Stories about rich men attempting to transform prostitutes into proper ladies are usually unappealing to me, as they are often sodden with obnoxious moralistic subtext: a sexually uninhibited woman needs a male savior to rescue her by teaching her to conform to societal norms. But Mausam is a little different. Gil seeks his own redemption, not Kajli's - he is trying not so much to repair Kajli for her own good, but rather to reconstruct her mother, so that he may ask her forgiveness for the wrong he did her so many years before. This lends a sadness and desperation to his efforts at rehabilitating Kajli, a very different approach to the Pygmalion-esque elements of the tale.
Mausam also works because Sanjeev Kumar is one of the finest actors in Indian film. His controlled touch ensures that the film remains sensitive even as Dr. Gil leans heavily toward the paternalistic. Gil is wounded and confused; he comes to Darjeeling hoping to ride off into the sunset with his beloved Chanda - not to rescue from brothel life a daughter he never knew Chanda had. Sanjeev Kumar's nuanced performance preserves Gil's pain and uncertainty as he navigates the unexpected twists in his own fantasy. It also makes plain Gil's implicit sexual attraction to Kajli, who is after all the doppleganger of her mother as Gil last saw her. There is an everyman quality to Sanjeev Kumar that makes his portrayal of human pain that much more effective and real; this is as evident in Mausam as it was in Silsila, in which he stole the show from stars with much more conventional charisma.