Dev Anand had predicted that Sadhana would become a top actress

“If I modeled myself in the lines of anyone, it was Nutan,” said actress Sadhana, 1991 after Nutan’s death.

Bimal Ray was fascinated by Sadhana’s innocence, good looks and sonorous voice. No wonder he cast her as the heroine in his social satire Parakh in 1960. Sadhana’s lipping, O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aye in natural light created a sensation. Bimal Ray described Sadhana as an effortless performer. In Prem Patra she was pitted opposite the handsome Shashi Kapoor by Bimal Ray. In an emotional scene, Sadhana cried so naturally that Shashi Kapoor forgot how to react. Sadhana helped her new co-star to gain confidence and perform. Under Bimal Ray’s efficient direction Shashi Kapoor conveyed his feelings with a right eyebrow twitch. Both Sadhana and Shashi Kapoor paired well and performed with conviction in Prem Patra.

Sadhana was a student at Filmalaya Acting School in the mid- 50s. Once Dev Anand spotted her and complimented her saying she was very pretty. He also predicted she would become a top actress in the near future. Dev Anand kept his promise by casting Sadhana in the lead along with Nanda in the masterpiece Hum Dono in 1961. Needless to mention both the actress excelled in performing with Dev Anand who was at his altruistic best in his first-ever double role.

There was no looking back for Sadhana. She again paired successfully with Dev Anand in Asli Naqli. In both Hum Dono and Asli Naqli, Sadhana looked ravishing with the least make-up in black and white. Her romantic saga Sajan Ki Galiyan with Dev Anand and directed by Raj Khosla was never completed due to financial problems.

Sadhana, Asha Parekh and Saira Banu were contemporaries in the 60’s when they started. Among them, Sadhana was the most gifted. Not only was she good-looking, equally at ease with emotions and comedy. Though not a trained dancer like Asha Parekh, Sadhana’s sense of rhythm was appreciable in song sequences like Dilruba Dil Pe Tu and JhumKa Gira Re. Sadhana looked appealing in both Indian and Western outfits. Her favourite co-stars were Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Sunil Dutt. She duly respected Dev Anand and was fond of Manoj Kumar and Sanjoy Khan.

She styled her hair in the Audrey Hepburn fringe manner but never imitated the Hollywood icon. In Mere Mehboob her memorable Muslim social, Sadhana expressed a variety of emotions remarkably, her mobile face created wonders. Her debut was in Love in Shimla directed by RK Nayyar whom she later married. Raj Khosla created suspense with Sadhana’s memorable double roles in Who Kaun Thi and Mera Saya. An eye ailment disturbed Sadhana’s looks in the late 60s. Yet her screen magic was intact in Ek Phool Do Mali and Inteqam.

Ishq Par Zor Nahin in 1970 was a miserable flop and Sadhana lost interest in acting. Her directorial venture Geeta Mera Naam starred her in a double role. Though a big hit the classic touches of Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Arzoo and Waqt were missing. Like Nanda, Sadhana understood well the gross commercialism of the 70’s was not her cup of tea. She retired from acting with true grace after the forgettable Dil Daulat Duniya opposite Rajesh Khanna whom she was not fond of.

After her retirement, Sadhana made occasional public appearances. At Mehboob studio, she burst into tears speaking in memory of Raj Khosla in a condolence meeting organized by producer Johny Bakshi in June 1991. Also present at the occasion were Chetan Anand, B.R. Chopra, Vijay Anand and Yash Chopra.

She directed a film with Sudha Chandran and Dimple Kapadia which was insipid. Her last presence was to win Lifetime’s Achievement Award one and a half decades ago. Though she is no more, her memories still haunt countless admirers. It is not without reason that after Rajkumar, Shammi Kapoor commented that Sadhana overshadowed him in the film with her serenity.

Ranjan Das Gupta

is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He has been doing freelance work for more than 3 decades and writes on arts & culture, cinema, politics, healthcare and education

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