Let me start with a confession: I share a love-hate relationship with this movie. I love the music and the songs; the two actresses in the movie (especially Mumtaz) are adorable and Kashmir looks breathtakingly gorgeous. So watching this movie should be an enjoyable viewing experience. But it is not. And the reason is subjective. Every time I see a song from this, there is just one thought that comes to my mind. Mere Sanam SHOULD have starred Shammi Kapoor and no one else as the hero. What a classic it would have then been!
And this is what goes on and effectively ruins the movie for me. Having said that, objectively speaking, Mere Sanam is a decent film to watch. And if you enjoy a typical 60s movie with lilting music, lovely scenery, pretty people, a tad bit of melodrama and a happy resolution, then this movie has all that.
We are introduced to Kumar (Biswajeet), the heir of a rich businessman Mr Mehra (played by the avuncular character actor, Nazir Hussain). Mr Mehra had gone off to Africa, leaving his wife and two-year old daughter behind in India. During partition, his wife and daughter go missing and are presumed dead. Kumar, the son of his now-deceased best friend, has been brought up by Mr Mehra and he handles this vast “industrial empire”.
Mr Mehra has decided that Kumar is now of a marriageable age and without asking Kumar, he fixes his match with the daughter of a rich cotton mill owner. Kumar tries to protest but Mehra squashes his protest saying that only money matters and that this will benefit their industrial empire.
Poor Kumar shuts up and then leaves incognito (why incognito, I still have not figured out) to negotiate some deal….in Kashmir! (Of course this deal will not get mentioned ever again. After all whoever works in Kashmir! For Kashmir = romance.)
As the credit rolls (and the lovely background title score plays), our Kumar drives to Kashmir. Barely has he reached Kashmir, he runs into a group of pretty girls, led by feisty Neena (played by Asha Parekh, looking lovely). Neena catches Kumar’s eye and Kumar tries to woo her by singing a beautiful song and there is some usual nok-jhok before he reaches the Mehra mansion.
His business manager Shyam (a deliciously villainous Pran) has taken advantage of the owner’s absence and has converted the mansion to a hotel. The hotel is being run now by a crazy father-son duo Banke (Dhumal) and Pyaare (the permanent 60s sidekick, Rajindernath). Kumar is not too happy when he finds out that his house is now a hotel. But Shyam tries convincing him that what he has done is for the best – the upkeep of an empty house costs lots of money but by using the house in this way, they are making some money.
Kumar protests but gives in, mainly because of who is there at the hotel. A group of college girls from Lucknow, chaperoned by their warden, Savitri Devi (Achla Sachdev) are staying there.
And guess who is Savitri Devi’s daughter ? Of course, it is Neena, whom he met and flirted with on the way to this mansion. Immediately, in a bid to impress the girls, he tries to tell them who he is….. (err, like Kumar, we also are supposed to forget that he wished to be incognito just a few scenes before). And yes Savitri Devi soon lands in the hospital, recuperating from a broken leg, making it convenient for the little romances to continue uninterrupted. She does not make an appearance till much later.
But but, our dear Shyam is smarter….. He concocts a tale about this strange young man claiming to be the owner. Kumar is a poor man who lived with his family on this estate and because the family went bankrupt, they had to sell it to Shyam. But Kumar could not bear this shock and has gone mad and continues to believe he is the master of this place. He tells the girls this sad tale and requests them to indulge this poor mad man. Which of course they do – though Kumar’s insanity is not bought up again.
Much of the first half of the movie is spent on exploring and progressing the romance between Kumar and Neena – aided of course by lovely, melodious songs and scenic locations! Kumar may love Neena but the lady does not relent. She does melt and our hero gains her affections but thats only after he gets beaten up in a nightclub.
Meanwhile, this Shyam fellow is upto no good. Besides this house-to-hotel business, he also runs a side business in drugs (mainly opium) and we get a glimpse of his sinister dealings. Now this Shyam lands up unearthing a huge secret – Savitri Devi is the long-lost wife of Mr Mehra, the one whom he had presumed as being dead! Shyam quickly does his mathematics and decides that he must marry Neena, so that he can get Mehra’s millions… So suddenly Neena has another suitor – a much smarter man than the one interested in her till now.
But Neena is not at all interested in this new suitor – she is happy wearing many different caps (literally) and singing songs with nutty Kumar, who by the way is neither nutty nor incognito.
Shyam then falls back on his plan B. He butters up Savitri Devi effectively and becomes the ideal match for her daughter. Needless to say, this causes many arguments between mother and daughter.
Shyam also enlists the help of his old friend, the club dancer, Kamini urf Kammo (Mumtaz, very young, very pretty and absolutely delightful). For a hefty sum of money, Kammo agrees to seduce Kumar and cause a rift between Kumar and Neena.
So does Kammo succeed in seducing Kumar? Does Neena marry Shyam? Will the Mehras reunite? Will they all live happily ever after?
The story goes on to unravel the answers to these questions and proceeds to a happy end finally, though only after some screaming, shouting, slapping, crying and much melodrama. Oh yes, there are a couple of murders thrown in as well.
My two cents: Mere Sanam is an entertaining, light, typical 60s movie. The plot of this movie reminded me of Tumsa Nahin Dekha. And while Tumsa Nahin Dekha (or any of the producer-director Nasir Hussain movies) is way better, Mere Sanam is fairly pleasant and frothy. So yes, do watch it if you have not.
Performances: Biswajeet tries his very best to play this role as effortlessly as Shammi Kapoor would have. But he does not succeed. Well, no one can play this role better than Shammi Kapoor. Again, at the cost of sounding like a fan girl, this was a role written for Shammi Kapoor. Asha Parekh is so pretty in this film. She does not have much to do besides looking gorgeous and dancing; both of which she does very well!
Pran is wonderful as the horrible, sinister villain (but when is he not?) He pulls off Shyam effortlessly, despite the orange wig. And then there is Mumtaz, absolutely delightful in a small but interesting role. Her Kammo is chirpy, cheeky and mercenary. Adorable.
I like Nazir Hussain in general . But I did not like the character he played here. And Achla Sachdev was intolerable too. Both played selfish, manipulative parents and were quite painful to watch.
Music: Sublime. Mesmerising. Heavenly. This has to be one of O.P.Nayyar’s finest scores. For me this was the USP of the movie. Each and every song in this movie is lovely. Be it Pukarta Chala Hoon Main (one of my favourite Rafi songs) or the two delightful Asha Bhosle solos: the sultry Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera and the lilting Jaaiye aap kahan jayenge. Rafi also gets to sing three other fantastic solos – Humdum mere maan bhi jaao; the heart-rending Tukde hain mere dil ke aye yaar tere aansoo and Hue hain tumpe aashiq ham bura mano bhala maano. There are three lovely Rafi -Asha duets as well – Roka kai baar maine dil ki umang ko, Haji Baba mere sanam se mera milne ka waada, and finally the lovely song that did not make it to the screen, Humne toh dil ko aapke kadmon mein. Simply divine.