Starring Rajendra Kumar, Vyjayantimala, Simi Garewal, Sanjiv Kumar

I t was not a hit but it was still a hit in its own way. “Saathi”, for many reasons, was a notable movie. Only, it had too many people making too many sacrifices to provide marital bliss to the other. Ravi (Rajendra Kumar), a doctor, marries Shanti (Vyjayantimala), a nurse, out of pity when she loses her mother to cancer. An orphan, Ravi has been brought up by the parents of Rajni (Simi Garewal). Rajni loves Ravi secretly and dreams of marrying him. Obviously, she is shattered at losing him to Shanti. The story revolves around these three characters: Ravi, Shanti and Rajni.

Ravi is aspiring to be a top oncologist. When Shanti notices Ravi's distraction from work, she decides to leave home, because she is afflicted by a congenital heart ailment. Missing for long, Shanti is presumed dead. Now, Ravi is compelled to marry Rajni to save her worried father from death.

Shanti, not dead, returns to a new world where her husband is married to Rajni and has gone blind. Shanti attends to Ravi as Sharda, a nurse. The script meanders. Ashok (Sanjeev Kumar), a family friend of Rajni and Ravi, returns as an ophthalmologist from America, and revives his friend's eyesight. Now, Ravi, unmindful of his nurse's real identity, wants Ashok to marry Sharda. It all ends predictably on a happy note with Shanti restored to Ravi following a sacrifice by Rajni, who now takes to nursing.

Sanjeev Kumar has an insignificant part in the movie. He flits in and out at the start and the end. Rajendra Kumar does justice when serious but Vyjayantimala steals most of the scenes when the two are together.

Simi is in a most pleasing form as the vibrant lover and then as the melancholic wife yearning for love. Every frame she figures in captures Simi at her resplendent best, coy and composed, as the scene demands. She stands out in a movie that gives a bigger platform for Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayantimala to showcase their potential.

Not a taut script, not a movie that shone at the box office, but it was engaging enough to sustain your interest. All credit to director Sridhar! He could extract lively performances from every individual, especially Simi and Vyjayantimala, who have difficult roles to enact.

Handsome contribution

Of course, Naushad lingers in the background to contribute handsomely. Naushad brings class to the movie as a composer. But for an average Lata Mangeshkar number (“Mai To Pyaar Se Tere Piya”) there is not one song that reflects his love for classical fare. Yet, the movie has some melodious stuff that only Naushad Saab could have crafted. It is also one of the few movies which had Naushad but not Mohammad Rafi.

Music makes this movie enjoyable, never mind some morose situations that are part of the story. Naushad employs his orchestra appropriately, relying a lot on western instruments, to produce some unforgettable songs, beginning with “Yeh Kaun Aaya Roshan Ho Gayi Mehfil Jiske Naam Se” to “Mere Jiwan Saathi Chali Thi Mai To Pyaasi”, both featuring Simi, both sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Majrooh, the lyricist, and Naushad maintain the pace of the movie with two superb numbers contrasting in tenor. “Mera Pyaar Bhi Tu Hai Yeh Bahaar Bhi Tu Hai”, an all-time Lata-Mukesh duet, and “Husne Jaana Idhar Aa Aina Hoon Mai Tera” by Mukesh are timeless offerings. Then, Mukesh is his old self with “Jo Chala Gaya Use Bhool Ja”. You don't come across many films where the supporting actor dominates. The movie opens with Simi. And closes with her! If the audience ends up sympathising with Simi, it is purely the actor's achievement for living the character to perfection. She deservingly won the Filmfare honours for a stellar show. Watch it for Simi, and for Naushad's delightful compositions.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

Naushad employs his orchestra appropriately, relying a lot on western instruments to produce some unforgettable songs