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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Dramatic twist (Mera Saaya)

Wholesome. That describes Mera Saaya, Raj Khosla's courtroom thriller. And, just like a shadow, this 1966 masterpiece stays with you. With a unique plot, nuanced approach, mindblowing music and stunning performances, Mera Saaya is a gem that never goes out of fashion. In fact, tu jahan jahan chaley ga, Mera Saaya saath hoga...

Khosla doesn't waste any time. From scene one itself the mindgame starts. He sets the audience off in a tizzy with rapid incidents. Set in picturesque Udaipur (the use of magnificent sets for a haveli and the regal Lake Palace Hotel), we see an eminent lawyer (Sunil Dutt) rushing to the deathbed of his beloved wife. Shocked by her demise, he goes into mourning. Just when we think that the film will dissolve into a funereal saga of soppy dialogues and sad songs, the police reports a strange case to the lawyer. They tell him that they have captured a runaway woman (an accomplice of dacoits) who declares that she is Geeta, the lawyer's wife. No, this is not a story of ghouls. There's more meat to this...
Soon a series of interrogations and trials ensue. On tenterhooks, the audience feels like a yo-yo with every passing scene. Who is this woman? Why does she claim to be the lawyer's wife? How is she aware of the most intimate secrets of his conjugal life? Why is she mum on certain matters? Who is Sargam? And, if we do give Geeta the benefit of doubt, how on earth did she land up with the bandits?
Lord, that was a flurry of questions, you think...Exactly, that's what this film does to you. Khosla almost gives you the answers, and then in the very next moment, with a dexterous somersault, snatches the bone away. The riddle is back to where it started!!!
The movie's melancholic mood is interspersed with flashes of a beautiful love story. We see spurts of conjugal bliss that the lawyer reminisces about. It throws light on his dejection, his woe on losing his beloved...
Mera Saaya's cast is immaculate. Sadhana is firebrand as Geeta. She is the epitomy of beauty and goodness as the lawyers's wife. And, when she appeals to her 'husband' and the judge to believe her, you sense her helplessness, her distress. But, at the same time, her quizzical expressions at being caught unawares by the lawyer's quick retorts bewilder you! Is she really Geeta? If not, what is the rationale behind her act?
Though Sadhna hardly looks as fresh as she did in Parakh, Asli Naqli and Hum Dono, she is pretty. Her face sometimes looks over-caked and rouged, and lines pop up unexpectedly when she smiles or frowns. But she is convincing. Bhanu Athaiya's chic attires accentuate her lissome shape. In short, Raj Khosla's choice of Sadhana for his thriller trilogy (Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya and Anita) would feel kind of incomplete without this talented actor. Her poise is striking, her glamour understated...
Thakur Rakesh Singh is the best part of Mera Saaya (I think). Sunil Dutt's very persona evokes a sense of royalty. There is dignity in his dejection, a sense of enigma in his style. Dutt's liquid eyes reveal his innermost sorrows. Every time he remembers his wife, his peepers moisten. My heart wells up at that sight. He is oh-so manly as well as vulnerable. His salt and pepper sideburns are killing!! Dutt here is effortlessly dashing and natty!! And, yes he floors you with his part. He melts you with his heartfelt woe, he startles you with his stern temper and flummoxes you with his edgy arguments in the court!!! He is a subtly romantic, a deft lawyer and fiercely protective of his wife's honour!!!
The film's extraordinary music contributes to the taut script, courtesy some terrific compositions by Madan Mohan. He unleashes pure passion into the songs. Naino mein badra starts off with a remarkable jugalbandi of the sitar and the santoor. There is a scene where Geeta distances away from Singh with a coy smile while the latter overpowers her with his loving embrace...And in the background you have Prem Deewani hu mein, sapno ki rani hu mein...Ethereal!!!
The title track is haunting, to say the least! Heard more than once, the song has a certain melancholic feel. Even though it evokes timelessness, one feels that maybe the words are signifying the transience of togetherness...
Aap ke pehlu, is heartbreaking. Mohd Rafi's rendition and Dutt's expressions make it one soulful dirge...
But all's not sad in the score. You have the peppy, spontaneous Naino walen ne . Every stanza is laden with mirth. Sadhana's exuberance and Dutt's charm make it a joyful experience.
The best is of course, Jhumka Gira re. A folk song this, Sadhana outdoes herself in this number. Resplendent in a pink and blue ensemble, her every jhatka matches the beats of the dafli. Never heard such a tantalising take on the intimate exploits of two lovers!!!
The film, till the very last scene, makes you hold on to your seat. In fact, Khosla does give you some false leads to unnerve you...but I guess, the puzzle is best solved by him!!! For, you get submerged in too many knotty twists before light shines forth. There is a sense of foreboding when Geeta, in the penultimate sequence, like an apparition, enters the Thakur's mansion...
Phir kya hua? Phir? Go, find out yourself...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ah, at last! The film that fills up my senses every time I see it. The very best of Raj Khosla. The thriller of all thrillers. The romance of all romances. The mystery of all mysteries.
    This was one of the first films I saw in my life. It was an autumn evening — one of those when wisps of smoke from nowhere curl into the inky palette of dusk to heighten the gloom — of 1983 when I watched Mera Saya in DD. I could follow little and understood even less, but tu jahan jahan chale ga stayed with me. It haunted me, it forced me to brood, it made me dream up imaginary sequences of lost love, all in an age I knew nothing of romance.
    I watched it again 25 years later. I was swept off my feet. I fell for Sadhna, I fell for Sunil Dutt, I fell for the songs, I fell for the plot, I fell for the camera that conjured a chimera that’s Lake Palace. Since then, I have seen the film twice, every time falling in love with it afresh.
    The logical step now, after reading your fantastic post and considering the extent to which I am smitten by Mera Saya, would be a weekend in Udaipur!

  3. Let's discuss the possibility in details :)

  4. Well, to add some more interesting facts to your already entertaining and insightful review, the film was a frame-by-frame remake of a Marathi movie called "Pathlag" (The chase).
    Even the songs "Jhumka Gira Re" and the title song "Mera Saya", were directly inspired by "Bugadi Majhi Sandli ga" and "Ya dolyanchi don pakhare" respectively from the same movie.

    Lata didi sang the title song for both the movies, and if you find hindi version haunting, wait till you listen to the marathi one, that is downright spooky.

    I personally like both the versions, and both the films. Both had great casting and songs

    Great reivew and keep up the good work, and do see "Pathlag" if you get a chance.

  5. @Rupali: Thanks for the trivia Rupali. Gosh, whoever would have thought that this fabulous courtroom drama is inspired by a regional film. I will surely try and watch Pathlag (with subtitles of course). Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  6. Yes, wholesome it definitely is! And Sadhana-Sunil Dutt make a handsome couple. Loved their scenes together; be it the mush or the courtroom drama.. sparks flew whenever they were in a frame together. I never have liked Sunil Dutt as an actor, but in this film he is a different man, altogether. And yes, Sadhana is lovely here and the maturity on her face suited this role perfectly. She is so different from her B&W look here that I had to convince myself that yes she is the Sadhana of Asli-Naqli fame. And she was a hearthrob in "Jhumka gira re..."
    Really, kudos to Raj Khosla for this entertainer.
    And a big hand to you for such a nice review. :)

  7. @Punya: I'm glad you liked the film and the writeup. Sunil Dutt has always been a favourite for me. And there is a certain charm about Sadhana that you just cannot Ignore. I wonder why they do not make courtroom dramas like this anymore?!?!?

  8. Excellent review. One I always wanted to write for Mera Saya, but couldn't. And now I don't need to, thanks to you.
    Movies like Mera Saya are the high points of Indian Cinema, and stand out even more in today's perspective, where every other movie reeks of unoriginality and banality. Dumb sequels and shoddy remakes are the flavor of the season. Quality has come to an all-time low as movies like Dabangg and Housefull get viewers.

  9. I too dabble sometimes in writing about movies.
    Please check out my blog on Dev D, if you could. As you clearly a professional, I would appreciate your comments.

  10. @Rahul: Hello and welcome. How true you are. That is why I do not watch films that are made today especially the Hindi ones. They are seriously sick. Hardly ever do good films get made. Old films are much much better for me :)

  11. @Rahul: Hey that's great. Sure I will visit it soon. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  12. nilesh kalokhe14 June 2011 at 03:23

    @ rupali.. i think you got your ffacts is a rip off of the movie Sangate Aika..! paathlag the chase is a stupid movie alltogether trust me i have seen the movie and i could barely resist killing myselff ! :) no offens!!

  13. "Mera Saaya" was indeed the masterpiece of Raj Khosla. Sadhana is superb in this movie be it emotional scenes or sweet romance with Sunil.Madan Mohan's music is the topping on the cake!!.There are many secenes in Mera Saaya in which anyone couldnt' hardly restrain his tears. Sadhana succeeds in getting empathy from the audience.The scene in which she loses her mental balance and points guns in the court,but turning to her husband says "Inhe mat maro,Inhe mat maro" was very poignant one.Songs were equally haunting esp- "mera Saaya" and "naino mein badra chayee".And the song"Aap ke pehlu"
    indeed leaves one misty eyed.

  14. @Coolone: It's so sad that such films are not made anymore! But, then who would be able to pull off these roles!!

  15. I somehow still feel Prem chopra lied at the last moment before his death to give raina (sadhna) a better life

    1. Right! Thats what I thought as well, and that is what it should have been for real twist.

  16. Mera Saaya, was indeed a remake of Marathi film, Pathlaag (1964) directed by the legendary director Raja Paranjape. Nilesh You must have seen some other Pathlag which is probably a stupid movie. The two famous songs by Ashaji in this movie were "Nako Marus Haak" & "Ya dolyanchi Don Pakhare". While "Bugadi Majhi Sandli ga" is from Sangate Aika (1959)

  17. Watched it for the umpteenth time!
    Raj Khosla always made movies with such great roles for female protagonists.