Sridevi: A genuine 24 karat star in films that often didn’t quite match her wattage


By the late 90s, Sridevi had clocked over a staggering fifty years in the Indian film industry, with 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and, of course, Hindi. That was her decade, in which she did such films as Khuda Gawaah in which starred with Amitabh Bachchan (when we see a draped-in-a-shawl Bachchan drop by for a walk-on part, years later, in her 2012 English Vinglish, it is a moment), and Chaalbaaz in which she memorably made whoopee with Sunny Deol and her constant co-star Rajinikanth. 2018-02-25T21:43:24+00:00″>
Updated: February 25, 2018 9:43 pm

Sridevi passed away on Saturday night following a cardiac arrest. It was in 1983 that Sridevi made her real Bollywood splash with the pulpy Himmatwala with Jeetendra, a Hindi film with its gaudy Telugu roots fully visible (Picture credit: Express Archive)
That propelled her into the big league. We have lost the part of our innocence which effortlessly conjured up magic cloaks and invisible superheroes: the spell was cast by Miss Hawa Hawaaii who spun and pirouetted and ‘giraoed bijli’, and created a happy symphony for all times. Except for Madhuri Dixit (with whom she is erroneously compared because Sridevi was already a top-flight star in the South when she crossed over into Bollywood, where she had come to expand her horizons, instead of a hopeful newcomer like Dixit), she had no real rival, and we went to see her do her thing in film after film: she pulled faces, rolled her eyes, pouted madly, and spouted dialogues in her thin, breathless voice, but that was the way she rolled, and her fans couldn’t get enough. Soon enough, the King of Romance Yash Chopra took her over, and made her a Yashraj heroine, with the mandatory Swiss slopes, swooning heroes, and fifty shades of chiffon. It gave the actress, whose enormous potential had remained unexploited, an author-backed role as the woman who goes after her teenage daughter’s killers, and she proved all over again what she always had: here was a genuine 24 karat star in films that often didn’t quite match her wattage. Gasp. (Picture credit: Express Archive)
By the late 90s, Sridevi had clocked over a staggering fifty years in the Indian film industry, with 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and, of course, Hindi. Sridevi, at 54, had proved that she was still a crowd-puller, and there were hopes that she would pave the way for other actresses on a similar slope
After English Vinglish, she toplined the rape-revenge drama Mom. She’d already rocked the look in the incendiary “Kaate Nahi Katate” song in Mr India: who can forget that royal blue chiffon-clad full-bodied shimmying frame? Sridevi played a double role (she did a bunch of doubles in her career) of mother-and-daughter, dealing with a man (Anil Kapoor in one of his best performances) who has feelings for both. With her daughter Jahnvi debuting in a Karan Johar film, she would have become a star-mom, too. Madhuri Dixit has appeared in a couple of films, as has Manisha Koirala, but it was for Sridevi that whole films were being written. When Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr India came out in 1987, and gave us the immortal Miss Hawa Hawaaii, Sridevi was already in need of a makeover. If she had lived to see it. Even those of us who loved her not quite so indiscriminately knew that we were in the midst of a great comedienne who could do rollicking physical comedy and over-wrought emotion, as well as underplay beautifully, when she was given a chance. It was in 1983 that Sridevi made her real Bollywood splash with the pulpy Himmatwala with Jeetendra, a Hindi film with its gaudy Telugu roots fully visible. It was an opportune time for Sridevi to bow out of the rat race to focus on her family and regroup. (Picture credit: Express Archive)
That could be an apt epitaph for Sridevi, unforgettable leading lady, and Bollywood’s first female superstar, a marquee name which could open films on her own. The Bombay tabloids lost no time in dubbing her, gleefully and unkindly, Thunder Thighs, an epithet that stuck. Sridevi was, and will always be, pure electricity, bonafide ‘bijli’, who, at her best, lit up the screen. In the same year came Sadma, the frame-by-frame copy of Moondrum Pirai, in which she showed her actorly chops alongside Kamal Haasan, but it was her singing-dancing-squeaky avatar which was replayed over dozens of films, one indistinguishable from the other, till she fetched up in Mr India. But for our generation of movie-lovers, Sridevi was, and will always be, pure electricity, bonafide ‘bijli’, who, at her best, lit up the screen. More than anything else, Sridevi typified that rare creature, the Bollywood actress who didn’t want to go slowly into the night, and was determined to do something about it. Related News
In Memoriam: Members of the film industry pay their tributes to actor SrideviFrom Superstar to Style IconThe Many Shades of SrideviWith the passing of Sridevi, we have lost not just a great star. For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App She ‘khankaoed her nau nau choodiyan’ in Chandni, and Rishi Kapoor fell hard. Then came Lamhe, a film so far ahead of its times that you still can’t believe it was made. Bollywood, like all mainstream, male-star-dominated industries, has still not found an easy way to incorporate ‘older’ women into their stories; Sridevi, at 54, had proved that she was still a crowd-puller, and there were hopes that she would pave the way for other actresses on a similar slope. When she ‘came back’, after a gap of fifteen years, with English Vinglish, playing a middle-aged woman in search of herself, it seemed like it was art imitating life: an actor preparing for a rousing second go round.