I though about not posting this today, because it is Christmas, but then I thought a little more, and I realized it isn’t really a sad post at all. Sadhana passed away yesterday, which I learned through Aamir Khan’s twitter. I have no idea how he found out. Spies at the hospital?
Anyway, Sadhana sounds like a nice lady who had a pretty nice life, and then died. Which is a pretty nice epitaph!
(If you feel the need to honor her by watching one of her films, I highly recommend Waqt. It is very cheerful and Christmas appropriate, lots of family values.)
She was also part of a very specific era of Indian heroines. When I say “heroines”, I don’t mean like “female protagonist characters”, I mean “female actors who reach a certain level of fame and are equivalent to the ‘heros’ of the day.”
In the early years of Indian film, the female actresses tended to be a bit declasse. They came from entertainer families, courtesan families, refugees and fallen women. Film was a last resort.
But, by the 60s, a new generation of actresses came to be, respectable, middle-class, educated girls. They were pretty and bright and modern and happy. This was Sadhana.
She was discovered as a teenager when a producer saw her in a college play. She fell in love with the director of one of her first films, who was also the inventor of the “Sadhana fringe” hairstyle, which swept through India after her first onset photos were released. They were married, no children, and she continued to work. She and her husband even founded a somewhat successful production company together.
In later years, she became something of a recluse, not out of sadness or shyness, but because she felt she owed it to her fans to remain that young, bright, happy face, and not let them see her aging. But, she remained close to her fellow “heroines”. She would occasionally be seen out with the “girl gang” of Nanda, Helen, Waheeda Rahman, and Asha Parakh. She is generally seen as closer with them, than she is with her own cousin, Babita (mother of Kareena and Karisma Kapoor).
I think this is the true magic of those 60s heroine, the best part of that era, which Sadhana had a large hand in creating. Unlike the years before, when actresses were just scraping by and often fiercely competitive with each other, and the years after, when they became too big to enjoy the regular stuff of life, in the 60s, these actresses formed the laughing, kidding, youthful and happy kind of friendships you make with your female friends in your twenties, the kind of friendships that end up growing into lifelong support and love.