The first time I heard the word ‘Sadhana Cut’ was when an older cousin sister had come over to my house sporting a chic fringe. While we school-going younger sisters in our plain pigtails and ponytails were raving about this new look, my grandmother who entered the room too see what the noise was all about, looked at this new hairdo and very nonchalantly remarked, “Oh, it’s just the Sadhana Cut.”
In Bollywood of the 60s when concepts like ‘styling’ were only at their nascent stage, one woman was setting a timeless trend amongst Indian women with her path-breaking hairdo. This was veteran actress Sadhana Shivdasani, popularly known as just Sadhana and her haircut-a soft-fringe; a novelty for that time was coined the ‘Sadhana Cut’. When she passed away in December 2015 after a long battle with cancer, there were a number of tweets that spoke of her iconic style, especially her haircut that was a ‘rage’ at the time; with most Indian women emulating her look.
The story goes that when Sadhana was making her debut in R.K. Nayyar’s film Love In Simla, the director was unhappy with the actress’ final “look”. In the film, Sadhana played a plain Jane who is ignored by the hero; Joy Mukerjee — until her grandmother gives her a makeover. “I had a broad forehead therefore Nayyar saab decided to give me a hair style which would hide my forehead. (He) had seen the Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn, who used to have a fringe. He brought her picture and showed it to our hair stylist. The idea clicked,” she reportedly said in an interview.
The Sadhana Cut was a watermark style-statement for a time when Sadhana’s contemporaries; leading actresses Meena Kumari and Vaijayantimala were giving no attention to hair. With the Sadhana Cut, for the first time, Indian women could keep their long tresses; a traditional mark of beauty while still opting for visible change in their look with a fringe and bangs.
Sadhana who was hailed for her performances in films like ‘Ek Musafir’, ‘Ek Hasina’, ‘Asli Naqli’, ‘Mere Mehboob’, ‘Waqt’, ‘Aarzoo’ and ‘Mera Saaya’ did not receive her status as a style icon only for her hair-cut. The winged eye-liner that has made a comeback today, was part of her look long before it became a trend. She was also the first to wear body-hugging kurtas and churidars; which finally allowed bodycon as a possibility in the traditional Indian wardrobe.
These individual elements of her style created a new standard of beauty in Bollywood; a demure kind of sexiness that still remains in the memories of those who belonged to her era.
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