classic film

Films at 50: Mystery thriller ‘Mera Saaya’ was a career best for Sadhana

Raj Khosla’s 1966 movie features the 1960s star in an indelible performance alongside Sunil Dutt.

“Tu jahan jahan chalega, mera saaya saath hoga (Wherever you go my shadow will follow)”: these words from the title track of the movie Mera Saaya have taken on a sadly ironic meaning after the death of the lead actress, Sadhana, on December 25, 2015.

Sadhana was a leading name in the decade of the bouffant and the colour film set in Kashmir, but she wasn’t just the epitome of glamour. An understated and extremely competent actress, Sadhana was unfairly underrated as a performer in spite of her fine work in such films as Parakh (1960), Hum Dono (1961), Asli Naqli (1962), Woh Kaun Thi? (1964), Arzoo (1965) and, of course, Mera Saaya, which completes its fiftieth anniversary this year.

Mera Saaya (My Shadow) was Sadhana’s third film with the versatile director Raj Khosla. It is described as the second of the so-called mystery trilogy with the actor, the others being Woh Kaun Thi?, an adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s novel The Woman in White, and the comparatively disappointing Anita (1967). Common between the stand-alone films is the way Khosla most effectively uses Sadhana as an enigmatic catalyst who gets the plot moving. In all three films, Sadhana is the key to solving the mysterious events taking place around the leading men.

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Mera Saaya is the third version of the story first seen in the Marathi film Paathlaag (1964) and then in the Tamil film Idhaya Kamalam (1965). Thakur Rakesh Singh (Sunil Dutt), a lawyer who has gone abroad for higher studies, rushes back home to his ailing wife Geeta (Sadhana), who dies in his arms. Shattered, he cremates her, builds a memorial for her and mourns her. One day, the police contact him. They’ve arrested a woman from a gang of dacoits who claims to be his spouse. When he meets the woman (Sadhana again), he is gobsmacked: she is a dead ringer for his wife. When efforts to prove her identity land up in court, she seems to know all the details of their wedded past, including the most intimate ones.

Though a remake the second time over, Khosla makes sure the film bears his trademark stamp. He keeps the narrative fast-paced, especially in the courtroom scenes. The mystery element holds its own right till the denouement. The final explanation is a relative letdown after a fine build-up. The film handles the romantic scenes in the flashback sequences tenderly and lovingly, most effectively juxtaposing them with the thriller track and the red herrings scattered across the present. The handling of the song sequences, which were Khosla’s big strength and a skill he picked up from mentor Guru Dutt, holds up well even today, making great use of the gorgeous Lake Palace in Udaipur that serves as Sunil Dutt’s house in the movie. However, the lengthy comedy track could have been done away with altogether. It adds little to the film.

While Sunil Dutt flawlessly plays the devoted husband mourning for his beautiful wife, it is Sadhana who owns Mera Saaya. Playing her second double role after Woh Kaun Thi?, she not only looks beautiful but also brings grace, dignity and even cheeky humour to her role as the ideal wife. Some of the photos of her wedding in the film were taken from her own nuptials.

Credit: A still from 'Mera Saaya.'
Credit: A still from 'Mera Saaya.'

Sadhana brings just the right amount of greyness and ambiguity to the role of her bad twin. It is easily one of her better performances, and hardly surprising. Khosla was known in his time, like George Cukor in Hollywood, as a women’s director. Not just Sadhana, but also Suchitra Sen in Bambai Ka Babu (1960), Asha Parekh in Do Badan (1966) and Chirag (1969), Simi Garewal in Do Badan, and Nutan in Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki (1978) all did extremely fine work under Khosla’s direction.

The other big star of Mera Saaya besides Sadhana is composer Madan Mohan. In a career studded with memorable music, Mera Saaya is one of his definitive scores. The songs, written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, are beautifully composed, be it the haunting title song, the soulful Aap Ke Pehloo Mein Aakar Ro Diye, the playful romantic ditty Nainonwali Ne Haay Mera Dil Loota, the ultra romantic Nainon Mein Badra Chhaye or the saucy Jhumka Gira Re. The title song, in particular, stays with you long after the film is over. Picking it as one of her 20 best ever songs for the Hindustan Times newspaper in 2013, Lata Mangeshkar said, “It’s a beautiful composition by Madan bhaiya about yearning for a loved one that you have lost. Exceptionally touching and close to my heart.”

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

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For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.