The image that comes to mind, when one hears the name Achala Sachdev is that of the coy, shy, smiling wife being serenaded by Balraj Sahni to the tune of Ae meri zohrajabeen in the great classic Waqt (1965). Younger generations are more apt to remember her as Kajol’s grandmother in the super successful Dilwale Dulhaniya le jaayenge (1995) – the frail-looking lady who cheers her stern son, Amrish Puri as he sings Aye meri zohrajabeen in an antakshari. These two images perfectly bracket a prolific career that Achala Sachdev had, excelling as a supporting actor over the better part of a century.
Born in Peshawar in 1920, Achala was the youngest of four sisters. Her father passed away when she was an infant leading to great hardships for her family. She worked for AIR, Lahore, and then for Delhi All India Radio. She used to perform for radio plays during this time. Her Hindi film debut was with Fashionable Wife (1938). At only twenty years of age, she was asked to play the role of a mother onscreen. As per tradition, this led to her being typecast as a mother throughout her career. She continued to work for the radio while appearing in movies such as Maa (1952), Rahi (1952), Footpath (1953), Chandni Chowk (1954), Naukri (1954), Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957) and Adalat (1958) in the fifties. The sixties were more memorable for Achala as she won immediate recognition for Waqt (1965). Her other memorable films post this period include Arzoo (1965), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), Julie (1975), Chandni (1989), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001) and Kal Ho Na Ho (2003). Over her career, she developed long-enduring friendships with a number of eminent film personalities, among them were Kalpana Karthik and Meena Kumari. She frequently worked with Sunil Dutt and Raj Kapoor.
While her first marriage with Dyan Sachdev ended in a divorce, she found love for the second time when she met Clifford Douglas Peters on the sets of a Yash Chopra film. His first wife had died and she was divorced. She married him and shifted to Bhosari, where he owned a factory.
After acting in more than 250 films, she passed away due to respiratory failure on 30 April 2012. She was 92 years old. She was survived by her son, Jyotin.