Remembering Sridevi 2 years after her death

Like her hometown Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, known for its crackers lighting up the night sky, Sridevi lit up the celluloid firmament for 50 years

Remembering Sridevi 2 years after her death

Rakesh Chopra

After her sudden death in Dubai on February 24, 2018, a social media friend asked me to write a piece on Sridevi since I occasionally wrote on cinema. But I did not find myself equal to the task. I thought it better to first let the dust settle on her controversial death.

Two years on, memories of her movies come flooding back. Like her hometown Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu known for its crackers lighting up the night sky, Sridevi lit up the celluloid firmament for 50 years. Making her debut in a Tamil film at the age of four she starred in no less than 300 films in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

She made her Hindi debut as a leading lady with ‘Solva Sawan’ in 1979 that sank without a trace. She tasted success with ‘Himmatwala’ in 1983, which started a string of southern remakes with Jeetendra. She first met Mithun Chakraborty on the sets of K Vishwanath’s ‘Jaag Utha Insan’ and they were said to be in a relationship.

I don’t remember which movie of hers I saw first. It might have been ‘Julie’ or ‘Sadma’ on Doordarshan on a black-and-white Texla TV at home while on vacation from boarding school in the 1980s, or ‘Mr India’ or ‘Nagina’ on the school VCR. I enjoyed her portrayal of a kid trapped in a grown woman’s body in ‘Sadma’.

It was with Yash Chopra’s ‘Chandni’ (1989), which I repeatedly watched in Chandigarh’s iconic KC Theatre, that I started liking her. ‘Lamhe’, again from the Yash Raj Films stable, reaffirmed my faith in her histrionics.

Sridevi was choosy about her projects and had refused even Hollywood great Steven Spielberg’s offer of a role in ‘Jurassic Park’ as she did not find the role meaty.

Filmmaker Boney Kapoor had been smitten with her when he first saw her in a south Indian film. Her mother’s botched-up surgery at Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York made her take the doctor to court. Kapoor stood behind her like a rock in those trying times and they tied the knot in 1996.

After a hiatus of 15 years she made a successful comeback with “English Vinglish’. One role she always wanted to do was that of ‘Mother India’. ‘Mom’ provided her that opportunity to some extent and posthumously brought her the coveted National Award trophy.

RIP, Sri. ‘Sadma’, ‘Chandni’ and ‘Lamhe’ alone will ensure you immortality.

Sridevi was given a state funeral and consigned to the flames at Mumbai’s Vile Parle crematorium. As Boney Kapoor lit the pyre, he seemed to have merged into brother Anil Kapoor’s character Kunwar Virendra Pratap Singh in ‘Lamhe’, mourning the death of Sridevi’s character Pallavi, with the Hariharan melody playing in the background, ‘Yeh lamhe yeh pal hum barson yaad karenge, yeh mausam chale gaye to hum fariyaad karenge’.

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