The southern siren Sridevi
The 300-film old Sridevi was bigger than all the Khans combined.
Newspapers and magazines have been going to town with images of actor Sridevi and her daughters Jhanavi and Khushi over the past 2 years. The wasp-waisted Sridevi has been a shutter bug's dream. The news of her demise in Dubai comes as a shock and a testimony to life's truth of mortality that hinges on the doors of immortality in cinema.
Her last outing at Mohit Marwah's wedding, which recently took place in the UAE was attended by the entire Kapoor clan. You can see in the pictures in tabloids that it was Sridevi and her younger daughter Khushi Kapoor, who stood out from the rest. In what she wore and how she carried it, Sridevi was a design diva as her tall lanky frame brought life to a fabric creating a picture of a modern-day Venus.
The Sivakasi born Sridevi was first known in the many films she acted in Southern fare. Her Tamil films Moondru Mudichu. Moondram Pirai defined her prowess as an actor of sterling dimensions.
In the Kamal Haasan-starrer Moondram Pirai, you realise her effortless ease in her mother tongue - Tamil. It was a highlight of Sridevi's long and illustrious career that Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam films created her screen signature in a way that defined acting predicaments and perspectives. In an interview to film critic Anuj Kumar, Sridevi said she missed the art side of Tamil cinema, but enjoyed doing commercial cinema for Bollywood she also said she was in love with the camera while talking about the relevance of her film 'Mom.'
Genesis at 4
Her life in cinema began as a child artist when Sridevi was barely four years old when she faced the camera in Kandan Karunai and Nam Naadu and went on to act in M.A. Thirumugham's Thunaivan (1969). For the next 10 years, she starred in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada films before she stepped into the studios in Bollywood with Solva Sawan (1979), which flopped and saw her return to Tamil cinema.
Sridevi held her own against two actors who were charting a similar path to stardom. The Rajinikanth-Sridevi-Kamal Haasan trinity was one of the highlights of '70s Tamil cinema.
Sridevi and Haasan were paired in many films across genres, including Manidharil Ithana Nirangala (1978), Kalyanaraman (1979), Thaayillamal Naan Illai (1979), Varumayin Niram Sivappu (1980) and Meendum Kokila (1981).
The Rajinikanth-Sridevi pairing, too, was well received through such films as Priya, Pokkiri Raja (1982) and Naan Adimai Illai (1986).
The best Sridevi-Haasan pairing was in Balu Mahendra's Moondram Pirai (1982). Remade in Hindi as Sadma, Moondram Pirai featured Sridevi as a woman who regresses into child-like behaviour after developing retrograde amnesia. Her relationship with her rescuer (Kamal Haasan) forms the crux of the tragedy.
Her film Himmatwala (1983) brought in the phrase 'thunder thighs' and she soon became recognised as a commercially viable star. Her Bollywood blockbusters include Mr. India (1987), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991), Khuda Gawah (1992) and many others.
India's Merryl Streep
Critics christened her as India's Merryl Streep. It is said she gave Indian heroes a run for their money.
After all, not everyone can make Bollywood's Dabangg Khan gush. At a teaser launch of the film Mom, Salman Khan called the 300-film old Sridevi bigger than all the Khans combined. Her riveting performance in Sadma, of a woman who suffers memory loss, was so remarkable that her co-star in the film, Kamal Haasan, went on record to say it was even better than the original portrayal of the character in the Tamil version of the film, Moondram Pirai. Then came the eccentric Anju and Manju of Chaalbaaz, the story of twins separated at birth an unforgettable Sridevi sojourn.
Film historian Amrit Ganger had intriguing remarks to make about Sridevi's abilities and on-screen charisma. According to Ganger, her onscreen charisma was "her departure from the previous classicism of Hindi, in particular, and Indian cinema in general. Sridevi brought in a completely different acting energy into Indian cinema in terms of abhinaya and nrittiya. She brought in a different sensuality to Indian cinema."
Mom- Boney Kapoor's Taj Mahal
Sridevi's Mom capped her career as her 300th appearance in a journey that began in the films of K Balachander and Bharathiraja. Her career in films began on July 7, 1967, the same day on which her film Mom was released last year. It was a gift from her affable husband Boney Kapoor. "The film is my tribute to her and since I cannot build a Taj Mahal for her, I am making Mom," said Boney Kapoor about the film which released in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam and received rave reviews. Over five decades Sridevi amassed a huge fan base, was known for her devotion and dedication and her professionalism on the sets and in the studios.
Her passing away at 54 tells us that life is short. Indian cinema loses a siren who lived life on her own terms and wrapped herself around her own mystique.
(The author art curator and critic.The views expressed are strictly personal)