Sadhana Shivdasani, better known to her fans by her first name, was one of the actresses who defined the 1960s, with her sense of style and her famous fringe haircut, which came to be known as the ‘Sadhana cut” modeled after Audrey Hepburn. Along with Sharmila Tagore, Mala Sinha, Asha Parekh and Nanda, Sadhana dominated the decade, known for its colourful confections, acting with almost every well known male star of the time.
Born in Karachi in 1941, she was named after her father’s favourite actress Sadhana Bose. She went to school and college in Bombay, where her family moved after partition and while still in her teens, was offered a role in the Sindhi film Abaana. That got her noticed and she was cast in Love in Simla along with another newcomer Joy Mukherjee. The film was a hit and led to Ek Musafir Ek Hasina and then in a breakthrough role as Dev Anand’s love interest in Hum Dono.
Big success followed with Mere Mehboob, a ‘Muslim social’ and then, soon after, Woh Kaun Thi, one of her three “mystery” films made by Raj Khosla with its famous song, “Lag ja gale”.
But it was in Waqt that Sadhna acquired the lasting image of a modern girl. Though a multi-starrer, she her held her own on the screen, not the least because of Bhanu Athaiya’s clothes designed for her, including the tight churidar-kurta that became a rage among young women. Waqt was a landmark 1960s film, setting off the trend of stories set among the modern, urban upper classes. One such was her film Inteqaam, where she takes revenge on a family that wrongly accuses her of theft.
Illness kept her away from work and her last major film was Geeta Mera Naam (1974) which she also directed. She then withdrew from acting and from public life, wanting her fans to remember her exactly how she had looked as a star, rather than see her playing an old mother. After her husband, her Love in Simla director R K Nayyar died in 1990, she was rarely seen in public, except with old film friends. She never gave interviews but spoke to the media during an ongoing litigation with her landlady Asha Bhonsle.