Actors · Swansong

Goodbye Sridevi

I will miss you, Sridevi. Thank you kindly for all those deeply satisfying, funny, sad, happy, magic moments on screen.

All fire, epitome of grace she was an acting institution. The actress did all kinds of cinema with superb conviction – commercial, B-grade, A-grade, critical in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada languages. From thunder thighs to the top slot in Hindi cinema, any number of words would fall short to describe Sridevi’s talent.

A wizard, Sridevi had the ability to carry off anything and everything. Pick any of her chart-bursting songs from the 80s, Naino Mein Sapna, Gori Tere Ang Ang Mein or Baap Ki Kasam and you will see how dignified she appeared despite the ridiculous outfits and sets.

Her fortunes changed with the super success of Nagina which is why I share this song. I remember a friend in school had raved to me about this movie and I went to watch it. All ready to mock the snake story, I thought she was beyond terrific though.

If you ever get a chance, watch it just to experience her. In Main Teri Dushman, she was flawless in each and every movement, choreographed by Saroj Khan. The passion, the elegance and the fury she conveys convinces you as a viewer. I feel moved every single time. That this is it – the woman power we always talk about. The ability to crush those who want to harm you or your kin.

Post the success of Nagina (1986), Sridevi was on a roll with author-backed roles Mr India (1987), Chaalbaaz (1989), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991) and Khudagawah (1992) even as she continued to work on commercial fare like Waqt Ki Awaaz (1988), Joshilay (1989) and Naakabandi (1990). Judaai (1997) was her last movie around the same time she married producer Boney Kapoor.

English Vinglish, her comeback movie in 2012, showed us her depth and range way beyond. I watched Mom last year and realised that she was still capable of lifting an average movie with the flicker in her eye or the subtlety of her body language.

Her personal story was tragic. A child actress who was robbed of her childhood yet enjoyed her craft and as a teenager was a breadwinner for the family. As an adult, despite her super success, she was highly introverted although she loved the camera. I suspect she saved all her vocal energy and expressions for the silver screen. Remember the Chaplin influence in the Mr. India casino scene, the drunken scenes from Chaalbaaz or her well of emotions as she walks in Gustakh Dil.

Sridevi did find an anchor and love with Boney, who was smitten by her. Married at the time, he stood by her through some challenging times. They didn’t have an easy journey with Kapoor’s first family looming large in their early married life together. To his credit, Boney has been vocal about his love for her.

It wouldn’t have been easy to be Sridevi. And we will never know what went on with her as she chose to keep quiet about most things. She made it all look easy even as she created a career and life out of the choices that were available to her. In recent years, she was active on social media sharing family photos, always flawless in her designer wear.

Last year, during Mom promotions when her comment on daughter Janhvi’s career was taken out of context in various reports, she took to twitter to clarify her stance. “My comment was misunderstood and it really concerns me that it’s sounding like I believe girls are only meant to get married and settle down. That’s not what I want for my daughters, I want them to be able to stand on their own feet and have their own identity. I’ve always told them never to be dependent on anyone in any capacity. It’s very important to me that young girls understand that the end goal of their life is not to get married and have babies, they have every right to make something of themselves if they wish to. What I meant to say initially was that I would prefer if my daughters didn’t lead the kind of hectic life that comes with this business and instead have a relatively stable and relaxed life. But they are ambitious and I have come to respect that like every parent should, and that respect overshadows my parental instincts now.”

Her daughter will have different choices and a different life than her mother. It is sad that Sridevi will not be around to live that journey with Janhvi.

As an actress, I’ll miss watching her future performances. That smile, which traveled effortlessly to those lovely, saucer eyes. The pain, always palpable on screen enough to make you want to hug her. A fighting spirit, like the venomous bite of a naagin, ready to strike and protect her loved ones. Finding her voice in crackling performances.

Rest in peace, India’s first female superstar and highest paid actress. Your 300 movies will keep you alive.

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