In the winter of 2009, this hill town was in mourning as it received the news of the death of a legendary resident who had loved Mussoorie and came back to it time and again throughout her life.
Renowned actress Bina Rai, whose parents once lived here, passed away in Mumbai on December 6, 2009, leaving a void in the hearts of all those here who remembered the times she used to visit her favourite summer home with her family .
Picturesque Mussoorie has a strong bond with the beautiful actress with rare elegance. Her home, near Wynberg School, is regularly visited by her sons and grandchildren. Once known as “Oak Cottage”, it became “Kailash Cottage” after Bina’s parents bought this house in the hills. Almost every summer, Bina Rai visited Mussoorie. Her son, Prem Kishen, comes home to Mussoorie quite often too.
At one time, many of the old photo studios here proudly displayed photographs of this exquisitely beautiful and dignified lady. Photos of Bina and her husband, Premnath, found pride of place at the Doon Studio near Library. This studio has, however, closed down, taking away the display of the ‘good old days.”
Gopal Bhardwaj,who was born and brought up in Mussoorie and has written a lot about the hill town’s history, says that as a young student of the school which neighbours Kailash Cottage, he and his friends often saw the actress at her balcony and garden. “We were mesmerised by her beauty and magnificent stature,” he says.
Bina was born Krishna Sarin. Bina Rai was her screen name. Her father, S R Sarin was an officer with the Railways. She had three younger sisters.
“We all saw Bina Rai’s films like Kaali Ghata and Anarkali in the cinema halls of Mussoorie all of which have now closed down. That era has passed away and only the old timers remember the wonderful actress whose name will always be associated with our lovely hill station,” says Bhardwaj.
He says there was a time when people used to wait for hours on the Mall Road just to get a glimpse of Bina Rai during her visits to Mussoorie in the summer months. “Even now, people warmly greet Prem Kishen and his family whenever they walk the streets of the town. The old citizens have great regard for the family”.
He says that the old caretaker, a Sikh gentleman, had been a great friend of his and had told him that it was under one of the trees in the cottage that Premnath and Bina had made a solemn promise never to part from each other.” He used to say that Bina’s mother had been witness to the promises made,” recalls Bhardwaj fondly.
Bhardwaj remembers how the principal of his school often scolded the boys for trying to have a look at the Sarins’ house while they were in school. “Many students even got late for school as they were always keen to get a glimpse of Binaji”.
Whether efforts are made to make the tourists aware of Binaji’s association with Mussoorie or not, memories of her youth will always lend their fragrance to the mountain breeze. On her death anniversary, Mussoorie pays homage to memories of her grace, beauty and goodness.
Talking of such great people who have been part of the hill station’s history, one wonders why,till now, there has been no effort on the part of the authorities concerned to gather all information and photographs regarding the lives and times of these personalities at a prominent place in the hill town.Visitors from all parts of the country and abroad would greatly appreciate this kind of effort as it would give them an insight into the rich history and heritage of Mussoorie. The museum in the new Clock Tower is the best place for exhibiting these photos and facts. Dev Anand, Prem Chopra and some other old film actors have had a close association with Mussoorie besides the late Tom Alter who was born and brought up here.