Yesteryears actress Sadhana Shivdasani passed away. Fans and admirers of the actress have taken to social media to express their remorse. The actress was detected with a tumour and had been battling cancer for a very long time. In December last year, the lady underwent an emergency surgery for a bleeding oral lesion. She may not be of my era actress, but we have grown up seeing her movies on different channels. She featured in numerous films throughout her career. Her fame to claim is being ‘Love In Simla’. She also appeared in popular films like ‘Parakh,’ ‘Hum Dono,’ ‘Shree 420,’ ‘Mere Mehboob,’ ‘Waqt’ and ‘Woh Kaun Thi.’ More than her films, the actress is till date remembered for the legendary front bangs she sported, a haircut which is now commonly referred to as the Sadhana cut. The bangs were, in fact supported by the actress in order to cover her unusually large (as she thought) forehead.
Born in a Sindhi family in Karachi, during British regime India, Sadhana was named after her father’s favourite actress-dancer Sadhana Bose. Her father was the brother of actor Hari Shivdasani, father of actress Babita. The family fled from Karachi during the post-Partition riots and settled in Mumbai. Her mother home-schooled her until she was 8 years old after which she studied at Auxilium Convent, Wadala and Jai Hind College. Sadhana aspired to be an actress since childhood. Her father helped her enter films. In 1955, she played a chorus girl in the song “Mur mur ke na dekh mur mur ke” in Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420. When she was 15 years old, she was approached by some producers who had seen her act in a college play. They cast her in India’s first Sindhi film titled Abaana (1958), where she played the role of Sheila Ramani’s younger sister. She was paid a token amount of Rs. 1. In those days, more than money the opportunity and talent was priceless.
A photograph of her publicizing the film appeared in a movie magazine Screen. It was then that Sashadhar Mukherjee, one of Hindi cinema’s major producers at that time, noticed her. She joined Mukherjee’s acting school along with her debutant co-star Joy Mukherjee, Sashadhar’s son. R K Nayyar, who had previously worked as assistant director on few films, directed this film. He also created her trademark look, called Sadhana cut, inspired from British actress Audrey Hepburn. The Filmalaya Production banner thus introduced Joy, Sadhana and her iconic hairstyle in their 1960 romantic film Love in Simla. The film was declared a hit at the box office and was listed in the top 10 films of 1960. Sadhana played the role of a simple, bespectacled girl who is transformed by her grandmother into a beautiful woman and encouraged to pursue the hero. In the film, Sadhana wins a beauty contest and is awarded a three-year film contract with Filmalaya, which was the case in real life too. During this period, she would again work under the same banner opposite Joy in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.
In 1963, Shivdasani played her first role in a technicolour film Mere Mehboob directed by H S Rawail. The film was the “Blockbuster” of 1963 and ranked in the top 5 films of the 1960s. The scene where Rajendra Kumar encounters Shivdasani for the first time and sees her eyes through her burqa stands as one of the most remarkable scenes of Hindi film industry. Notable actor Danny Denzongpa describes the visage of Sadhana in a burqa with just her eyes visible as “unforgettable.
Shivdasani in 1964 played her remarkable double role in the first of the suspense-thriller trilogy, Woh Kaun Thi? This white-sari-clad performance opposite Manoj Kumar earned her first Filmfare nomination as Best Actress. Through this role she got to be part of Lata Mangeshkar – Madan Mohan’s all time classics like “Naina Barse” and “Lag Ja Gale”. The film was a box office “Hit” Raj Khosla cast her in two more successful mystery films. Her journey in colourful screen continued thereafter and Shivdasani got her second Filmfare nomination as Best Actress for the role of Meena in Yash Chopra’s directorial saga Waqt (1965). She stood out in Bollywood’s first ever ensemble cast by bringing along the fashion of tight chudidar-kurtas. The film proved to be 1965’s “Blockbuster”.
Sadhana had health issues due to her thyroid, which she got treated at a hospital in Boston hence did not sign films between 1967 to 1968. After that she did few movies and retired from acting as she did not want to be cast as a side-actress or do character roles. Later, she and her husband formed a production company. She also directed a movie starring Dimple Kapadia in 1989.
Sadhana married her Love in Simla director Ram Krishna Nayyar. Their love blossomed on the film set. But as she was very young then, her parents opposed it. They were married for nearly thirty years, until his death in 1995 from asthma. The couple had no children. She suffered from a disorder of her eyes due to hyperthyroidism. After her retirement, she has refused to be photographed simply because she wants to be remembered the way she was. Living in Santacruz, she was a tenant in an apartment building owned by singer Asha Bhosle. In 2013, she stated that she doesn’t keep in touch with her cousin Babita but does keep in touch with actresses Asha Parekh, Waheeda Rehman, Nanda (actress) (who passed away in 2014), and Helen.
Yash Chopra felt insecure and thought that it would not be accepted. But Shivdasani with the help of her fashion designer Bhanu Athaiya showed him a sample, which he liked. The trend lasted well in the 1970s and can be seen to be adopted by many actresses. In 2014, the seventy-two-year-old Sadhana made a rare public appearance walking the ramp in a pink sari at a fashion show to support the cause for cancer and AIDS patients. She was escorted by her relative actor Ranbir Kapoor. She lived with her charm until she leaves us. Her death is end of an era in film industry.