The Diva

Sridevi was the quintessential pixie, but her sensual moves in Mr India, Chandini or Janbaaz wrapped in chiffon made millions swoon to her gyrating beat. Sridevi was a megastar, ruling B Town for years, from Amitabh Bachchan and Feroze Khan, from Anil Kapoor to Salman Khan she acted as their leading lady, she had been there and done that. Sunday morning brought bad news from Dubai that the presiding deity for many years in Bollywood had passed away due a cardiac arrest. It left a feeling of emptiness, a void, for even in her latest work — English Vinglish and Mom, she had played a more mature self with great gravitas and a sense of understatedness. In a 50-year-old career, having started out as a child star down south, she delivered innumerable epic performances, none more beguiling as Sadma. Actually, her first foray into B Town after making a splash opposite Kamal Hassan and Rajnikant was a damp squib Solva Sawan. Trashed by one and all, Sridevi returned to Fortress South in 1979. But she was a determined women and returned with a true blue dramatic performance in Sadma four years later. And then never looked back.

From thereon, she was thundering thighs as she stormed Bollywood with films opposite Jeetendra, who himself was making a comeback Himmatwala, Tohfa and Mawaali.  Nainon Mein Sapna became a rage  in Himmatwala. Many of these movies had what was the triangular casting of Jeetendra, Sridevi and Jayaprada. Chandini, Lamhe, Chaalbaaz and then the Shekhar Kapur blockbuster Mr India followed cementing her place. Her sense of comic timing, her dancing skills and pixie expressions endeared her to the masses. Chaalbaaz a quick reprising of Ram aur Shyam and Seeta aur Geeta showcases her talent and has her in her elements. By now she was Hindi cinema’s undisputed Queen bee and had effectively over turned the Solva Sawan and Thunder Thighs snubs.  The pair of Jeetendra-Sridevi did 16 films together of which Himmatwala (1983), Jaani Dost (1983), Justice Chaudhry (1983), Mawaali (1983), Akalmand (1984), Tohfa (1984), Balidaan (1985), Aulad (1987), Suhagan (1986), Ghar Sansar (1986), Dharm Adhikari (1986), Sone Pe Suhaaga (1988) were successful and Aag Aur Shola (1986), Himmat Aur Mehanat (1987), Sarfarosh (1985) were flops.

She made her Bollywood debut as a child artist in Julie (1975) and played her first adult role at age 13 with the Tamil film Moondru Mudichu (1976). Sridevi established herself as one of the leading actresses of Tamil and Telugu cinema, with leading roles in 16 Vayathinile (1977), Sigappu Rojakkal (1978), Varumayin Niram Sivappu (1980), Meendum Kokila (1981), Premabhishekam (1981), Moondram Pirai (1982), Aakhari Poratam (1988), Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari (1990) and Kshana Kshanam (1991). 

In 1986, came the snake fantasy Nagina which saw Sridevi play an ichadhaari naagin opposite Rishi Kapoor and the fllm turned out to be the second biggest blockbuster of the year. From Hawa Hawai in Mr India to Mere Haathon Mein Nau Nau Chhoodiyan in Chandini, she had stamped her authority and conquered Bollywood. Her stunning hurrah came in Judaai which once again showed why she was the simply incomparable. As a greedy housewife, she bossed the film. Her chemistry with Anil Kapoor was perfect, together they acted in 13 films.

During this time, she did act in one epic disaster — Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja — directed by her soon to be husband Boney Kapoor. But when she returned to celluloid in 2012 after a 16 year hiatus in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish, she showed us what we had been missing all these years, bringing back the same charm and simplicity by turning the clock back.

Imagine Sridevi top actress of her time was paid Rs 11 lakh for Mr India in 1987, 30 years later the ruling heroine Deepika Padukone was paid Rs 13 crore for Padmavaat. The axis of commerce may have grown manifold, the its size too, but the talent powerhouse called Sridevi who made us laugh and cry with different shades of emotion will never ever be forgotten. In the pantheon of Hindi cinema’s greatest divas, she will always be right up there, unchallenged during her years at the zenith. Reminding me of a song from her film the stylish Feroze Khan's Janbaaz - Har Kissi Ko Nahin Milta Yahan Pyar Zindagi Mein.