Among the film stars Sandhya holds a unique place. While all other stars have been free-lancing, some of them working in more than twenty pictures at a time, Sandhya has worked for only one producer in her long and illustrious career. Though she made her debut as back as in 1951, so far she has appeared only in dozen pictures all produced by V. Shantaram. Before joining films she had earned fame as a stage artiste on professional Gujarati stage. Shantaram assigned her the leading female role in the Marathi film ‘Amar Bhoopali’ based on the life of eighteenth century Marathi poet Honaji. Every song in the film was written by the poet.The picture proved a tremendous success. Even in a place like Bangalore it ran for six weeks and no less a person than Nitin Bose dubbed it in Bengali in 1952.
In ‘Amar Bhoopali’ she played the role of folk dancer Gunvanti with rare zest and vigour which won her high accolades both for her dancing and acting. She made her dubut on Hindi screen in ‘Parchaiyan’, in which she played a significant role, along with Jayashree and V. Shantaram. But she revealed her individuality and flair for doing off-beat roles in ‘Teen Batti Char Rasta’ in which she played the pivotal role of an ugly singer.
For the sake of the role, she put on a dark make-up and eschewed all glamour. The film which carried the message of national and emotional integration was a popular success and also won critical acclaim. But as a dancer and an artiste she rose to great heights in V. Shantaram’s first technicolor movie ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje’ in which she co-starred with Gopi Krishna. Though not a professional dancer, Sandhya proved more than a match for the accomplished Kathak exponent. Apart from starting a new era of colour films, the picture created a record by running for 100 weeks at one theatre in Bombay and won several awards for the film as well as Sandhya.
Sandhya revealed a new facet of her acting talent in V. Shantaram’s next picture ‘Do Ankhen Barah Haath’ in which she played the role of a pedlar who silently loves the jailor. Her love is expressed only in one shot at the end. When she comes to know the jailor is dead she bangs her hands against the wall, breaking her bangles—as if she has become a widow! An off-beat role portrayed with restraint and skill.
In ‘Navrang’ Sandhya played a sort of double role. On one hand, she, played the role of an ordinary prosaic housewife of a poet, on the other she played the role of the girl of poet’s imagination dancing and singing his songs. She was able to create two entirely different images. And while the housewife looked `real’ the woman created by the poet’s imagination appeared to be ‘illusive’.
After Navrang’, Sandhya played the role of Shakuntala ‘Stree’, which Shantaram described as a faithful version of Kalidasa’s play unlike his earlier version in which he had taken liberties from the classic. Unfortunately the film did not create the same sensation that the earlier version had created. Sandhya appeared in another love-story in ‘Sehra’. It was followed by ‘Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli’ in which once again Sandhya revealed her dancing talent at its best. Though earlier Sandhya had almost to give up dancing because of back-ache, she staged a comeback as a dancer in this picture with a vengeance. Her snake dance, beautifully shot in outdoors, was a real esthetic visual delight to watch.
Sandhya reverted to Marathi films with ‘Iye Marathichiya Nagari’ (the Hindi version of which was ‘Sahyadri Ki Ladki). The picture failed to make impact. It was followed by `Pinjra’ which created new box-office history. And her sternest critics acclaimed her performance in glowing terms. In `Pinjra’ the acting honours were shared by Sri Ram Lagu and Sandhya. She played the role of a Tamasha dancer who is determined to almost seduce the Puritan Guruji. She succeeds in making Guruji fall for her and join her troupe. But in the process she also falls for him. All the different shades and changes in the character were portrayed subtlyby Sandhya. What is more, she brought grace, ‘dignity and spectacular charm to Tamasha dancing.
Her latest picture ‘Chandanachi Choli Ang Ang Jali’ has now been released. In this — her twelfth picture in 24 years — Sandhya essays a difficult role of a Tamasha dancer yearning to be a housewife and posing as a housewife. She has played it with skill and also given a series of dance-number in folk style with her new improvisations. Thus both as a dancer and an artiste Sandhya has created a special position for herself. Married to V. Shantaram in private life she leads almost a secluded life from the madding crowd of the film world. She is now entering 25th, silver jubilee year of her career with sense of peace and tranquility seldom achieved by film stars in India! (Profile written by V.P.S. in 1975)