Sadhana Shivdasani

Sadhana Shivdasani (2 September 1941 – 25 December 2015),[1] known mononymously as Sadhana, was an Indian film actress active between 1960 and 1981. She is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Indian cinema. Popularly known as "The Mystery Girl" for playing mysterious women in films directed by Raj Khosla, Shivdasani ranked as the highest-paid actress in the country from mid-1960s to early 1970s.[2][3]

Sadhana Shivdasani
Shaina NC Fashion Show 1 (cropped on Sadhna).jpg
Shivdasani in 2014
Born(1941-09-02)2 September 1941
Died25 December 2015(2015-12-25) (aged 74)
Other namesSadhana
The Mystery Girl
Alma materJai Hind College, Mumbai (B.A. English Literature)
Years active1958–1981
StyleSadhana cut
(m. 1966; died 1995)
RelativesSee Shivdasani family
AwardsIIFA Lifetime Achievement Award (2002)

Born in Karachi, Shivdasani and her family migrated to Bombay during post-partition riots when she was 7 year-old. She aspired to become an actress since her childhood, and completed her education from Jai Hind College. After making an unnoticed appearance in Shree 420 (1955), Shivdasani became the protègè of the director Sashadhar Mukherjee, who enrolled her in his acting school and then provided her with her first starring role, in the romantic comedy Love In Simla (1960), where her distinctive hairstyle became a rage and came to be known as "Sadhana Cut". Following the success of Love In Simla, Shivdasini went on to establish herself with several hits, including the comedies Parakh (1960) and Asli-Naqli (1962), the war film Hum Dono (1961) and the adventurous Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962).[4][5]

Shivdasini followed this initial success with her greatest commercial successes—the romances Mere Mehboob (1963), Rajkumar (1964) and Arzoo (1965); the mystery dramas Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) and Mera Saaya (1966); and the drama Waqt (1965); she earned Filmfare nominations for her performances in Woh Kaun Thi and Waqt. Her health deteriorated in latter half of 1960s due to hyperthyroidism, which forced her to take a brief break from work. Shivdasini returned to acting in 1969 and starred in two consecutive box-office hits—Ek Phool Do Maali and Intaqam—but her subsequent films were unpopular with audience. In 1974, the actress made her directorial debut with the crime thriller Geetaa Mera Naam, and later withdrew from acting. Her final screen appearance was in the delayed release Ulfat Ki Nayee Manzeelein (1994). In 2002, she received the IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Indian cinema.

Shivdasini was married to Love in Simla director R.K. Nayyar in 1966.[2] Their marriage lasted for 30 years and ended when Nayyar died in 1995. Shivdasini never re-married after his death and lived alone for most of her life. Her health had begun to decline after her diagnosis with thyroid disease in 1966. She was diagnosed with brain tumor that led her to her ultimate death at 74 on 25 December 2015 in her flat at Mumbai.[3]

Early lifeEdit

Sadhana was born Sadhana Shivdasani in a Sindhi Hindu family[6] in Karachi, British India on 2 September 1941. She was an only child. Sadhana was named after her father's favourite actress-dancer Sadhana Bose. Her father was the elder brother of actor Hari Shivdasani, father of actress Babita.

The family migrated 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. Although they encountered difficult times, Sadhana was allowed to watch as many as two films. Sadhana was inspired to become a film actress and actress Nutan was said to have been her inspiration.[7]


Early careerEdit

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.[8][9] 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.[8]

A photograph of her publicising Shree 420 appeared in the movie magazine Screen. It was then that Sashadhar Mukherjee, one of Hindi cinema's leading 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 a few films, directed this film. He also created her trademark look, called the Sadhana cut, inspired by British actress Audrey Hepburn.[8][10] 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.[11] During this period she would again work under the same banner opposite Joy in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.[12]


Besides Love in Simla, Sadhana was signed by acclaimed director Bimal Roy for his satirical film on Indian democracy, Parakh. She portrayed a simple village girl in this multi-award-winning film. The film was a semi hit at box office and is known for the song "O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aai" sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

Major breakthroughEdit

  • 1961: Hum Dono - In this 1961's hit film,[13] Hum Dono, she played the love interest of Dev Anand. This black-and-white film was colourised and re-released in 2011. in the film's review writes about Sadhana: "Her eyes, expressive and captivating, do most of the work, while she balances out her submissiveness with a firm tongue."[14] The duet "Abhi na jaao chhodkar" from the film Hum Dono is regarded as "the most romantic song" by actor Shah Rukh Khan[15] and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.[16] Author Amit Chaudhuri in an essay comparing cultures, says that Sadhana's curious expressions in the song denote listener's peculiar ecstasy while in other cinemas it would mean sex or love.[17]
  • 1962: Asli-Naqli - In 1962, she was again paired with Dev Anand in Asli-Naqli by director Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The film has two hit songs "Tujhe Jeevan Ki Dor Se", sung by both Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar and "Tera Mera Pyar Amar", sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The same year saw director-screenwriter Raj Khosla cast her opposite Joy Mukherjee in Ek Musafir Ek Hasina. She had debuted with Joy Mukherjee with the film Love in Shimla in 1960. Khosla would again work with Sadhana to make a suspense thriller trilogy.[18]
  • 1963: Mere Mehboob - This film was the highest grossing Indian film of 1963. The film stars Sadhana, Rajendra Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nimmi, Pran, Johnny Walker and Ameeta. In this film, Sadhana played her first role in the technicolour film. The film Mere Mehboob was directed by H. S. Rawail. The song "Mere Mehboob Tujhe" was shot in the University Hall and in a couple of places, one gets to see the University. The song became very popular upon release. The opening scene of the film shows the famous residential hall and the associated hall "Victoria Gate". The film was the blockbuster of 1963, and ranked in the top 5 films of the 1960s.
  • 1964: Woh Kaun Thi - In 1964, she played a 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 MangeshkarMadan Mohan’s songs "Naina barse" and "Lag jaa gale". called her a show-stopper "with an intriguing Mona Lisa-like smile". The film was a box office hit. Raj Khosla cast her in two more successful mystery films; Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967) thus making her famous as the "Mystery girl".
  • 1965 : Arzoo- Arzoo was a box office success, with Sadhana, Rajendra Kumar and Feroz Khan in lead roles. The film had songs like "Ae Phoolon ki Rani" sung by Mohammad Rafi and " Aji rooth kar ab" , sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
  • 1966: Mera Saaya - Mera Saaya was a box office success, a courtroom drama film, again saw her playing a double role, now opposite Sunil Dutt. The film was the third film directed by Raj Khosla with Sadhana. The song "Jhumka gira re" sung by Asha Bhosle and composed by Madan Mohan saw Sadhana perform dance steps choreographed by Saroj Khan. Khan was then an assistant to dance director B. Sohanlal. The song became so popular that excited audience in cinema halls used to throw coins at the screen, and is one of the most requested songs on the radio. The film also had the classic songs "Mera Saaya Saath Hoga" and "Nainon Mein Badra Chhaye", both voiced by Lata Mangeshkar.
  • 1965: Waqt- In this 1965 drama film, Sadhana appeared alongside Sunil Dutt. For her performance in this hit film, Sadhana 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 out the fashion of tight churidar-kurtas. The song has hit Hindi songs such as "Aye Meri Zohra Zabeen", sung by Manna Dey, "Hum Jab Simat Ke", sung by Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosle, "Waqt Se Din Aur Raat", sung by Mohammed Rafi and "Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu", sung by Asha Bhosle. The film proved to be 1965's "blockbuster hit".
  • 1967: Anita - In this 1967 suspense film, Sadhana appeared alongside Manoj Kumar with whom she had starred in lead role in the blockbuster film Woh Kaun Thi. This was the last film of the suspense-thriller trilogy of Khosla-Sadhana partnership.
  • 1969: Inteqam - This film was directed by R.K. Nayyar, and stars Sadhana and Sanjay Khan in lead roles and supported by Ashok Kumar, Jeevan, Rajendra Nath, Rehman, Helen and Anju Mahendru. The film features the first cabaret number song "Aa Jaane Jaan", also a rarity through her career. The film was a success at box office and marked the return of Sadhana after her brief illness, and her husband directed the film.

Her other notable works in the 1960s include performances in Gaban (1966) and Budtameez (1966). Sadhana and Shammi Kapoor worked together in 4 films Rajkumar, Budtameez, Sachaai and Chhote Sarkar of which the first 3 were box office hits and the pair got good audience acceptance.

  • 1964: Rajkumar - Rajkumar stars Sadhana, Shammi Kapoor, Pran, Prithviraj Kapoor, Om Prakash and Rajindernath. The film was a box office success and has the hit songs "Aaja Aai Bahar", sung by Lata Mangeshkar, "Tumne Pukara Aur Hum Chale Aaye", sung by Mohammed Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur, "Tumne Kisi Ki Jaan Ko" and "Is Rang Badalti Duniya Mein", both sung by Mohammed Rafi.
  • 1969: Sachaai - Sachaai stars Sadhana, Shammi Kapoor , Sanjeev Kumar, Helen, Johnny Walker and Pran. This film was a box office hit with songs like " Sau baras ki zindagi", sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle " Ae dost mere maine duniya dekhi hai" , sung by Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey and " Mere gunaah maaf kar" sung by Mohammed Rafi.
  • 1969: Ek Phool Do Mali - This Indian Hindi film of 1969 stars Sadhana and Sanjay Khan in lead roles and has hit songs such as "Ye Parda Hata Do", sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi, "Aulad Walo", sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi, "O Nanhe Se Farishte" sung by Mohammed Rafi, "Saiyan Le Gayi Jiya", sung by Asha Bhosle and "Tujhe Suraj Kahoon Ya Chanda" sung by Manna Dey.

End of acting careerEdit

Sadhana (first from right) with Helen, Waheeda Rehman and Nanda in 2010

Sadhana had health issues due to her thyroid, which she got treated in Boston. After returning from the US, she starred in the successful movies Intaquam (1969), Ek phool do mali (1969), Sachaai (1969), Dil Daulat Duniya (1972) and Geeta Mera Naam (1974).

In Intaquam she played the role of a woman who revengefully lures the son of her own boss who cheated her, to be put behind the bars for a crime he did not commit. In 1974, her directorial venture Geeta Mera Naam was released. Produced by her husband, the film had herself playing the lead actress along with Sunil Dutt and Feroz Khan. It was also Saroj Khan's first film as an independent dance director. The film met with only little success at the box office.[19]

After that, she retired from acting, as she did not want to be cast as a side-actress or do character roles.[8] Later, she and her husband formed a production company. She also produced the movie Pati Parmeshwar, starring Dimple Kapadia in 1989.[20]

Personal lifeEdit

Sadhana married her Love in Simla director Ram Krishna Nayyar on 7 March 1966.[21] 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. In 2013, she stated that she doesn't keep in touch with her first cousin Babita but does keep in touch with actresses such as Asha Parekh, Waheeda Rehman, Nanda and Helen Jairag Richardson.[22]

She suffered from eye problems due to hyperthyroidism. After her retirement from acting, she refused to be photographed.[10] Living in Santacruz, Mumbai, she rented an apartment building owned by singer Asha Bhosle.[23][24]

Fashion iconEdit

Sadhana introduced the fringe hairstyle in the Indian film industry in her first film Love in Simla. R.K. Nayyar, director of the film and her future husband, suggested the fringe style in order to make her forehead look narrower. Sadhana says: "They tried to stick a strip near the hair-line, but it didn’t work out."[7] Nayyar then suggested she go for the fringe style as was then sported by the Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn.[8][10][20] The fringe soon became popular and a fashion fad in the 1960s.[1][25] The style was copied by girls in India and is still known by the same name.[26] The look suited the role of naughty, pretty, glamorous Sonia that she played. But when Sadhana went on the shoot for Bimal Roy's Parakh, Roy was disappointed to see her modern look. She had to stick her fringe back in order to match the simple village girl she played here.[7] In 1963, when she signed to play a role of a simple Muslim girl from Aligarh in Mere Mehboob, Sadhana undid her famous "Sadhana cut" to fit the bill. She had centre-parted her hair and wore it in a plait, which was immediately discarded by the director H.S. Rawail. He said that the audience wanted to see her signature "Sadhana cut" and demanded it.[6] Many years later, the Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone sported the same fringe in her films Om Shanti Om (2007) and Chandni Chowk To China (2009).[27] Sadhana is also credited with bringing into fashion the tight churidar-kurta.[6][25] She went with this concept of gracefully changing the traditional loose salwar kameez to her director Yash Chopra for the 1965 film Waqt. Chopra felt insecure and thought that it would not be accepted. But Sadhana, with the help of her fashion designer Bhanu Athaiya showed him a sample, which he liked.[7] The trend lasted well into the 1970s and can be seen, adopted by many actresses.[28]

In a song sequence of "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte" for Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), actress Bipasha Basu dressed herself in a white churidar-kurta and also frolicked with the famous fringe as a tribute to Sadhana.[29]

In 2014, 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.[30]


Year Award Film Category Result
1965 Filmfare Awards Woh Kaun Thi? Best Actress Nominated
1966 Waqt Nominated
2002 IIFA Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Won


During her later years, Sadhana was involved in court cases[31] and suffered from illness.[32] She had undergone an emergency surgery due to a bleeding oral lesion in December 2014 at the K J Somaiya Medical College.[33][34]

Sadhana died on 25 December 2015 in Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai after being hospitalised with high fever.[3] Although the illness she briefly suffered from was officially undisclosed,[35] Sadhana was cremated at Oshiwara crematorium in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Bollywood stars such Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar, Madhur Bhandarkar, Lata Mangeshkar and several others expressed their sorrow at the loss.[36][37]


Year Movie Role Note
1955 Shree 420[8] Chorus girl Cameo role in the song "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh"
1958 Abana[8] First Sindhi film
1960 Love in Simla[8] Sonia Sadhana debut film as a lead actress
Parakh[8] Seema Hit Song "O Sajna Barkha Bahar"
1961 Hum Dono[8] Mita Hit Song "Abhi Na Jao Chodkar", a duet by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi
1962 Prem Patra[8] Kavita Kapoor
Man Mauji[38] Rani Famous song "Zaroorat Hain Zaroorat Hain", by Kishore Kumar
Ek Musafir Ek Hasina[8] Asha Hit songs are "Bahut Shukriya Badi Meherbani", Mohammad Rafi and "Zaban e Yaar Manturki", a duet by Asha Bhosle & Mohammad Rafi
Asli-Naqli[38] Renu Hit songs from the film are "Tere Mera Pyar Amar", sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and "Tujhe Jeevan Ki Durse", a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
1963 Mere Mehboob[8] Husna Banu Changezi Hit Song "Mere Mehboob Tujhe Mere Mohabbat Ki Qasam", "Tere Pyar Mein Dildar", "Allah Bachaye Naujawanon Se" all are sung by Lata Mangrshkar
1964 Woh Kaun Thi?[8] Sandhya / Seema (Double Role) Nominated: Filmfare Award for Best Actress
Hit Song "Lag Ja Gale Ke Phir", "Aap Kyon Royen",
"Naina Barse Rim Jhim" and "Aap kyun roye"
Rajkumar[8] Princess Sangeeta Hit Song "Aaja Aai Bahar", "Iss Rang Badalti Duniya Mein", "Tumne Pukara Aur Hum Chale Aaye" and "Tumne Kisi Ki Jaan ko"
Picnic Not released[39]
Dulha Dulhan[38] Rekha / Chanda Romantic song "Humne Tujhko Pyar Kiya Hain"
1965 Waqt[8] Meena Mittal Nominated: Filmfare Award for Best Actress Hit songs are "Ae Meri Zohra Zabeen", sung by Manna Dey and "Hum Jab Simat Ke Aapki" by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor
Arzoo[8] Usha Hit Song "Bedardi Balma Tujhko" sung by Lata Mangeshkar, "Aji Rooth Kar Ab", sung by Lata Mangeshkar and "Ae Phoolon Ki Rani Baharon Ki Malika", sung by Mohammed Rafi
1966 Mera Saaya[8] Geeta / Nisha (Raina) (Double Role) Hit Song "Jhoomka Gira Re", sung by Asha Bhosle, "Mera Saaya Saath Hoga", sung by Lata Mangeshkar and "Nainon Mein Badea Chhaye", sung by Lata Mangeshkar
Gaban[38] Jalpa Hit Song "Tum Bin Saajan Barse Nayan"
Budtameez[38] Shanta Hit songs 'Hassen ho tum khuda nahi ho', 'Apni baahon se koi kaam toh lo', Budtameez kaho ya kaho janwar' sung by Rafi , 'Pehla pehla pyar' by Suman Kalyanpur and 'Sirf tum hi toh ho jispe marte hai hum' sung by Asha bhosle and Rafi
1967 Anita[8] Anita Famous dance number "Kaise Karoon Prem Ki Mein Baat" sung by Lata Mangeshkar, song "Samne Mere Sanwariya"
1969 Sachaai Shobha Dayal Hit song 'Ae dost mere maine duniya dekhi hai', 'Sau baras ki zindagi'
Intaquam[8] Reeta Mehra Hit Songs "Hum Tumhare Liye", "Geet tere Saaz Ka" & "Kaise Rahun Chup"
Ek Phool Do Mali[8] Somna Hit songs from the film are "O Nanhe Se Farishte", "Yeh Parda Hata Do", "Tujhe Suraj Kahoon Ya Chanda" and "Saiyan Le Gayi Jiya"
1970 Ishq Par Zor Nahin[40] Sushma Rai "Yeh Dil Diwana Hain", "Sach Kehti Hain Duniya", "O Mere Bairagi Bhanwara" and "Mehbooba Teri Tasveer"
1971 Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee[38] Neena Bakshi A great musical hit movie and very remembered songs like "Koyal Kyon Gaaye", "Poochhe Jo Koi Mujhse", "Mujhe Teri Mohabbat Ka Sahara", "Sare Zamane Pe Mausam Suhane Pe", "Tumko Bhi To Aisa Hi Kuchh", "Tare Kitne Neel Gagan Pe"
1972 Dil Daulat Duniya[38] Roopa Kishore Kumar's Romantic number "Saath Mein Pyara Saathi Hain", Asha Bhosle, Usha Khanna & Rekha Jayker's Diwali dance song "Deep Jale Dekhon"
1974 Geeta Mera Naam[8] Kavita / Neeta / Geeta (Double Role) Also directed and the film have 70's hit track "Suniye Zara Dekhiye Na" sung by Lata Mangeshkar
Chhote Sarkar[41] Radhika Hit song 'Tere chehre main hai jo baat' by Mohammad Rafi and 'Kya roz roz peena' sung by Asha bhosle
1975 Vandana[42] Hit songs "Manmohana Tu Jo Bhi De", Aapki Inayate Aapke Karam" sung by Lata Mangeshkar
1977 Amaanat[43] Suchitra Famous Songs like "Door Rehkar Na Karo Baat" sung by Mohammad Rafi, "Matlab Nikal Gaya To", "Teri Jawani Tapta Mahina"
1981 Mehfil[40] Shalini / Ratnabai (Double Role) Delayed Release
1994 Ulfat Ki Nayee Manzeelein[44] Sadhana's final screen appearance Delayed release


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External linksEdit