Sadhana: A Tribute to the late but dazzling star on her birthday
There are women who are beautiful and there are women who are lovely. But Sadhana was one such ethereal exception who, apart from being beautiful and lovely, also had graceful and vibrant simplicity to take our breath away. In the golden era of 1960s, when melody was king, Sadhana lent meaning to many a great song because the lyrics literally symbolised her mesmerising demeanour.
Go down the nostalgia lane and you realise why she was not just idolised but also regarded as the ultimate “Phoolon ki Rani, Baharon ki Mallika” of everyman’s “Arzoo”. Or why everyone said “Bahut Shukriya, Badi Meherbaani, Meri Zindagi Mein Huzoor Aap Aaye” (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena) when she treaded across the screen into their hearts. Unlike modern-day heroines who crave for attention with indecent postures across print and audio-visual media, Sadhana’s dignified presence ignited mass hysteria of adoration whereby she was above reproach, cat calls or ogling. Across cultural spectrums, Sadhana was a deity of innocence and purity who was to be revered and never to be trifled even in your dreams.
If ever a film heroine in India can be credited for unleashing a cult or fashion mania, it was charming Sadhana. Never before and never thereafter has any actress generated a mass frenzy as Sadhana was able to do with her hairstyle, clothes and fashion accessories in an era devoid of mass media. Not just women but men too were absolutely bonkers about Sadhana’s looks and dresses, sighing and adoring when the actress strode in different costumes upon the silver screen. Film devotees recall how from kindergarten to university campuses, girls adorned their foreheads with Sadhana fringes, while also adopting her sartorial accoutrements of exquisitely cut churidaar-kameez with mojdis for making an impact. So strong was her influence, that from early 1960s to mid 1970s you could always see a dozen women inspired by Sadhana’s vision at any function on any given day.
But this did not mean Sadhana was just attractive and elegant. In fact, her inherent talent and haunting on-screen abilities prompted even the great Meena Kumari to label Sadhana as her personal favourite and worthy successor. Surely, none can dispute Meena ji’s assessment especially when it is on par with the opinion of giants like Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, H. S. Rawail and Ramanand Sagar who all found her a spontaneous actress with remarkable depth of expressions. Probably, it would not be wrong to say that Sadhana, alongside her own favourites, Meena Kumari and Nutan, was the most effortless female performer of Indian cinema. While all three were blessed with immense versatility in terms of dialogue delivery, body language and facial expressions as well as getting into the skin of a character, Sadhana scored over her two idols in terms of her vivacious appeal which made her acceptable in rustic and urbane characters with equal ease. Moreover, she exhibited better dancing skills than the other two actresses and this made her an instant hit with audiences of all ages though she never carried out an uncouth movement in her enactments.
Going through Sadhana’s film graph, one is amazed that she merely did around thirty films and yet established a secure place in the pantheon of greats with her outstanding versatility. Everything from a simple village belle to a sophisticated urban woman and a snooty college girl to an orthodox wife, Sadhana enacted her characters with remarkable ease. Look at the giant leap she takes in her roles from “Parakh” to “Hum Dono” or ‘Mere Mehboob” to “Woh Kaun Thi?” or “Waqt” to “Mera Saaya” wherein if she melts into the village girl next door, she also dissolves into a ritual bound Muslim girl or a mysterious seductress or a nautch girl cum high clan bahu with equal ease, exhibiting a wide repertoire of acting skills within the constricting boundaries of commercial cinema.
Even more appealing is the manner in which Sadhana rendered songs on screen becoming a piece of lyric herself! Do rewind to the eternal classic “Tera Mera Pyaar Amar” (Asli Naqli) where she magnifies a woman in love in her first flush of youth with remarkable serenity… it is a scene to die for just as her twinkling smile in “Chehre Pe Khushi” (Waqt) radiates an enormous sense of joy for every beholder. Her fluid expressions add enormously to the impact and emotion of many a song like “Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai’ (Hum Dono), “Naina Barse Rim Zim” (Woh Kaun Thi?), or “Mera Saaya Saath Hoga” (Mera Saaya). Despite being a silent performer in many songs, the pictorial eloquence of her countenance adds volumes to the depth of the scene as deciphered in the immortal song “Mere Mehboob Tujhe” (Mere Mehboob) where the mere lifting of her eyebrows results in a classic ambush of collective consciousness! She even stole the limelight from Shammi Kapoor’s solo “Haseen Ho Tum Khuda Nahin Ho” (Budtameez) with her delectable tantrums in tune with Rafi’s gyrations just as she matched him step by step in the seductive “Dilruba Dil Pe Tu” (Rajkumar).
But once she realised the era was changing, Sadhana quickly vanished behind doors of domesticity. Like a true champion, she made no compromises nor allowed herself to do useless Saas-Bahu-Mother roles. Sadhana is gone but will never be forgotten… since she was simply divine!