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Sadhana: What movies! What songs!

By Dinesh Raheja
December 25, 2015 14:47 IST
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'As the burkha-clad beauty Husna in Mere Mehboob, she inspired Shakeel Badayuni to compose Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam/Phir Mujhe Un Nargisi Aankhon Ka Sahara De De. Hasrat Jaipuri showered epithets like Nargis-e-Mastaana and Phoolon Ki Rani, Baharon Ki Malika on her in Arzoo.'

Dinesh Raheja remembers Sadhana's memorable movies and songs.

Best-tressed of the 1960s heroines, Sadhana was more than just that sophisti-cut fringe or the mascot of many a shot-in-colour-in-Kashmir musical.

She was also an undervalued actress who bared her soul in two Bimal Roy films and was tantalisingly enigmatic in Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya.

She was a gamine, fragile beauty in the Audrey Hepburn-Leslie Caron mould (think Gigi) --- heart-breakingly waifish or heart-stoppingly glamorous.

Sadhana once told me, "R K Nayyar (the director of her debut Love In Simla), and later my husband said they loved my nose --- one could land a helicopter on it!" She added with characteristic candour, "I was attractive, but never beautiful."


10 Famous Songs Picturised on Sadhana
Song Film Singer
O Sajna, Barkha Bahar Aayee Parakh Lata Mangeshkar
Abhi Na Jaao Chhodkar, Ke Dil Abhi Bhara Nahin Hum Dono Lata-Mohammed Rafi
Aap Yunhi Agar Humse Milte Rahe Ek Musafir Ek Hasina Asha Bhosle-Rafi
Mere Mehboob Tujhe Neri Mohabbat Ki Kasam Mere Mehboob Lata
Naina Barse, Rimjhim Rimjhim Woh Kaun Thi Lata
Aaja Aayee Bahar, Dil Hai Bekaraar Rajkumar Lata
Kaise Rahoon Chup Ki Maine Pee Hi Kya Hai Intequam Lata
Ajee Rooth Kar Ab Kahan Jaaiyega Arzoo Lata
Tu Jahan Jahan Chalega, Mera Saaya Saath Hoga Mera Saaya Lata
Jhumka Gira Re Mera Saaya Asha Bhosle

Lyricists begged to differ. As the burkha-clad beauty Husna in Mere Mehboob, she inspired Shakeel Badayuni to compose Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam/ Phir Mujhe Un Nargisi Aankhon Ka Sahara De De. Hasrat Jaipuri showered epithets like Nargis-e-Mastaana and Phoolon Ki Rani, Baharon Ki Malika on her in Arzoo.

Sadhana Shivdasani's trek to stardom began when her family fled Karachi during the post-Partition riots and set up residence in the barracks near Sion, north-east Bombay. The Shivdasanis saw difficult times but indulged Sadhana, named after the famed actress Sadhana Bose, in her choice pastimes --- eating golas and watching films, especially those starring her favourites, Dev Anand and Nutan.

Thanks to actor-cousin brother Hari Shivdasani (actress Babita's father), Sadhana too was drawn to the profession. A teenaged Sadhana faced the camera as a chorus girl in Raj Kapoor's Shri 420 (1955).

An Arts undergraduate at Jai Hind college, Sadhana was approached to play second lead to heroine Sheila Ramani in the first Sindhi film, Abana (1958).

Sadhana's big break came when an advertisement for Abana caught movie biggie Sashadhar Mukherjee's eye. He enrolled Sadhana at his acting school, where Asha Parekh occasionally frequented. He gave Nasir Hussain the choice of either Asha Parekh or Sadhana. Nasir chose Asha.

But Mukherjee wanted to start another film, too, for which debut-making director R K Nayyar, who had assisted Raj Kapoor, chose Sadhana. He teamed her with Mukherjee's son Joy and cooked up a light, sweet confection, Love In Simla (1960).

Nayyar and Sadhana fell in love during the making of this film; the audience fell in love with Sadhana after the film was released. In this Cinderella rework, plain Jane (Sadhana) transforms into a svelte swan to compete with her conventionally pretty cousin (Azra) and vie for Joy Mukherjee's affections. Sadhana was a scene-stealer with her near-naturalness before the camera and became the darling of the teen set.

The craze for her Audrey Hepburn-inspired 'Sadhana fringe' (suggested by Nayyar to conceal her broad forehead) spread, making her the fashion icon of her age.

Three months later, Sadhana's second film, Bimal Roy's Parakh, showed her as the soul of unaffected simplicity. Roy cast her in his next directorial venture, Prem Patra, too.

Bound by a three-year contract with Mukherjee's banner, Filmalaya, she starred in Filmalaya's musical, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, one of the earliest road stories with lilting songs.

Sadhana tranformed from popular ingenue to huge star with the success of the Muslim social, Mere Mehboob (1963).

Sadhana did more than set fashion trends. Inspired by her seductive smile, evocative eyes and her will-o'-the-wisp voice (Rekha once told me she adored Sadhana's voice), Raj Khosla helmed a one-of-its-kind trilogy of heroine-oriented mystery thrillers for Sadhana -- Woh Kaun Thi (1964),Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967). Madan Mohan's melodies for Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya were an integral part of Lata Mangeshkar's stage repertoire.

Among all her successful heroine-oriented films, Mera Saaya was her tour de force. In a well-delineated double role, Sadhana portrayed the identity crises dogging the lives of twin sisters.

The mischief in her eyes as one sister is carefully contrasted with the other sister's desperate anguish as a wife whose husband refuses to believe her.

Incidentally, her mother strongly disapproved of Sadhana's boyfriend Nayyar, often asking her daughter to marry "someone like Rajendra Kumar." But in 1966, aided by her father, Sadhana tied the knot with R K Nayyar.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. A lingering thyroid problem aggravated, even affected, those much-admired eyes. Filmmakers turned their eyes toward fresher pastures.

H S Rawail, who had once waited for months to ensure that Sadhana was part of Mere Mehboob, replaced her with Vyjayanthimala Bali in Sunghursh (opposite Dilip Kumar), while producer Pacchi chose budding star Rajshree to play Sadhana's role in Around The World (opposite Raj Kapoor).

Reluctant to essay character roles -- Raj Kapoor is said to have offered her the role of Rishi Kapoor's mother in Bobby -- Sadhana finally accepted the transient nature of stardom gracefully.

After two decades of a tempestuous marriage that settled down to an even keel, husband R K Nayyar succumbed to an asthma attack. Sadhana, who had no children, was left alone. She keeps herself busy playing cards with friends at Mumbai's Otters Club, watching television and gardening. In keeping with her enigmatic image, she adamantly refuses to let herself be photographed in public.

Sadhana's Landmark Films
Year Film Hero Director
1960 Love In Simla Joy Mukherjee R K Nayyar
1960 Parakh Vasant Chowdhary Bimal Roy
1961 Hum Dono Dev Anand Amarjeet
1962 Ek Musafir Ek Haseena Joy Mukherjee Raj Khosla
1963 Mere Mehboob Rajendra Kumar H S Rawail
1964 Woh Kaun Thi Manoj Kumar Raj Khosla
1964 Raaj Kumar Shammi Kapoor K Shankar
1965 Waqt Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt Yash Chopra
1965 Arzoo Rajendra Kumar Ramanand Sagar
1966 Mera Saaya Sunil Dutt Raj Khosla
1969 Intequam Sanjay Khan R K Nayyar
1969 Ek Phool Do Mali Sanjay Khan Devendra Goel
1974 Geeta Mera Naam Feroz Khan R K Nayyar

This feature was first posted on in February 2002.

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Dinesh Raheja