Sadhana (1941-2015): She wanted to be remembered as 'khoobsurat'

Updated: 28 December, 2015 11:10 IST | Shubha Shetty-Saha |

Veteran Bollywood actress Sadhana, who passed away today at the age of 74, had chosen to stay away from the media glare as by her own admission she wanted to be remembered as the "khubsoorat" Sadhana

Sadhana is yet another example to the statistics of how the film industry largely doesn't really turn back to check on its people once they are past their prime and fade into the oblivion. Even though Sadhana enjoyed the position of being one of the most sought after actresses in '60s, she was easily forgotten once she decided to step into the shadows. Sadhana had chosen to stay away from the media glare as by her own admission she wanted to be remembered as the "khoobsurat" Sadhana. What she hadn't chosen, however, was that alone in her old age, she had a hard time struggling to keep her Santacruz home and she had to seek police protection for the same. Not many from the industry, except her old friends Helen and her family and Nanda came forward to help her.


It was in the '60s that beautiful Sadhana, along with being an actress to reckon with, was also a fashion icon. Her fringe, presumably simply done at the behest of director R K Nayyar (who she later married) to hide her broad forehead, went on to be imitated by millions of girls, famously called as Sadhana cut.

Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Raza Murad and Helen say their last goodbye
Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Raza Murad and Helen say their last goodbye. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi 

Born in Karachi, Sadhana might have been destined to be an actress, as her father named her after his favourite actress of '40s, Sadhana Bose. After making her debut in a sindhi film, Sadhana's big Bollywood break came in the form of 'Love in Simla', with Joy Mukherjee. Lore has it that she had to compete with another promising actress Asha Parekh to get the coveted role.

Sadhana. Picture courtesy: mid-day archives

Sadhana easily fit into the various roles that she was offered, from being a cotton saree clad teacher from a small town in 'Asli Naqli', a Muslim student in 'Mere Mehboob' or a rich modern girl in 'Waqt'. In the earlier phase of her career, Sadhana made a hit pair with Dev Anand (who can forget the utterly romantic 'Abhi Na Jao' song in 'Hum Dono' picturised on this couple?). However, later it was her onscreen chemistry with 'Jubilee' star Rajendra Kumar that was much talked about. The two stars were great friends off screen too.

Sadhana. Picture courtesy: Karan Johar's Twitter account

Interestingly, while Sadhana's endearing smile was considered an asset for her romantic roles, it also served another purpose. For some filmmakers, her smile held the mystery that was ideal for her to be cast in mystery thrillers. Her double role in mystery film, 'Mera Saaya', where she played two sisters, one homely and another a restless wayward character, turned out to be the highlight of her career. Her feisty dance performance on 'Jhumka gira re', is still one of the most memorable things about the actress’ career.

Shubha Shetty-Saha is the Group Entertainment Editor at mid-day and Dainik Jagran Group

Voice of Support

Salman Khan was one of the few people in the industry who seemed genuinely concerned about Sadhana having to fight to save her house in Santacruz. Salman was informed about the issue by his step mother, Helen. Back in 2010, the actor had tweeted, “Who is this builder who is making Sadhana Aunty's life miserable, threatening her and nobody is doing anything about it.

“And you believe that in this day and age, this kind of stuff happens in our country where a living legend's life is hell (sic).”

Five years later, when the issue was not resolved, the actor had yet again expressed his anguish during the course of a casual chat with hitlist. “Her life is being made difficult. They are cutting her electric connection, literally trying to drive her away. It is terrible that no one's trying to help one of us from the industry. It is shameful that we cannot help the older people amongst us,” he had said.

Did you know?
Sadhana has a personal connect with Karisma and Kareena Kapoor. She was their mother Babita's first cousin. The late actress' father was the brother of actor Hari Shivdasani, Babita's father. 

Bangs on!

Sadhana was considered a trendsetter in the film industry in the 1960s, a role model for fashionistas of her time. While her fringe cut hairstyle was a rage and came to be known as the Sadhana cut, her figure-hugging kurtas also caught on among the fashion conscious.


There's a backstory to her famous hairstyle: since Sadhana had a wide forehead, it was highlighted on the big screen. While shooting for her debut film, Love In Simla (1960), opposite debutant Joy Mukerjee, the film's director RK Nayyar (later, her husband) got a snapshot of Hollywood star Audrey Hepburn on the set. He instructed the hairstylist to give her similar fringes, which would substantially cover her forehead. It turned an instant hit and Sadhana stuck to the style in several of her films. In fact, 'Sadhana cut' became the desi word for bangs.

The hair cut posed a hindrance when Sadhana signed Bimal Roy's film Parakh (1960). The filmmaker felt her hairstyle would not work for a village belle role. Determined to be part of the film, Sadhana then immediately went to the dressing room, pinned her fringe behind with a clip and returned in a plain saree to fit her character.

Her tight churidar kurtas became a must-have in women's wardrobes, especially after her 1965 film Waqt.

Nostalgia notes

‘She was slightly tomboyish’
I worked with Sadhana in Waqt, my second film after Kashmir Ki Kali I was new and inexperienced and she was a star already. But, it was wonderful to work with her. I remember the badminton scene we shot together.

I found her warm and slightly tomboyish. She did not have starry tantrums. She was professional and also a good human being. At that time, she had an eye problem as a result of thyroid issues. I remember she was okay in one scene and in another, her eyes were bulging out. But she had a lot of courage, determination and endurance.

I regret that I lost touch with her.

I have a lot of respect for her and am upset since I heard the sad news.
—Sharmila Tagore, actress

Saroj khan

‘She made me the dance director that I am today’
When she was turning director with Geeta Mera Naam (1974), she told RK Nayyar that I don’t want any choreographer other than Saroj Khan. I told Sadhana I cannot do the work because I do not have a (industry membership) card. She asked me not to worry and got me a card. She even paid for it and made me the dance director that I am today. I have done many songs for her like Jhumka Gira Re, I don’t think anyone can look so sexy as she did in a saree. I often met her and we played cards. God bless her soul.
—Saroj Khan, choreographer

Prem Chopra

'She was a team player'
When I entered the film industry, Sadhanaji was already a star. I had a brief role in Woh Kaun Thi, but that was my big break. One thing I liked about her was that she was cooperative, a team player and an intelligent girl. She would grasp things really fast. She had millions of fans, and girls used to follow her hairstyle. She was at the peak of popularity, but then, unfortunately, thyroid problems struck her and she suddenly found herself out of job.
As an artiste, I know how depressing it is. But she was very brave. She accepted whatever happened and remained the jolly person that she always was.
—Prem Chopra, actor

First Published: 25 December, 2015 14:58 IST

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