Sadhana Shivdasani
Sadhana in 2014
Born(1941-09-02)2 September 1941
Karachi, Sind, British India (present-day Sindh, Pakistan)
Died25 December 2015(2015-12-25) (aged 74)
Resting placeOshiwara Crematorium, Mumbai
Other namesThe Mystery Girl
Alma materJai Hind College, Mumbai (B.A. English Literature)
Years active1958–1981
Notable workAsli Naqli (1962)
Mere Mehboob (1963)
Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Arzoo (1965)
Waqt (1965)
Mera Saaya (1966)
Intaquam (1969)
Ek Phool Do Mali (1969)
(m. 1966; died 1995)
RelativesSee Shivdasani family

Sadhana Shivdasani (2 September 1941 – 25 December 2015),[1] known mononymously as Sadhana, was an Indian actress who worked in Hindi films. Regarded as one of the finest actresses of Indian cinema, Sadhana was noted for her exquisite beauty and trend-setting fashion statements. She was popularly known as "The Mystery Girl" for her stint as the "mystery girl" in the suspense thriller trilogy films directed by Raj Khosla during the mid 1960s.[2][3]

Born in Karachi, Sadhana and her family migrated to Bombay during the partition of India when she was 7 years old. After making an uncredited appearance in Shree 420 (1955), Sadhana became the protègè of the director Sashadhar Mukherjee, who cast her in Love In Simla (1960), where her distinctive hairstyle became a rage and came to be known as "Sadhana Cut". Following this success, Sadhana went on to establish herself as a leading actress with films like - Parakh (1960), Hum Dono (1961), Asli-Naqli (1962), Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962), Mere Mehboob (1963), Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) and Arzoo (1965), Waqt (1965), Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967).[4][5]

Sadhana's health deteriorated in the latter half of 1960s due to hyperthyroidism, which forced her to take a brief break from work. She went to Boston for her treatment and returned to acting in 1969, starring in two consecutive box-office hits — Ek Phool Do Mali and Intaqam. 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 Nayi Manzilein (1994). In 2002, she received the IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award. Sadhana was married to her Love in Simla director R.K. Nayyar on 7 March 1966.[2] She was admitted to Hinduja Hospital on 24 December 2015, following which she died on 25 December 2015.

Early life

Born as Anjali Shivdasani in a Sindhi Hindu family in Karachi, British India on 2 September 1941, she was the only child of her parents Shivram Shivdasani and Lali Devi. However, as her father used to be a big fan of Bengali actress-dancer Sadhana Bose, he renamed his daughter as Sadhana at the age of 5. Her father was the elder brother of actor Hari Shivdasani, father of actress Babita.

The family migrated from Karachi during the partition of India and settled in Bombay (now Mumbai). Her mother home-schooled her until she was 8 years old, after which she studied at Auxilium Convent School, Wadala. After her schooling, she went ahead to pursue her education in Arts Degree at Jai Hind College. During her college days she used to act in several plays, but when the family was finding it difficult to make both ends meet, Sadhana started working as a typist in Colaba, in order to support her family. She attended the morning college and used to work in the second half of the day. However, she wasn't able to complete her degree and later joined films. She aspired to have a career in films right from childhood and actress Nutan was said to have been her inspiration.[6] She was also a big fan of actor Dev Anand, with whom she had worked in Hum Dono (1961) and Asli-Naqli (1962).


Early career

Sadhana aspired to be an actress since childhood. In 1955, she played a chorus girl in the song "Mur mur ke na dekh mur mur ke" in Raj Kapoor's Shree 420.[7] 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 Re 1 for this movie.

A photograph of her taken during the promotional shoot for the film Abaana (1958) 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. Ram Krishna Nayyar (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.[7][8] 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.[9] During this period she would again work under the same banner opposite Joy in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.[10]


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 breakthrough

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.

End of acting career

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 did "above average" business at the box office.[17]

After that, she retired from acting, as she did not want to be cast as a side-actress or do character roles.[7] Later, she and her husband formed a production company. She also produced the movie Pati Parmeshwar, starring Dimple Kapadia in 1989.[18]

Personal life

Sadhana married her Love in Simla director Ram Krishna Nayyar on 7 March 1966.[19][20] 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, Shammi and Helen.[21]

She suffered from eye problems due to hyperthyroidism. After her retirement from acting, she refused to be photographed.[8] Living in Santacruz, Mumbai, she rented an apartment building owned by singer Asha Bhosle.[22][23]

Reception and legacy

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

Sadhana is regarded as one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema.[24][25] In 2011, listed her as the eighth-greatest actress of all-time.[26] In 2022, she was placed in Outlook India's "75 Best Bollywood Actresses" list.[27] One of the highest paid actress of the 1960s, Sadhana appeared in Box Office India's "Top Actresses" list five times from 1962 to 1966 and topped twice (1965-1966).[28]

Fashion icon

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."[6] Nayyar then suggested she go for the fringe style as was then sported by the Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn.[7][8][18] The fringe soon became popular and a fashion fad in the 1960s.[1][29] The style was copied by girls in India and is still known by the same name.[30] 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.[6] 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.[31] 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).[32] Sadhana is also credited with bringing into fashion the tight churidar-kurta.[31][29] 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.[6] The trend lasted well into the 1970s and can be seen, adopted by many actresses.[33]

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.[34] 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.[35]


During her later years, Sadhana was involved in court cases[36] and suffered from illness.[37] She had undergone an emergency surgery due to a bleeding oral lesion in December 2014 at the K J Somaiya Medical College.[38][39]

Sadhana died on 25 December 2015 in Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai after being hospitalised with high fever.[3] The illness she briefly suffered from was officially undisclosed,[40] 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.[41][42]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1955 Shree 420 Chorus girl Special appearance in song "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh" [43]
1958 Abana Sindhi film [44]
1959 Bus Conductor Mala
1960 Love in Simla Sonia Debut as lead [45]
Parakh Seema
Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai [46]
1961 Hum Dono Mita
1962 Prem Patra Kavita Kapoor
Man Mauji Rani [47]
Ek Musafir Ek Hasina Asha
Asli-Naqli Renu
1963 Mere Mehboob Husna Banu Changezi Also playback singer [48]
1964 Woh Kaun Thi? Sandhya / Sandhya's twin Double role [49]
Rajkumar Princess Sangeeta
Picnic Unreleased [50]
Dulha Dulhan Rekha / Chanda
1965 Waqt Meena Mittal [51]
Arzoo Usha
1966 Mera Saaya Geeta / Raina (Nisha) Double role)
Gaban Jalpa
Budtameez Shanta
1967 Anita Anita / Maya
1969 Sachaai Shobha Dayal
Intaquam Reeta Mehra [52]
Ek Phool Do Mali Somna
1970 Ishq Par Zor Nahin Sushma Rai [53]
1971 Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee Neena Bakshi
1972 Dil Daulat Duniya Roopa
1973 Hum Sub Chor Hain Special appearance
1974 Geeta Mera Naam Kavita / Neeta / Geeta Double role; also director
Chhote Sarkar Radhika [54]
1975 Vandana Rekha [55]
1977 Amaanat Suchitra [56]
1978 Mehfil Shalini / Ratnabai Double role
1994 Ulfat Ki Nayee Manzeelein Sadhana Final film / Delayed release [57]


Year Award Category Film Result Ref.
1965 Filmfare Awards Best Actress Woh Kaun Thi? Nominated [58]
1966 Waqt Nominated [59]
2002 IIFA Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Won [60]


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