that is why the use of “Pathlaag can also mean a chase.” :)

          • Thanks. I hadn’t realised that you were referring to the nuanced difference between chase and follow. I thought you’d meant that it had another meaning altogether, which puzzled me no end, never having heard of any such. You’re right, chase doesn’t really have any romantic connotation, being most commonly used in the phrase “polisaanni choraancha paathlaag kela” (the police chased the robbers). “Mera Saaya” is a much better title, for it made use of the prevalent view & phrase about a wife being her husband’s shadow (‘patni pati ki chhaaya hoti hai’) as well as the fact that one’s shadow always follows one around. “Paathlaag” didn’t have that ‘shade’ of meaning (sorry, couldn’t resist. :)) Perhaps the title song was, in fact, written first, and then, seeing it’s potentiality & power, the word was seized upon as the film’s title, ignoring the ‘shadow’ (there I go again) it cast on romance?

            • Thank you, Harvey, Milind: I’ve been following this conversation with interest, because I’m learning things from it. :-) Am now looking forward to watching Pathlaag.

              • It would have been Hitchcockian if they Director had left some doubt in the audience’s mind as to which Sadhana finally ended up with Sunil Dutt… Maybe a confusing sly smile at the end by Sadhana or something… Also the title Mera Saaya could refer to her sister too

  4. I loved every bit of the movie, except how it all ended. Wasn’t Solva Saal also by Raj Kkhosla? Now that one had a predictable, trite conclusion involving the kind of monstrous coincidences only Hindi films are capable of. But it was handled so deftly, and with so much cuteness, that it flowed most smoothly. But here it jarred more than anything else. The story was well-narrated, and in parts beautifully shot, but those little touches, the attention to detail, that make a masterpiece, simply weren’t there.

    Lovely review, as usual. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    • I agree, compared to something like Solvaa Saal (with its trite ending and all), Mera Saaya does fall a bit flat at the end. As I’ve remarked to someone else, too, I like the revelation – of what actually had happened – but the tying of the ends is too convenient, too pat.

      I must watch Solvaa Saal again – it’s been so many years, I don’t remember the finer details of it. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

      • mera saya was coming yesterday night after 10 on classic. i really wonder why this kind of timing for these kind of movies ? saw one night that roti kapda aur mkaan , purab aur paschim was coming after 9 pm. awara was coming from 7 in the morning. i really wonder about these timings that if a common person can watch at these times. whenever i watch this movie i feel more than happy that sunil dutt is playing the hero than manoj ji who had worked in 2 flims of the trilogy. sunil dutt and sadhna look so charming, gentle and comfortable. sunil dutt acting is beyond praises so as sadhna ji. i loved the beautiful scenes of udaipur. the enchanting songs. their scenes. raja saheb palace is indeed big and lavish. i don’t understand the scenes of the girl working in the home. it seems she knows something but it is not explained. i love this movie. i think 50s and 60s were golden period of thriller suspense movies. yesterday it was coming and i again got lost in the movie’s beauty. anita is weakest movie among the 3. competition lies between woh kaun thi and mera saya.

        • I have a feeling the people who decide scheduling in TV channels probably think that the bulk of their target audience would much rather watch a new (or new-ish) film than something old. It’s sad.

          It’s been a very long time since I watched Anita, so have forgotten it, pretty much.

          • an evening in paris, do badan and all were coming late in the night. so nobody could have watched. and masala flicks coming all the day. weird timings i am noticing it from last few months on many channels who play old movies.

  5. One of those thoroughly entertaining films, Madhu, I agree with you. Even though I too gritted my teeth at the court scenes – we will never get our professional parts right, will we? Doctors, illnesses, lawyers, courts?

    I did think, when I watched it again, that Raj Khosla didn’t show the ‘tightness’ he had during Woh Kaun Thi?, which, though it suffered from losing its hold over the plot as well, what with its red herrings, was definitely better made than this. Even Madan Mohan’s score – in my opinion – was better in the former.

    But. But. But… eminently watchable. :)

    p.s. I checked to see if you had posted anything in the morning. I was very disappointed you had not. So this is lovely! :)

    • Thank you, Anu! Glad you liked the post. :-)

      Yes, even Abhik pointed out the lack of ‘tightness’ and finer details – like you, I agree that that is there to a greater extent in Woh Kaun Thi?i (though that film has some completely ludicrous red herrings and inexplicable details – the windshield wipers, for instance)… but still, Woh Kaun Thi? is better than this one. More stylish, I think, more baffling, and more pretty. Plus Madan Mohan is really at the top of his form there. Simply superb; I could easily watch that film again and again just for its songs.

  6. Beautiful tribute post. Thank you for yet another beautifully worded, lovely one.
    The music and the movie on the whole continue to enthrall.
    Sadhana ji remains a classic beauty ,a style icon and a great actress with unique, pure aura which always made her stand apart.

    Many of us wish she had a happier, healthier and longer life.

    Wise sayings like ‘God knows the best’, ‘Heaven wanted another angel’ can comfort a bit. May Peace be upon her.

  7. Lovely and very well written review, sometimes I wonder, how does she come up with this description or sentence, and then I tell myself, she is a writer and you are a reader :). I still remember when I saw the film in theater. I was in boarding school and had the choice of watching either “The bridge on river Kwai” or “Mera Saaya “. I chose the latter only because I loved the songs ( my little transistor was my only source ). However I got bowled over by Sadhana ! This was the first Sadhana movie that I had watched. How classy ! Over the years I have watched almost all. I have liked her in most specially in Parakh and Inteqam. I never watched Mera Saaya again, only because I know the ending. Perhaps I will after reading your review just for her.

    • That’s an interesting little anecdote, Neeru! (So did you get around to watching The Bridge on the River Kwai soon after?)

      I have no recollection of which Sadhana film was my first, though I have a feeling it might have been Woh Kaun Thi?. Whatever it was, I do remember that my mother had told me she used to resemble Sadhana a lot in her younger days, so I was automatically prejudiced in favour of Sadhana. ;-) Incidentally, in the scene in Mera Saaya where Sunil Dutt is listening to the radio and Woh bhooli daastaan lo phir yaad aa gayi comes on (seguing, in his mind, into Tu jahaan-jahaan chalega), there’s a Sadhana photo – a close-up – on the table which looks exactly like my mother. I mean, in that photo, Sadhana looks more like my mother than she looks like herself. :-)

  8. Why did not Geeta just tell the tale in the correct order in the first place? But then how would the movie have been made. Also, rather odd that Sunil Dutt would believe a dacoit right away but would suspect his wife of saying untruths.

    Nevertheless, the movie is presented very well and is hugely entertaining. MM was at his best here. The songs have stood the test of time and are heard with pleasure even now. The energy of Jumka Gira re is very high. The song is iconic.

    • So true!

      Spoilers ahead:

      The note she receives – from Suryavar Singh, through the old woman – has something to do with Geeta hiding the truth, but I still don’t see it all clearly. I mean, Raina is obviously dead; so what does Geeta gain by hiding Raina’s existence? She can’t pretend Raina didn’t exist (which is what she’d been doing – to keep her family’s shameful ashleelta hidden – all the while she’d been married to Rakesh), but that can’t be done any more. And what does Suryavar Singh have to gain by making ‘Raina’ (as he believes her to be) keep quiet? If she is Raina, then all she can do is turn informer against him – and the court seems to have completely forgotten that aspect of the case.

      Ho-hum. Several ‘huh’ things there. But still, this remains a guilty pleasure of mine. :-)

      • Spoilers ahead
        From what I remember of the film, pativrata as she is, she didn’t want the honour of her husband’s (her saviour, didn’t he save her from suicide?) family be besmirched, by openly admitting that her sister was a gangster moll and her mother’s past and I think, even her mother had some hand in it (deathbed promise of never telling anybody and such rubbish).
        But it is quite possible, that I’m mixing up things as well.

        • Spoilers ahead:

          Yes, I suppose her pativrataness does stop her from speaking out in court and telling the public that she had this wicked sister… but when she’s alone in that room at the courts (at her own request, with Rakesh’s consent, talking to him in private and telling him things ‘only a wife would know’, why doesn’t she confess the truth to him? One would have expected that level of trust, at least at this stage, when she’s struggling to convince him of who she is).

          No, she doesn’t mention anything about the mother’s deathbed promise. The mother had been badchalan to start off with, and Raina had gone the same way. So when, after the deaths of the two parents, the sisters parted ways, Geeta stopped keeping in touch with Raina.

    • ava, that’s exactly what I thought – I wouldn’t be too happy if my husband believed a dacoit, instead of me. And honestly, if I’m going to be hanged for dacoity and murder, I think I would have said, ‘To hell with family honour, and who my sister was!’

      And with re: to what Madhu said below – what the heck was that stuff about the note? And how did Suryavar suddenly realise it wasn’t his wife but his sister-in-law? (And why was he so concerned about his sister-in-law all of a sudden?) I can (somewhat) understand Geeta keeping mum where her husband’s concerned, but why the heck wouldn’t she tell the dacoits they have the wrong woman? And why on earth was she dancing Jhumka gira re in the village? And she did kill that chappie, didn’t she? The mind hurts. :)

      Ah, well, this really is one of those ‘Don’t ask questions, just enjoy!’ films, isn’t it?

      • Um, the one dancing, “Jhumka gira re” was Raina, not Geeta. Offhand, I can’t recollect for sure if she killed anyone, but I don’t think so. She was just the luscious distraction.

        • Yes, you’re right. The street dancer was Raina, not Geeta. And she is shown stabbing someone, right in the chest, and with an overly vicious grin on her face. :-)

          But that raises another question:

          Spoiler ahead:

          When, at the end, Suryavar Singh is gasping out his confession, he says that Raina was constantly trying to persuade him to give up his life of crime. If that’s the case, then that raises another question: what made a murderous Raina suddenly decide to leave crime (which is why she runs away from Suryavar Singh anyway)?

          Whew. So many questions, unanswered…

      • Anu, as Milind Phanse points out too, it’s Raina who kills the man, not Geeta. That’s a flashback embedded in a flashback – it’s from the point of view of the villager who remembers that he had seen this girl dancing in front of the temple some months back.

        But yes, as I mentioned in my reply to Milind, that raises more questions…

        And yes, how did Suryavar Singh suddenly realise that the woman in the dock was Geeta and not Raina? And why was he suddenly so solicitous?

  9. Enjoyable reading your review. This film used to play randomly on some television channel or the other and I usually found it in the middle of one of the court scenes and from that surmised it would get resolved in some lame fashion, so I never bothered to seek out and watch the entire film. Your review definitely makes me think the journey may be worth more than my cursory dismissal. Going to watch it soon. Thanks!

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the review. :-)

      Yes, Mera Saaya used to be very common on TV channels at one time (I don’t know now, because I have watched very little TV over the past 20 years). But it’s worth watching, at least once – good suspense, lovely songs, and overall entertaining.

  10. Lovely review as usual. One of the few Madan Mohan films to do well at the box office. His music, and the fact that the film, a taut mystery cum courtroom drama, was somewhat different from the usual Hindi films of that era had, IMHO, & with all due respect to Sadhana & Sunil Dutt, more to do with it’s success than the lead pair itself. Well-directed barring the loose ends you’ve mentioned (not that Raj Khosla had to do much. He followed the original fairly closely.). Good locales and good production values also helped in no small measure to make it a hit.

    • Thank you!

      And yes, I agree with you that it’s really more about the story and the songs. One could well have had another good lead pair (I’m thinking Dev Anand-Vyjyanthimala, for instance) and still have done well. The locales too are lovely – Udaipur at its prettiest.

      • Yet it was BECAUSE of Sadhana, who was at her peak, that the movie became an enormous hit . Despite it not being a typical masala movie, and despite it having no glamour. It was the 3rd highest grosser of 1966. Unlike you & Anu & other readers who are much younger and discovered her later though DVDs, I have actually lived through the Sadhana craze. I was 12 when I watched “Mere Mehboob” in 1964 (a year after its release ; it was still running} and became a big fan of hers like millions of other Indians Later when I stayed at Delhi in 1966,I found thousands of Sadhana clones on the streets wearing Sadhana cuts , slight Sadhana bumps on their heads and all wearing churidaars and baazu bunds ! School and college students spoke about almost no-one else. The Convent of Jesus & Mary, In New Delhi specially invited Sadhana as their Chief Guest for their annual function in 1966. Even in films she had clones …. Babita, Nazima (see her in “Ziddi” or “Aaye din bahaar ke”). Kanan Kaushal (of “Jai Santoshi Maa” fame), Naina Sahu , Margaret James aka Sheetal, all copied her to the hilt. So do Rani Mukherji & Raveena Tandon. . Later on , Sharmila Tagore became my favourite actress for some years, but Sadhana always seemed much superior. Decades later I can barely sit through a Sharmila film because of her terrible overacting and, I hate to say this, her silliness, she was supposed to be an intellectual, but in her commercial movies she appeared to have left her brains behind ! Now , I can watch Sadhana’s movies of the 60’s (not of the 70s though) any no. of times for her beauty and grace, her soft voice , her clear diction, the way she pronounced English words like ridiculous & bay-bee, and zero correctly (all Indians pronounce it zeero).In “Intequam” she tells the blackmailer to dial one-zero-zero, also she says ‘sorray’ for sorry like the British , & like them she drawls ” nao thank-you” in the same movie. All this is very silly, no doubt,but as an Engligh language observer It really impressed me. Her grammar was also correct , in ” Budtameez” she tells Shammi Kapoor to “get out of here” while Shammi uses the commoner “get out from here”.. What I’m trying to get at is that in the years from 1963 till 1966 the whole country witnessed a tremendous Sadhana wave.. Many young men went to watch her movies repeatedly , & when asked “How was the movie ?” the said they didn’t see it….they were too busy watching Sadhana ! Down South Madam J Jayalalithaa acted in a Southern version of “Woh Kaun thi”, it was called ” :”Yaar nee” and Jaja ji copied every movement of Sadhana’s exactly like the original. Even the songs had exactly the same tune, the same sands & trees and the same sarees!” You all must google “Yaar nee” and listen to “Lag ja gale” ,”Naina barse” etc in Tamil just to see how faithfully the tunes & every aspect was copied . So to say that the movie could have had other stars may be right , but people wanted Sadhana in it. Especially Raj Khosla , who according to strong rumours fell head over heels in love with Sadhana and even drank himself to death when she didn’t reciprocate. Very much like the Guru Dutt, Waheeda affair, but not publcized much, So sorry for this long dissertation on your blog , Madhu.

        • That has to be one of the longest comments anyone’s ever left on my blog – and, in proportion to its length, it’s also the most interesting and contributing-to-the-discussion comment. (Too many people who leave long comments on this blog tend to ramble on and on without making much sense at all). This one was a very interesting comment. :-)

          I hadn’t known about Yaar nee. Hmm…. maybe I should look out for that now (not that I’m a fan of Jayalalitha).

          • Thanks ! I really thought I was going to be banned and prohibited from your blog for good ,for this solid block of boring prose! But you found it interesting, & it made my day , I felt I should have trimmed it & re-read it before hitting the ” POST” button as so many careless typos have crept in . Incidentally, the title “Mera Saaya” did not imply that the wife was the husband’s shadow., but that the twin sister was Geeta’s shadow – forever remaining in the dark. Sadhana was no pushover, she loved her husband, but she didn’t worship him.. Re, the title, the film was originally called “Saaya” , but then Madan Mohan created the title song, after which he invited Sadhana, Raj Khosla & Manoj Kumar to lunch to hear it ..Madan ji, a good cook, had prepared Chicken Curry, & during the meal the rough version of the song was played.The refrain”: Mera Saaya, Mera Saaya” playing over & over didn’t go well with the original title, so by common consensus the movie’s title was changed to “Mera Saaya”. You must see the 3 Lata songs in “Yaar Nee” , they’re just about 3 minutes long & unintentionally funny ! Just google – ‘Yaar Nee songs’ & you’ll get them.The movie itself is one long carbon copy condensed in You tube, I watched tiny bits here & there.

            • Oh, your comment was very welcome. :-) There have been many instances on this blog of people posting long comments which consisted entirely of a copy-paste from the film’s corresponding Wikipedia page or the IMDB page: entire cast and crew, synopsis, etc. No value addition at all. So your comment was especially enjoyable and informative.

              Thank you for the trivia regarding the name of the film. Didn’t know that! (Though I did know about Madan Mohan being a very good cook – there’s a delightful little episode about how he softened up Manna Dey with a lunch of rice and bhindi-meat curry before singing to him the tune that would go on to become Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare, and getting Manna Dey’s promise that he would sing it. Someone else mentioned to me that the secret ingredient in Madan Mohan’s curry masalas used to be whisky. :-)

              • P.S. I’ve just watched the Yaar Nee equivalent of Lag jaa gale. Oh, Lord. Absolutely no imagination used, isn’t it? Not just the music, but the camera angles, the dangling aerial roots of the tree, everything is a direct lift from the original. Except that Jayalalitha cannot convey half the oomph and seductiveness of Sadhana, and I must admit that I prefer Manoj Kumar vastly to the male lead here.

                • I’m glad you watched “Yaar Nee”. Even the other songs & the beginning scenes of the movie are straight lifts from “Woh kaun thi” right to Jayalalithaa being framed in the car window just as Sadhana was! And I agree with you whole heartedly , no one can replace Sadhana in any way, and the hero was a total wash-out, sitting so primly ! And Madan Mohan was a good cook, but whisky , Wow !

                  • Oh, I didn’t watch the entire film, just that one song. Even shared it with a friend, who agreed that it was pretty funny. He pointed out, too, that Sadhana is ‘seductive, mysterious and sexy‘ while Jayalalitha’s trying to be coquettish. Which, of course, doesn’t work at all.

                • I watched lagg jaa galey and i really loved the way especially sadhna hug manoj and gets lost in it then manoj also reacts the same. i love the comfortableness from hug and when they are standing in rain. in the movie they fight maximum. enough torcher on sadhna in woh kaun thi and mera saya. manoj kumar said he wrote the screen play writing shooting shooting writing. he also asked about that cars wipers . raj khosla said leave it being mystery flim. If he was not convinced himself why he has written ?? it bothers too much. i think film should be called the tale of magical wipers. he saved the song lagg jaa galey . raj khosla had rejected it then alarmed madan mohan called manoj kumar. he fixed up the meeting and went half and hour ahead. he listened lagg jaa galey and realised that the song is mesmerizing and when raj arrived he told him to listen it couple of times . raj khosla listened silently then picking up his shoes started hitting himself on head wondering how he a singer with a keen eye ear for music, could have turned this song.

      • i think after guide dev anand was more of a hero than actor. sunil dutt acted beautifully. shammi kapoor could also do justice to the role.

    • Yes, “Mera Saaya” had wonderful music. Not only is “Tu jahaan, jahaan chalega” one of the most beautiful songs of all time, but its piano playing is superb. To me the prelude & interlude piano music in this song is the best in the history of Hindi cinema, followed closely by the piano playing in the “Anhonee” song “Main dil hoon ik armaan bhara” (music by Roshan}. Madan Mohan’s music here is superlative.

      • I just wish Sunil Dutt’s hand movements while ‘playing’ the piano had been more convincing! ;-) Raj Kapoor has that edge over him – since he was good at music and could actually play some instruments, he does look like he’s really playing the piano in Main dil hoon ek armaan bhara, not randomly banging away at the keys.

        • it is the first movie which comes to me while remembering sunil dutt. gumraah,humraaz, waqt, 36 ghante all B.R.Chopra productions and sujata bimal roy. i wonder why his career went down in 70s ?? me and my mother call him and rajinder kumar gentlemen. can’t take him saying to sadhna tum meri biwi nahi ho. love their romantic scenes. sunil dutt par excellence acting in this.

          • I guess he’d just come to the end of his shelf life as a lead actor by the 70s – after all, he’d debuted in 1955, so it’s hardly surprising that he was by then old enough to be replaced by those much younger than him.

  11. So, I read your fantastic review and skipped the comments as I needed to watch the movie first. I just finished watching on YouTube and finished reading all the comments. I agree with you and the others about the end; it was fairly tame to say the least and opens too many holes in the story-line which was fine until the end, if you ignore some basic lack of logic..

    As you and many others have raise questions about the who interrogation and cross-questioning in the court. Rakesh also seems to have the original recordings which no one cares to verify with a sound/voice specialist. Anyway, I think we are thinking too much for an average bollywood viewer. The bottomline is great music and for a change, a decent story (for the most part).

    Few things that annoyed me:
    – People calling Raina as Rayna (Sometimes in the same scene). Why?
    – Mangalsutra emotional melodrama – Why does everyone have to touch and feel the mangalsutra as if they recognize the original one.
    – How stupid of Geeta to make Raina wear her Mangalsutra? Does anyone care?
    – Whatever happened to Rakesh’s study abroad program? I don’t think the timing of Raina’s death coincided with his graduation. :)
    – How easy is it to be sent to pagalkhana! Show one tantrum and off you go!

    Oh how I missed to see the notorious “Kutil Muskan” from K.N. Singh in this movie. I waited and waited and it never arrived.. :(

    Excellent review Madhu, as always!

    • That is an interesting analysis of all the weak points in the film, Ashish! And yes, I agree with all of them. (Incidentally, Raina is not the only one whose name is bungled up – I distinctly remember hearing someone refer to Suryavar Singh as Suryaveer Singh).

      And both those scenes – the mangalsutra one and the sudden departure for the paagalkhaana after she loses control – irritated me. As did the summary way in which she then waltzed out of the paagalkhaana (scary, actually, if people can escape paagalkhaanas so easily).

      Yes, I think Rakesh just gave up on further studies after Geeta’s death. :-)

      Glad you liked the review. Thank you!

  12. I re-watched it last night after reading your review. The first I watched it was when I was very young and extremely suggestible, so my mother had me believe that Sadhana was actually Raina- especially when just before she is taken to the hospital she starts looking and behaving demented- like, raving around, screaming. I was very upset- I was just starting to understand the way Hindi movies worked and I could not fathom why this movie did not subscribe to the usual diktat.
    Except for the exaggerated mentions of a ‘good hindu woman’ and the emphasis on the mangalsutra (really!), I liked how the director was such a stickler of using formal terminology and processes in the court- it was quite impressive, despite certain lapses into ‘take your shirt off, dammit’! The ending was quite sudden- almost like the director was either too bored of directing or he ran out of time- hokay, you are my wife then!
    I don’t know how you do this- write amazing reviews of movies and restaurants, create amazing characters and then take people on a tour of the book in Chandni Chowk!

    • Thank you, Simrita (and welcome to my blog – your first comment!) :-)

      Yes, I agree the end seems almost as if the director/screenwriter suddenly got tired of it all, and decided, “Chalo, jaldi se khatam karo!” And how coincidental, no, that she should escape from the paagalkhaana and come home just the very same night, at almost the very same time, that Suryavar Singh too comes by? And the police? (I remember thinking briefly that the police had set it up, freeing her from the paagalkhaana so that they could lure Suryavar Singh… but no, no such luck. And no indication of how and why the police knew to come there then…

      “I don’t know how you do this- write amazing reviews of movies and restaurants, create amazing characters and then take people on a tour of the book in Chandni Chowk!

      Awww. That’s sweet of you! Thank you. :-)

  13. “Because, in Bangla, ‘saaya’ refers to a saree petticoat.”

    Haha I had almost forgotten that ‘saya’ also meant petticoat. Though we speak Bengali at home we don’t use that word. I do however remember my late grandmother using the word ‘saya’. Come to think of it, she did her schooling in Kolkata. Her Bengali had a Kolkata flavor to it. Thanks for reminding me of all that! :)

    • That was one of the first Bangla words I ever learnt, thanks to this anecdote! Since my mother’s family were partly Hindi-speaking (my grandmother was from Lucknow), they knew what the Hindi saaya meant, but Mummy still remembers how scandalized just about everybody else was. :-)

  14. I love this movie. I’m particularly fond of it as it was my first Sadhana movie and one I discovered in my early days as a Bollywood fan. Lovely review as always… I loved the music and found the red herrings frustrating too.

    • Thank you, DG! Glad you liked the review. I suppose we all tend to harbour a special love for the films that first introduced to somebody or some genre or type of film that we’ve ended up liking. I don’t remember which was the first Sadhana film I saw, but it was probably Woh Kaun Thi?

  15. I loved her movies : Mera saaya, Inteqaam, Ek phool do mali, Aarzoo and Asli Nakli , Parakh(from Black and white era). She was awesomely beautiful and her smile was so lovely. I don’t know why tv channels don’t show old classics in prime timings. Would love to watch all these movies again and again.

    • I don’t like Ek Phool Do Maali, and the melodrama in the second half of Aarzoo really irritates me, but all the others are favourites of mine. Interestingly, the only old film I’ve had the joy of watching in a cinema hall in the past few years has been a Sadhana film – Hum Dono, when the colourised version was released.

  16. i have watched woh kaun thi and sajan (mystery part) recently . i will be honest only poonam ki raat climax the effort of explaining the logic behind murders and incidents convinces me. it has been explain aaram sey. last 20 minutes of the movie where character are discussing reasons about the incidents is appreciable. it dosen’t look hurried.

  17. if we compare trilogy . woh kaun thi , mera saya and anita. Dr. anand character is not loyal husband like thakur saheb . also there are other love interests. in woh kaun thi no romance they always fight. but there is beautiful romance in mera saya. and in anita there is no family drama. and also couple is not married. and three films have thriller opening scenes that generates curiosity.

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