Woman in white

Manoj Kumar

Why Woh Kaun Thi is still a haunting hit

On a rainy night, a man tries to navigate his car on a deserted road when suddenly a woman appears in front of him. She is wearing a white saree, has a cute fringe and a mysterious smile on her lips. He asks her, "Kaun ho tum?" She says, "Koi nahin." He wants to know, "Kahan jaana hai?" She replies, "Kahin nahin."

The perfect gentleman that he is, he offers to give her a lift. The moment she sits in the car, the wipers stop working. The man is unable to see the road ahead but she can. He notices that her finger is bleeding. He asks her what happened and she says, "Mujhe khoon achcha lagta hai (I like blood)." She asks to be dropped at a graveyard. The cemetery gates swing open as she enters. She merges with the mist and the only reminder of her is the haunting song Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim. The man is visibly spooked out and so are we. The title credits of Woh Kaun Thi roll.

With this film, Raj Khosla started his mystery trilogy starring Sadhana. The director and his muse repeated the success of the 1964 film with Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967). Woh Kaun Thi was loosely inspired by Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Incidentally, Khosla's mentor, Guru Dutt was making a film titled Raaz based on the same story. He planned to cast Waheeda Rehman and had signed RD Burman, who at the age of 18, was going to make his debut. RD had even recorded two songs but Raaz was abandoned after five reels were canned. The writer of Raaz, Dhruv Chatterjee then sold his story to Khosla.

Khosla went to Manoj Kumar to play the role of Dr Anand, a man trapped in extraordinary situations. He is in love with Seema (Helen), who is killed when someone injects her with cyanide. As he deals with this, he keeps bumping into the mysterious woman in white who no one else can see. He loses it when he discovers that his new bride Sandhya (Sadhana) bears a striking resemblance to the mysterious lady.

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