Sadhana Shivdasani
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 names"The Mystery Girl", "First Female Fashion Icon"
Alma materJai Hind College, Mumbai (B.A. English Literature)
Years active1958–1981
Known forActing, Beauty and Style
Notable workAsli Naqli (1962)

Mere Mehboob (1963) Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) Arzoo (1965) Waqt (1965) Mera Saaya (1966) Intaqam (1969)

Ek Phool Do Mali (1969)
StyleSadhana Cut, Figure Hugging Salwars, Mojris etc.
Height1.7 m (5 ft 7 in)
(m. 1966; died 1995)
RelativesSee Shivdasani family
AwardsIIFA Lifetime Achievement Award (2002)

Sadhana Shivdasani (2 September 1941 – 25 December 2015),[1] known mononymously as Sadhana, was an Indian actress who worked in Hindi films, primarily active between 1958-1981. Regarded as one of the finest and iconic actresses of the golden age of Hindi Cinema, Sadhana was noted for her exquisite beauty, understated acting and trend-setting fashion statements. Popularly known as "The Mystery Girl" for her stint as the "mysterious woman" in the suspense thriller trilogy films directed by Raj Khosla during the mid 1960s, Sadhana was ranked among the highest-paid actresses in the country from mid-1960s to early 1970s.[2][3]

Born in Karachi, Sadhana and her family migrated to Bombay during the partition of India when she was 7 years old. She aspired to become an actress since her childhood. After making an unnoticed and uncredited appearance in Shree 420 (1955), Sadhana 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, Sadhana went on to establish herself as an actress with several box-office hits, including the social satire and light hearted romantic dramas such as Parakh (1960) and Asli-Naqli (1962), the war film Hum Dono (1961) and the adventurous thriller Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962).[4][5]

She followed this initial success with her greatest commercial successes—the Muslim social romantic drama Mere Mehboob (1963), the costume drama Rajkumar (1964), romantic family drama Arzoo (1965); the multi-starrer Waqt (1965) and the mystery-thriller trilogy such as Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967).

Her 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 for her contributions to Indian cinema.

Sadhana was married to her Love in Simla director R.K. Nayyar on 7 March,1966.[2] Their marriage lasted for nearly 30 years and ended when Nayyar died in September 1995 due to Astma.

She was admitted to Hinduja Hospital on 24 December 2015, following a high fever and also complained of breathlessness. She died on the morning of 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 second 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. Sadhana had an elder sister named Sarla Shivdasani.

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.[7]

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 (first from right) with Helen, Waheeda Rehman and Nanda in 2010
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 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] 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.[20]

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.[21][22]

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][23] The style was copied by girls in India and is still known by the same name.[24] 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.[25] 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).[26] Sadhana is also credited with bringing into fashion the tight churidar-kurta.[25][23] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[29]


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[30] and suffered from illness.[31] She had undergone an emergency surgery due to a bleeding oral lesion in December 2014 at the K J Somaiya Medical College.[32][33]

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,[34] 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.[35][36]


Year Movie Role Note
1955 Shree 420[7] Chorus girl Cameo role in the song "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh"
1958 Abana[7] First Sindhi film
1960 Love in Simla[7] Sonia Sadhana debut film as a lead actress
Parakh[7] Seema Hit Song "O Sajna Barkha Bahar"
1961 Hum Dono[7] Mita Hit Song "Abhi Na Jao Chodkar", a duet by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi
1962 Prem Patra[7] Kavita Kapoor
Man Mauji[37] Rani Famous song "Zaroorat Hain Zaroorat Hain", by Kishore Kumar
Ek Musafir Ek Hasina[7] Asha Hit songs are "Bahut Shukriya Badi Meherbani", Mohammad Rafi and "Zaban e Yaar Manturki", a duet by Asha Bhosle & Mohammad Rafi
Asli-Naqli[37] 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[7] 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?[7] 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[7] 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[38]
Dulha Dulhan[37] Rekha / Chanda Romantic song "Humne Tujhko Pyar Kiya Hain"
1965 Waqt[7] 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[7] 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[7] 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[37] Jalpa Hit Song "Tum Bin Saajan Barse Nayan"
Budtameez[37] 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[7] 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[7] Reeta Mehra Hit Songs "Hum Tumhare Liye", "Geet tere Saaz Ka" & "Kaise Rahun Chup"
Ek Phool Do Mali[7] 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[39] Sushma Rai "Yeh Dil Diwana Hain", "Sach Kehti Hain Duniya", "O Mere Bairagi Bhanwara" and "Mehbooba Teri Tasveer"
1971 Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee[37] 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[37] 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[7] 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[40] Radhika Hit song 'Tere chehre main hai jo baat' by Mohammad Rafi and 'Kya roz roz peena' sung by Asha bhosle
1975 Vandana[41] Hit songs "Manmohana Tu Jo Bhi De", Aapki Inayate Aapke Karam" sung by Lata Mangeshkar
1977 Amaanat[42] Suchitra Famous Songs like "Door Rehkar Na Karo Baat" sung by Mohammad Rafi, "Matlab Nikal Gaya To", "Teri Jawani Tapta Mahina"
1981 Mehfil[39] Shalini / Ratnabai (Double Role) Delayed Release
1994 Ulfat Ki Nayee Manzeelein[43] Sadhana's final screen appearance Delayed release


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