Nasir Hussain may have made his Tumsa Nahin Dekha story into four separate – and equally successful – films, but did that induce others to be original? On the contrary. Narinder Bedi, at least, probably seemed to think that what worked for Nasir Hussain might well work for him. Therefore, Mere Sanam, which has a storyline similar in many ways to Tumsa Nahin Dekha. (Both films also have fantastic music by OP Nayyar, by the way).
There is, for a start, the parent who has been separated from an infant offspring, and who has ended up bringing up someone else’s child instead. In this case, the parent in question is Mr Mehra (Nasir Hussain; I hasten to point out – to those who may not be in the know – that the actor Nasir Hussain is not the same as the producer/writer/director Nasir Hussain, who wrote and directed Tumsa Nahin Dekha). Mr Mehra had gone off to Africa on business years ago, leaving behind in India his wife and his baby daughter. On his return to India, replete with funds, he discovered that in the wake of the Partition, his wife and daughter had gone missing, presumed dead.
Mr Mehra has therefore brought up the son of a dear friend (now dead). The son (Biswajeet) is named Ramesh Kumar, though everybody – including Mr Mehra – refers to him simply as Kumar. Kumar handles Mr Mehra’s ‘industrial empire’ (that’s how Mr Mehra constantly refers to his many business ventures).
Now Mr Mehra has decided that Kumar must get married, to the daughter – she never puts in an appearance, though, in the film – of a wealthy business associate.
Kumar is, unsurprisingly, not keen on his life being thus charted out for him. But his protests are summarily brushed aside by Mr Mehra, who makes it clear that money is everything and that this marriage will prove very profitable for the Mehra industrial empire. Poor Kumar is left seething, and takes himself off to Kashmir, where he’s supposed to negotiate a deal of some sort. [That’s the last we hear of it in the film. There is also some vague reference to Kumar’s not letting on to anyone who he is – manager of the Mehra industrial empire, and so on – so that he goes incognito. This doesn’t happen, either].
But Kashmir means romance, and Kumar soon finds it. Or tries to, by singing to a group of girls – more specifically, one girl, Neena (Asha Parekh) whom he meets while driving along. Neena makes faces at him, smiles coquettishly behind his back, and doesn’t seem too sure of her emotions towards this roadside Romeo.
When Kumar reaches the Mehra mansion, he discovers that the man in charge, Shyam (Pran) has surreptitiously converted the house into a hotel. The hotel’s operations are being handled by the lunatic father-and-son pair of Baanke and Pyaare (Dhumal and Rajendranath, respectively). Baanke is very keen that Pyaare should get married – and that too to one of the girls currently staying at the hotel.
When Kumar finds out his house is now a hotel, Shyam does his best to convince him that it’s all for the best – does Kumar realise how much money is simply sunk in the upkeep of the house every year? This way, with the place on rent and drawing an income, at least they’re utilising the premises. Kumar tries to demur, but eventually gives up.
Part of that happens because he discovers who is occupying a major part of the hotel: a large group of girls from Lucknow, under the chaperonage of Savitri Devi (Achla Sachdev), who is the warden of a college hostel. For Kumar, the very fact that Savitri Devi’s daughter – Neena, she of the flashing eyes, back on the road – is enough for him to capitulate. Let them stay. He does try to tell them who he is [what happened to his resolve to remain incognito?]…
[PS. Notice Laxmi Chhaya, on Asha Parekh's right? She's one of Neena's friends, and there's a tiny comic side plot involving her and Pyaare].
…but, behind Kumar’s back, Shyam tells the girls that this poor young man who’s arrived, claiming to be the owner of this grand hotel, is actually a now-bankrupt youth who had been brought up here. His family was forced to sell the property to Shyam, but the young man – Kumar – has not been able to tolerate the shock of poverty and has gone bonkers, so still imagines he’s lord and master here. Will the ladies please humour him? [There seems no point to this ploy of Shyam’s, since everybody soon seems to forget that Kumar is supposed to be nuts.]
We now get to watch plenty of songs against pretty backdrops of everything from the Dal Lake and the snow-capped peaks of Kashmir, to fields of poppies, as Kumar and Neena get better acquainted. She’s not very encouraging to begin with, but after he’s gotten himself thrashed (and wrecked a nightclub in the bargain!) just to protect Neena from the pawing of a dancer, she changes her mind.
Neena’s mother Savitri Devi has, all this while, been in hospital with a fractured leg. When she finally limps back to the hotel, it is to discover that Neena has been romancing Kumar. The result is that Savitri Devi blows her top and chastises her daughter for acting the strumpet.
Meanwhile, Shyam’s villainy is further revealed. Not only has he converted the mansion into a hotel, he’s also running some sort of drug racket on the side, dealing in cocaine and whatnot. One of his henchmen, an old servant named Lal Chand (
? Probably Dev Kishan, as identified by Raja) is sent by Shyam with a message for Savitri Devi. He sees Savitri Devi for the first time and is struck dumb. When he returns to Shyam, it is with momentous news: Savitri Devi is Mr Mehra’s long-lost wife! Lal Chand should know; he worked at the Mehras’ house for over ten years.
This provides much food for thought. If Savitri Devi is Mrs Mehra, then her daughter Neena is heiress to the Mehras’ many millions. If Shyam is able to get married to Neena, he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Unfortunately for Shyam, though, Neena is pretty sure whom she wants to marry, and it isn’t Shyam.
So Shyam starts buttering up Neena’s mother – who soon decides that Shyam is the only man she would want for a son-in-law.
… and Shyam goes to meet an old friend, Kamini ‘Kammo’ (Mumtaz. Kammo – remember what had I said in my Tumsa Nahin Dekha post about Kammos being as common as fleas back then? I rest my case). For a hefty fee, Kammo agrees to help Shyam prise apart the Kumar-Neena jodi.
The first step is to lure Kumar, with a forged note supposedly from Neena, asking him to meet her in a hotel room. Of course, when Kumar arrives and enters the room, it’s to find Kammo, who sets about practising her charm on him. Unknown to all except Kammo, there’s a photographer – Shyam, one assumes – hidden away in the room too, industriously clicking photos of Kammo and Kumar together.
The scene is being set for further villainy and more melodrama. More songs, too, thankfully (including a very beautiful ‘sad song’). There will be a murder, some misplaced suspicion, much yelling and name-calling, some silly comedy – and the absolutely mandatory happy end.
Would I recommend Mere Sanam? As far as I’m concerned, it’s a thoroughly entertaining film, with one of the best scores OP Nayyar ever composed. It’s pretty, it’s pleasing, and though it’s not a patch on Tumsa Nahin Dekha (in my opinion), it’s definitely worth a watch.
What I liked about this film:
OP Nayyar’s music. Mere Sanam’s main attraction is its absolutely sublime music. This one’s full of gorgeous songs, beginning with the very first one, Pukaarta chala hoon main: one of my favourite Mohammad Rafi songs. There’s Humdum mere maan bhi jaao kehna mere pyaar ka; the seductive Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera na ghabraaiye; and the lovely Jaaiye aap kahaan jaayenge – plus, another of my Rafi favourites, Tukde hain mere dil ke ae yaar tere aansoo. Others, not quite so fantastic, but still good, include Hue hain tumpe aashiq hum, Roka kayi baar maine dil ki umang ko, and Haji Baba.
Mumtaz. I have long been a fan of Mumtaz – I love her effervescence, her smile, the very cute retroussé nose, her way of lighting up the screen whenever she’s there. Here, though her role isn’t huge, it’s a significant – and interesting – one. Kammo is sassy and hard as nails, but also has some intriguing shades of grey in her character. On the one hand, she is mercenary and not above blackmail; on the other, she berates Shyam for being ruthless and initially refuses to have anything to do with his scheme.
One scene I especially like is where Shyam, because she keeps saying, “Main mar jaaoon!” (literally, “I’ll die!” – a teasing exclamation), says: “Har waqat ‘mar jaaoon, mar jaaoon’ mat kaha karo. Kisi waqat ka kaha sach bhi ho jaata hai.” (“Don’t keep saying ‘mar jaaoon, mar jaaoon’ all the time. Sometimes what you say comes true.”)
Kammo’s rejoinder: “Ho jaaye. In gunaahon ke baad aap hi chaahte honge jeena.” (“Let it. After committing sins such as these, only you would want to stay alive.”)
… and Asha Parekh. So pretty.
What I didn’t like:
The forced comedy. I don’t mind comic interludes or even comic side plots, as long as they don’t intrude on the main story, and as long as they have some connection to the plot. For instance, the superb Professor has some excellent comedy – but it’s all part of the main plot. Here, there’s some comedy – in the form of Baanke and Pyaare, a police inspector (Asit Sen) and a random man (Ram Avtar) who has an on-going feud with Pyaare. But it’s all very slapstick, literally pie-in-the-face comedy that has little or no link to the rest of the story. A waste of good comedic talent.
The cap fetish. Someone (Bhanu Athaiyya?) in the costumes department seems to adore caps. I don’t have a problem with that, when the caps are teamed with costumes that match. Suits? Salwar-kurtas? Umm, no.
[That, by the way, is from just two scenes. There are several others, with caps galore].
Nasir Hussain and Achla Sachdev as Mr Mehra and Savitri Devi. These are two of the worst onscreen parents I have ever come across: they’re unbelievably selfish, rude and hypocritical people who go to crazy lengths to govern their offspring’s (or ward’s) lives. Achla Sachdev is whiny in the extreme here, by the way – not a problem when she’s acting as the quavery and loving mother in other films, but very irritating in Mere Sanam.