Planet Bollywood
Mera Saaya
Producer: Premji
Director: Raj Khosla
Starring: Sunil Dutt, Sadhana.
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Genre: Suspense
Recommended Audience: General
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 8.5 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.1 / 10 (rated by 411 viewers)
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A collection of scintillating tunes, Raj Khosla’s “Mera Saaya” is probably more famous for its elegiac compositions by

Madan Mohan. Not that I am placing the film itself on a lower level. “Mera Saaya” is a film where the music and story becomes one. The twists and turns in the plot serve as inspiration for the outstanding level of work in the poetry by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

Tu jahan jahan chalega, Mera saaya saath hoga, Mera saaya…

Sunil Dutt is Thakur Rakesh Singh who urgently returns home from abroad to hold his terribly ill wife, Geeta (Sadhana), in his arms. Geeta passes away and Thakur grieves and withdraws into a shell. He does not stay in his shell for long as a revelation turns up that leaves him thunderstruck. The police have arrested a dacoit but she claims to be innocent of the charge that they have held her on (murder). More suspiciously, she claims to be Geeta - the wife of Thakur. She looks exactly like the Geeta who died on the deathbed (Sadhana in another role) and the baffled police feel that it is their duty to inform Thakur. The disbelieving Thakur goes down to the station to end this madness and as he walks into the interrogation room, Geeta instantly identifies him and runs up to him to embrace him.

Pichhle janam se teri prem kahani hoon main, Aa is janam main bhi tu apna bana le…

Thakur rejects her assertion that she is Geeta. Geeta died in front of his own eyes so how can this woman claim to be her wife? An attempt at logicality is found by everyone- she must be a doppelganger and her real name is Raina. Geeta refuses to accept all this and the case ends up in court so that the problem can be solved. There, Thakur is even more flummoxed as it becomes hard to prove that Geeta is an impostor. Through every inquisition, Geeta rattles off with facts that are indisputable. She knows everything personal about Thakur, his habits, his birthmarks and his beliefs. A beleaguered Thakur protests that his wife wrote all this information in the diary and that this woman in court is actually Raina who is using her material to mastermind a plan. The diary in question is missing and that adds a bit of weight to Thakur’s opinion in court. Will the lost diary ever be found?

“Jhumka gira re bareli ki bazaar main!”

Despite this, Geeta or Raina continues to confound Thakur with her knowledge of things that could not have possibly been in the diary. But Thakur’s relentless questioning and acquirement of evidence that could destroy the girl’s claim of being Geeta drives her to the brink of madness. She has a breakdown in court and is handed over to the asylum. The court case ends and Thakur feels he can put Geeta’s spirit to rest. All is not finished yet. Raina/Geeta escapes from the asylum and after landing in Thakur’s house, she tells the truth.

 Faintly reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, “Mera Saaya” is an intriguing thriller boosted by extraordinary music and enthralling performances. The plots in “Vertigo” and “Mera Saaya” are different but both the films explore the mystique of the female presence and the descent into madness and confusion. Sadhana was Raj Khosla’s own Kim Novak. While she portrays the archetypal Indian woman who worships the ground her husband walks on, she also conveys the image of a woman who keeps people at a distance and is somehow locked in a cage of her own. This film is the ultimate tribute to Sadhana’s enigmatic beauty as it shows her as a tormented soul with a knowing smile and a hint of mischief hiding in her eyes (no different from Mona Lisa then). As Thakur Rakesh Singh, Sunil Dutt keeps the viewer’s sympathy with his angst-ridden and grief-stricken character. He expresses the rage that is boiling inside him, as this Raina character will not let Geeta’s spirit rest in peace.

Kabhi mujhko yaad karke jo bahenge tere aansoo, To wohi pe rokhlenge unhe aake mere aansoo…

The editing by Das Dhaimada combines the past with the present. It is pleasant to watch Thakur’s recollection of his hazy post-honeymoon days with Geeta. And then this contrasts nicely with the formality and tension in the courtroom. What sparks off most of the flashbacks is the beauty of the characters’ holiday spot- Lake Palace (Udaipur). The film is in colour and V. Babasaheb has tuned the photography meticulously to capture the beauty of the place. Lake Palace looks stunning and the wide camera shots give the place that eerie feel. This is particularly noticed in the songs where the tantalizing location matches the glory of Lata Mangeshkar’s vocals and Sadhana’s beauty. The film would not be suspenseful if it were not for the sound screenplay by G.R. Kamath (which crafts the development of the tale in a taut way save for the few comedy sequences) and the dialogues by Akhtar-Ul-Iman. In a tense courtroom sequence, Geeta/Raina requests Thakur to take off his shirt so she can prove that she knows about a mole on his back! The dialogues unravel the absurdity of the events but are still ambiguous enough to add to the suspense.

“Aapke pehloo main aakar ro diye…”

As already mentioned, Madan Mohan’s music is the soul of the film. But what has not been mentioned is the score that runs throughout the whole movie- the background music. At the beginning, the music storms out at you in the gripping sequences and stays with you until the end. It gives the feeling of a mind unravelling and leading you down the circular stairs… entrancing you and leaving you with a dizzy feeling. Watch out for the use of a classic song, “Woh Bhooli Daastaan Lo Phir Yaad Aagayi” that blares out from the LP player and beautifully ends the theme tune of “Mera Saaya”. The song is from the 1961 film, “Sanjog” (also composed by Mohan).

Raj Khosla created “Mera Saaya” as the second part of a trilogy with Sadhana. The first film was “Woh Kaun Thi” and the third one was “Anita”. There is no link between the films in terms of characters. Each part of the trilogy has its own separate story. Khosla was an expert at building suspense and this film is a chief example of that. As Geeta or Raina has a private meeting with Thakur in a room to prove to him that she is his wife, the camera views them from the outside. There is a long tracking shot along the window and it does not stop until Thakur storms out of the room exclaiming, “Impossible!”. The fact that we are kept out of their mysterious conversation adds even more anxiety thus leaving us engrossed in what happens next. At another point, the camera is angled from Geeta/Raina’s side while Thakur interrogates. Here, we get to see his ugly outburst from her point of view and understand completely when the woman cracks up and loses her mental stability.

Nainon main badra chhaye, Bijli si chamki haye..."

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