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26 December 2015

Abhi Na Jao Chhodkar...

...sang another legend, Dev Anand, to his beautiful heroine in Hum Dono. Ke dil abhi bhara nahin...
02.09.1941 - 25.12.2015
This was not the post I'd planned for today. But Sadhana's death was the headline that greeted me today morning. It is inevitable; death comes to everyone, after all, but it is still shocking and sad when it comes to those whom we have known and loved, even if we did not 'know' them at all.  But my heart sank another link in the chain that binds us to memories past has broken. 

Sadhana – Sadhana Shivdasani to give her her full name – waltzed into our lives in the sharpness of black and white, and slipped as easily into colour, looking gorgeous as only she could. The girl who first faced the camera as a back-up dancer in Mud mudke na dekh, and as the second lead in a Sindhi film named Abana, came into her own in the leading role in Love in Simla, a film made to launch the producer's son, Joy Mukherjee. At the same time, she was acting in a 'serious' and deglamourised role in Bimal Roy's Parakh, proving she could play both westernised 'modern' roles and a simple village girl.  

Sadhana didn't have Saira's porcelain perfection, nor Waheeda's grace as a dancer. But she had something priceless natural charm that the camera loved. Sadhana may have dismissed herself as merely 'lovely' and 'attractive' audiences begged to differ. They fell in love with her gamin charm, and lyricists wrote odes to her beauty.  Who can forget her as the aptly-named Husna of MereMehboob? Her beauty and acting chops ensured that she straddled the middle cinema of Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, as well as high-voltage commercial entertainers, slipping into the myriad roles with the ease of a natural performer. She was as at home in cotton saris and simple hairstyles in Parakh, Asli Naqli, Hum Dono, et al, as she was as the super-stylised sophisticate of Waqt and Arzoo, striking in her bouffant, chiffons and pearls.

My first recollection of watching Sadhana on screen was in Arzoo. In a dimly lit dilapidated theatre in Bangalore, well before TV entered our home, I watched engrossed as Rajendra Kumar romanced a beautiful Sadhana in the vales of Kashmir. To say she entranced a little child would not be an exaggeration. Sadhana was the epitome of the heroines in all the stories I'd heard or read until then - beautiful, kind, unattainable. 

There are many more reasons to remember her elfin presence a fringe inspired by Audrey Hepburn to cover her broad forehead that became famous as the 'Sadhana Cut'. The skin-tight kameezes with churidars that she had designed for her that so scandalised director Yash Chopra when she debuted them in Waqt. 

Unlike many of her predecessors, however, memories are all we have had of the reclusive actress for many, many years before she died. When a thyroid condition cut short her leading roles, she made a conscious decision to retire, never once tempted to come out of that self-imposed retirement. With all her personal tragedies, she lived a reasonably content life, all on her own, sharing a warm camaraderie with her erstwhile peers Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Helen, Shammi, the late Nanda, etc.

On December 25, 2015 – Christmas Day – she passed away, alone, leaving us with only our memories to remember her by. (It seems sadly ironic that I reviewed her Arzoo just a short while ago.) 'Call it egotism if you want, but I want my fans to remember me as I was, not as I am,' she had once said in a rare interview. And perhaps that is the way to remember one of my favourite actresses - frozen on screen, in all her beauty and grace, for all time.  

Here, in remembrance, are some of my favourite Sadhana songs...  

Parakh (1960)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Shailendra
A song in the background, Lata's voice merging with the almost-choral sounding music (Salilda at his best), the pain and pathos in her voice mirrored in Sadhana's eyes. A song that sings of such despair, a sadness that is consigned to the depths of the mind, that cannot be spoken out aloud perhaps. And Sadhana goes about her daily chores, quietly, resigned to the unhappiness of her circumstances. Aag ke phool, aanchal mein daale huye, kab se jalaata hai woh aasmaan dekhle... It is a sweet song (in a film that, equally gently, satirised the Indian democracy), the minimal instrumentation allowing Lata's voice to soar and ebb with all the feeling that she is capable of, and one that is a perennial favourite both for the singing, the music and the picturisation.  

2. Jo humne dastaan apni sunaayi
Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
It is Lag jaa gale that is the crown of a wonderful score, but this song, not quite as popular as that or as Naina barse, is a personal favourite. In a film where the hero is being driven steadily insane, it is his unfortunate wife who has to bear the consequences of his near-psychosis. Eventually, she is forced to leave him, but before she does, she asks him why it is that he feels the pain of her leaving. Why is it that, even though it is he who wants her to leave, when it is he who blames her for events beyond her control, he is hurting as much. His sorrow will make her grieve as well, she tells him Na ye aansoo ruke toh dekhiye, phir hum bhi ro denge, Hum apne aansuon mein chaand taaron ko dubo denge, Fanaa ho jaayegi saari khudaai, aap kyun roye...

3. Main toh tum sang nain milake
Manmauji (1962)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
If only one can guard one's heart against being hurt... a plaint of a broken heart, where one wishes that one had never loved at all. While the story revolved more around the brother-sister relationship (Kishore Kumar/Naaz), Sadhana played his love interest, as bothered by having to face the consequences of his lies as his family. In one of his frequent vanishing acts, he leaves her bereft, and wishing she had never met him, let alone fallen in love with him. Na milti ye bairan ankhiyaan, Chain na jaata dil bhi na rota, Kaash kisi se pyaar na hota... Rajinder Krishan's lyrics find their complement in the anguish in Lata's voice and Sadhana's tear-filled eyes. The melody's gentle melancholy is lifted by Madan Mohan's lighter musical interludes, and showcases the master  composer's tuning with his muse, Lata.

4. Kaun aaya ke nigaahon mein
Waqt (1965)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

This is a happier song one where Meena is waiting for the man she loves, singing of the anticipation of his arrival. Only, her sole audience mistakes her earlier graciousness for love, and assumes she's singing about him. Can't really blame him since she looks gorgeous anyway, and she is singing: Rooh khilne lagi saanson mein mehak jaag uthi,
Dil ke soye huye taaron mein khanak jaag uthi
... Sadhana didn't have much to do in this tale of a family separated due to circumstances, except look glamorous and be arm candy. She did both, with great panache. It was for this film that, tired of the saris and salwar-kameezes that were the heroines' usual attire, Sadhana got her personal stylist –
a young Bhanu Athaiyyato give the churidar-kameez a chic makeover. While Yash Chopra, as mentioned before, was scandalised, Bhanu Athaiyya was also taken aback the churidar-kameez was seen as a Muslim attire. So Sadhana redesigned the look of the kurta, making it more modern, and so tight she could have been poured into it. 

5. Nainon mein badra chhaye
Mera Saaya
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Nainon mein badra chhaye is a requiem to a dream and is sung beautifully by Lata Mangeshkar. Sadhana plays, no, not a ghost, but a woman who, arrested as part of a gang responsible for the dacoity in the area, claims she is a renowned lawyer's wife, kidnapped by the dacoits. The problem? The lawyer has just lost his wife. What muddies the case is that she appears to know a lot about the lawyer's personal life. Could she be...? Or is she lying? Part of Raj Khosla's ghostly trilogy that began with Woh Kaun Thi? and ended with Anita, Mera Saaya also had a great score by Madan Mohan. (For trivia lovers, the sitar interludes are played by Ustad Raees Khan.) It is one of my favourite numbers from this film, and Sadhana brings out the angst of a young woman whose husband will not acknowledge her as his wife, as she tries to reconcile him to her: Madira mein doobi ankhiyaan, Chanchal hain donon sakhiyaan, Dhalti rahengi tohe, Palkon ki pyaari pakhiyaan...  

6. Dukh aur sukh ke raaste
Hum Dono (1961)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Jaidev
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Once in a while, you get a man-woman relationship on screen that is so much more than the expected billing and cooing. Here is one such, a very mature love that is strong in itself, and trusts the other so much so that they can share their sorrows and comfort each other. Dev Anand's character has been forced to masquerade as another woman's husband in order to save her life; here, on the other hand, is the woman whom he has always loved, and whom he'd thought he'd lost a woman who questions him outright when he snarks at her riches. It is his insecurity, not hers that caused them to part, she tells him, and his inability to trust her love that has brought them to this pass. But here, just now, she is offering the comfort only she can offer, and he, grateful for her love and her trust, is able to take solace in her arms. Why can he not confide in her, she queries: Jo mujhse bhi chhupaaoge, Toh phir kise bataaoge, Main koi ghair toh nahin, Dilaaoon kis tarah yakeen, Ki tumse main juda nahin, mujhse tum juda nahin...

7. Ab aur na kuch bhi yaad raha
Prem Patra (1962)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
Like Parakh, Salilda crafted a wonderful score for this film, though it is not as well-known as the former. In a film that had the unknowingly ironic Ye mere andhere ujaale na hote, and the quietly romantic Saawan ki raaton mein, this song hasn't received the same popularity. I like it, however, for the quiet contentment that is evident in its lyics: Mujhko tamanna koyi nahin, Teri muhabbat teri chaahat, meri daulat, Mujhko tamanna koyi nahin, dil tere siwa sab bhool gaya, Aur na kuch bhi yaad raha... It is said that Bimal Roy was so impressed with how Sadhana portayed her role as the village post-master's daughter in Parakh that he promptly signed her for his next venture. As Kavita, a young girl whose one misstep leads to a fellow student being unjustly suspended from college, Sadhana does a good job of bringing out Kavita's guilt, her nascent attraction towards the young man who now hates her, her initial reluctance to write to him but her happiness at receiving his reply, her genuine affection and love for him, and her distress at having to deal with the fact that he thinks she is another woman altogether... 

8. Meri nazren haseen
Ek Musafir Ek Haseena
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Shehwan Rizwi 
Sadhana seems to have many songs that sing of her beautiful eyes and very, very beautiful they were, too! Meri nazren haseen hain ki tum ho haseen, Ye samajhne ki mujhko zaroorat nahin, Baat nazron ki hai baat kuchh bhi nahin, Jisko dil chaahe duniya mein hai woh haseen... One of the earliest road movies in Hindi films, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena saw Sadhana reunite with Joy Mukherjee, the hero of her debut film. It is a film that boasted of a stellar score by OP Nayyar, most of them duets. This one is not as well-known as the others, and honestly, is not as much a favourite as Mujhe dekhkar aap ka muskurana or even Bahut shukriya badi meherbani, but it is a solo number, and is quite a pleasant one at that.

Arzoo (1965)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
At a party where Usha, upon being importuned to sing by her uncle, demurs, Rajendra Kumar's Gopal pretends he will leave if she doesn't. He even hands her his teacup. Of course, since he's only pretending, she knows he will not leave. For, if he does, where will he go? And, while she's teasing him – being as coquettish and as playful as only Sadhana could be – she's also telling him how much she loves him, and while it's difficult to say so outright, perhaps he can read what her eyes tell him Jo dil mein hai hothon pe laana bhi mushkil, Magar usko dil mein chhupaana bhi mushkil, Nazar ki zubaan se samajh jaayiyega, Samajh kar zara gaur farmaayiyega... It is still not a plea for his love, but a challenge – let me know what you think! Attagirl!

10. Humne tujhko pyar kiya hai jitna
Dulha Dulhan (1964)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyrics: Indeewar
Sadhana was 'introduced' as a backup dancer in Shree 420. Years later, she would be cast alongside Raj Kapoor in a film which she claimed was so bad, no one should watch it. The story is so convoluted, she can be forgiven for saying that. But despite some glaring plot holes, I found it reasonably entertaining. And while Raj Kapoor was a bit long in the tooth, he did a good job as the middle-class struggler making ends meet as an occasional All India Radio artiste. Sadhana played twin roles – that of a rich and sophisticated woman, and the other, a simple village girl.  The music is by Kalyanji-Anandji, not one of my favourite music duos, but the song – with both a male and female version – is quite a pleasant one. 

Thus endeth an era – or, at least, another of its glorious chapters. Rest in peace, Sadhana. You will be missed... ke dil abhi bhara nahin...

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