Starring Rajesh Khanna, Tanuja, Helen, Nazir Husain, Bindu, Rajendranath, Utpal Dutt

Why would a London-returned eye doctor fall in love with an artist, who paints and sings? Why would a helpful army man turn a villain? Why would an average story, laced with songs, become a rage? “Mere Jeevan Saathi” had the answers. There was nothing spectacular about the movie barring the music. Yet it was an all-time hit!

Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja are the leading pair but interestingly Helen, the vamp, gets more space with the hero. Actually, the movie hit the screens across the country in times when Rajesh Khanna was at his peak and Tanuja just about managed to grab roles that deserved younger faces. The audience, however, lapped it up. Five songs by Kishore Kumar and one by Asha Bhosle carried this Ravi Nagaich-directed film into the realms of hit cinema. Music in this movie was great but acting ordinary. Rajesh Khanna was certainly not at his best, Tanuja was passable, Helen managed to make an impact but Nazir Husain and Bindu had little scope to excel while Rajendranath, with his insipid comedy, was insufferable as always. Yet, you could watch the movie for some superb music as only RD Burman could have conjured and delivered, film after film, especially if it involved the irrepressible Rajesh Khanna.

Jyoti (Tanuja) returns from London, lands a job at an eye hospital, and soon runs into Prakash (Rajesh Khanna). The meetings expectedly grow into love with Prakash wooing her with his paintings and singing skills. “Kitne Sapne Kitne Arman” makes an impression on Jyoti and she is drawn towards Prakash, who also leads the life of a playboy. Well, he has a noble side too to his personality. Prakash’s works include nude and semi-nude portrayals of the fun-loving girls he encounters at parties. Behind a curtain hides his true self, his drawings of a society in distress, people suffering penury and hunger. Jyoti is moved and picks him as a life partner, reciprocating the emotions of Prakash, who, as is revealed later, is also a philanthropist.

Jyoti, however, is shattered when she catches Prakash in the arms of Princess Kamini, played superbly by a ravishing Helen. The princess is a lonely soul, always looking to spend time with different men before she runs into a stubborn Prakash, who rejects her advances. Spurned by this artist, she vows to wait for a chance to get back at him. The movie ambles along.

Prakash succeeds in winning his ladylove, makes a proposal but a car accident gives the movie a different turn. The accident leaves him blind and ill-luck lands him in the lap of Princess Kamini. Jyoti believes Prakash is dead but the latter becomes a victim of her sadist ways. The princess holds him captive, tries seducing him with a sensuous Asha Bhosle piece, “Aao Na Gale Laga Lo Na” but Prakash manages a horse-ridden escape. The princess slips off a cliff in pursuing her victim, who now ends up in the company of Captain Vinod (Sujit Kumar), who, quite predictably, is engaged to Jyoti.

The Captain requests Jyoti, who else, to treat Prakash. At the engagement party, Prakash pours his heart out, “Diwana Leke Aaya Hai”, and Jyoti is left in a dilemma as she discovers the man of her life is not dead. She agrees to treat him but during Prakash’s recovery from the eye surgery the Captain overhears their conversation and is devastated. The tormented Prakash decides to sacrifice his love for the man who helped, but the Captain pledges to finish him.

Prakash is saved by the timely arrival of Captain Vinod’s father (Utpal Dutt), who shoots him in the leg. Prakash and Jyoti unite and it all ends on a happy note. But one is left wondering at the marvel of good music. How it transforms an average narration into a box-office success, thanks to the trusted combination of Kishore-RD-Majrooh Sultanpuri. A religious number, “Apno Ko Kab hey Ram” and the playful “Chala Jata Hoon Kisi Ki Dhun Mein” strike different notes to prove the versatility of Kishore Kumar, who is at his liveliest in “O Mere Dil Ke Chain” and “Diwana Kar Ke Chodoge” with Lata Mangeshkar. The best, however, is the Asha-RD gem that Helen brings alive so stunningly on the screen! It was a movie that went well with the masses. It commands plenty of nostalgic appeal even today.