Ae nargise mastaana …

She was told by RK Nayyar, the director of her first movie, that her forehead was too broad for her face. Irked, the girl from Sindhi Camp created an iconic hairdo to cover her broad forehead. Fifty years later, in fancy 5-star beauty parlors and roadside barbershops alike, that fringe hairdo is still named after her – the Sadhana Cut.

If one were to make a list of the ten most beautiful women to grace the Indian silver screen, Sadhana Shivdasani would be right up there.

Sadhana was one of the few actresses who successfully moved from black-and-white to color movies, and was perhaps the only actress who could move back and forth between color and monochrome movies and still wow the audiences. In her first color movie, Mere Mehboob released in 1963, she appeared on the screen in a burkha, her face entirely covered except for her eyes. With one glance, she had Rajendra Kumar, and the entire nation crying, ‘Phir mujhe nargisi ankhon ka sahara de de’. 

And her very next movie, Woh Kaun Thi, a suspense thriller made in 1964, was deliberately made in black-and-white to emphasise its scary storyline. The opening scene of Woh Kaun Thi was truly terrifying. That was the scene in which Sadhana, with an innocent but chilling look, uttered the line that scared the wits out of us, “Mujhe khoon achcha lagta hai”. (“I like blood”)

From her first leading role in Love in Simla, to her last appearance in Geeta Mera Naam in 1974, Sadhana hardly delivered a flop. During the 1960’s she was the female lead in several hits  – Mere Mehboob, Mera Saaya, Woh Kaun Thi, Waqt, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Aarzoo, Hum Dono, and many others. Some of these movies were in color, some in monochrome. But that was Sadhana. Her beauty and allure remained unaffected, with color or without.

In addition to her hairdo, Sadhana is also the pioneer of the skin-tight salwar kameez in Bollywood. Only Sadhana could carry off this tantalising new look and she did so with style in the 1965 multi-starrer hit, Waqt. 

A chronic thyroid problem compelled Sadhana to get treatment in the US and cut short her career. In spite of that, she made a comeback in 1969 and delivered two silver jubilee hits, Inteqam and Ek Phool do Mali, before gracefully retiring in 1974.

After the death of her husband RK Nayyar, Sadhana lived a reclusive life in a Bandra flat owned by Asha Bhonsle.

Sadhana passed away on December 25, 2015 at Mumbai.

After her retirement, she refused to let herself be photographed, since she wanted to be remembered as the Sadhana of Mere Mehboob and Aarzoo.

And that’s how fans like myself will always remember her, as the stunning beauty from Sind, about whom we won’t stop singing, ‘Abhi na jao chodkar, ki dil abhi bhara nahin’. 

RIP Sadhana.


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