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Last Updated 31.03.2020 | 1:36 PM IST
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Mother for all seasons – Achala Sachdev


Achala Sachdev died as she lived - silently. Playing the quintessential Indian mother on screen, her voyage in Hindi films began with the 1938 movie Fashionable Wife. In a career which spanned over seven decades, she acted in more than 250 Hindi films. Some of her milestone films include Nine Hours to Rama, The Householder, Mera Naam Joker, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege, and Kal Ho Naa Ho. Her most memorable roles were however set 30 years apart - as Balraj Sahni's wife in Waqt (1965), and Kajol's grandmother in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege (1995). Her most recent film was Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, in which she plays the role of Amitabh Bachchan's mother.


Achala Sachdev died as she lived - silently. Playing the quintessential Indian mother on screen, her voyage in Hindi films began with the 1938 movie Fashionable Wife. In a career which spanned over seven decades, she acted in more than 250 Hindi films. Some of her milestone films include Nine Hours to Rama, The Householder, Mera Naam Joker, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege, and Kal Ho Naa Ho. Her most memorable roles were however set 30 years apart - as Balraj Sahni's wife in Waqt (1965), and Kajol's grandmother in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege (1995). Her most recent film was Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, in which she plays the role of Amitabh Bachchan's mother.

Amitabh Bachchan, remembers her as a soft-hearted and benevolent human beings. He tweeted, "Deeply saddened to learn of the news of Achala Sachdevji passing away. She was as benevolent and soft hearted in personal life as in the characters she played on screen. Prayers and condolences."

"No one deserves this," says Kamini Kaushal, a peer, who has not shared screen space with Sachdev but shared insights about her life. "It's unfortunate that such a gracious human being would be saying her last goodbye all alone in a hospital bed. No one to hold her hand, soothe her eyes and help her say goodbye. Surely, lots of people will have to make up the lapse and in their prayers send her loads of love, wish her, eternal happiness and thank her for just being herself."


According to Kaushal, "When I think of Achala Sachdev, I think of her all pervading gentleness; the gentleness that flowed out of her smiling face, a face which was quiet, benevolent, soft and non aggressive. That was her." She continues, "Achala started playing mature roles long before she actually deserved to; and fitted into them gracefully. Her smiling eyes and mellow voice won many hearts and she won mine," concludes the veteran actor.

"The day Achala Sachdev passed away some channel was playing tribute to Manna Dey who had given playback for Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen. It was very poignant," points out Maithili Rao, a senior film critic. To date, Ae Meri… is the only vehicle with which Sachdev is strongly associated with. The 250 films which she is credited with are roles where she has played a bhabhi or a mother. "Her's was an indistinguishable face," says Rao. "Sometimes she had a faint resemblance to Sulochana. She also had a certain dignity and grace but not a strong screen presence. Waqt is the only strong remembrance I have of her."

Despite the numerous viewings of Waqt, no one gave much thought to the track Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen in which Balraj Sahni flirts with his begum played by Achala Sachdev. Whilst all along one was struck by Balraj Sahni's presence, a second and closer look was definitely merited to Achala Sachdev, though a mother of three in the film, she is astounding with her facial expressions - coy, blushing smiles using her eyes to utter advantage to convey her embarrassment and at the same time her affection.


"There isn't a single hero of the 1960s she hasn't played mother to," avers Dinesh Raheja, Editor, Bollywood News Service and author. "She was ideally suited to play an elitist mother. Though mothers in the films of the 1970s were good persons; she played Zeenat Aman's mother in Hare Rama Hare Krishna with shades of grey, where her neglect leads her daughter to drugs."

Raheja remembers her as Raju's (Raj Kapoor) mother in Mera Naam Joker. "There is a beautiful scene where she meets the Russian artiste. They don't speak each other's language but yet they communicate." Referring to the singular Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen, Raheja maintains that "The way she blushed is a reference point. She has a lot of poise and very expressive face."

Though she did minuscule roles, she stood out, as she did in Heer Ranjha as the bhabhi. She was convincing as a city woman or a village woman as well with a sweet honey voice. Accordingly to Raheja, "Achala Sachdev was passionate about films till she died. The desire to work was there. She always wanted to be in front of the camera."

Screen India

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