A tribute to Indian Cinema’s first female super star Sridevi by Andrea Noronha
The Bollywood hall of fame, seemed forlorn after it unexpectedly lost one of its brightest stars on the night of 24 Feb, 2018. Bollywood superstar Sridevi, wife of Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor and mother of Janhvi and Khushi, died at the age of 54, in her hotel room’s bathtub, in Dubai.
The news came as a shock to everyone and people the world over mourned her death. Shock and anger were a common sight in the aftermath of the star’s death… but that’s what happens when you lose someone you love dearly.
With Sridevi’s passing, the world lost someone truly precious and irreplaceable. Scores of people - family, colleagues, and fans – expressed their grief in varied ways, trying to make sense of what happened, and many hoping that this was all just a terrible terrible nightmare. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms were flooded with condolences. Her life and death were splashed across every news channel, playing scenes from her famous movies and screenshots of condolences from numerous personalities. No one expected the light of the brightest star to go out so soon and in such a tragic way.
While the world still mourns the death of the superstar, one must take heart and reminisce about the brilliant and vibrant life of a talented, cheerful, beautiful, revered, and strong woman.
Starting as a child artiste, Sridevi delighted and entertained her huge fan-base over her five decade long career. Regarded as Bollywood’s first ‘Female Superstar’, she was loved and admired by people all over the world.
Born Shree Amma Yanger Ayyappan, on August 13, 1963 in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, to Ayyapan and Rajeshwari, Sridevi had a childhood like no other as she was only four years old when she began her career, performing in the Tamil film ‘Thunaivan’ as young Lord Murugan. From there, she moved on to performing in movies in other languages, such as Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi.
She debuted in the Tollywood industry while she was still a child, with the movie ‘Maa Nanna Nirdoshi’ in the year 1970. A year later, she performed in her first Malayalam movie by the name Poompatt, which won her the Kerala State Film Award for Best Child Artist.
It was not long before she debuted in Bollywood in ‘Rani Mera Naam’ in the year 1972, soon after which, in 1976 she landed her first lead role with the movie Moondru Mudichu, where she played Rajnikanth’s stepmother. A performance that was praised by many, considering she was only 15 years old at the time.
She married the love of her life, Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor in the year 1996, and had two daughters, Janhvi (in 1997) and Khushi (in 2000). Wanting to focus all her attention and efforts on raising her daughters, Sridevi decided to take a break from her hectic life as a movie star in the year 1997. Between 1998 and 2011, Sridevi appeared many times on the small screen but, mostly as a guest or a judge in shows such as ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’, ‘Kaboom’, and ‘10 Ka Dum’.
During her break from the silver screen, she tried her hand at painting and in March of 2010, her paintings were sold by an international art auction house, the proceeds of which were donated.
After an eight year hiatus, the Bollywood goddess made a comeback on the filmscape with ‘English Vinglish’ in the year 2012, playing the role of a housewife who takes up English speaking classes after being mocked by her husband and daughter. The movie was a box office and critical success, earning high praises from everyone, proving that even after all this time she still had it. She is one of the very few actors to have pulled off such a feat after such a long hiatus.
Even though she was born to be an actor, Sridevi never took things for granted. She was a hard worker and an extremely determined person. She made sure she played strong female roles; roles that proved her worth as an actor as well as a role model.
She took the trouble to learn different languages as, apart from Bollywood, she worked in many south Indian movie industries as well. She even learned how to dance and continued to refine her skills as an actor to prove to the world that she was not just a pretty face.
In the Bollywood industry, the superstar worked alongside numerous big names such as Anil Kapoor, Mithun Chakravarty, Jeetendra, Amitabh Bachchan, and with Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth in Kollywood.
Sridevi was never intimidated by her male counterparts or her other female colleagues, always putting her best foot forward in whatever she did, showing that she could keep pace with the best of the best and not break a sweat thus, outshining everyone else. She was an icon… a beacon to those who needed a strong independent woman to look up to. According to the BBC she was one of the very few Indian female actors capable of huge box-office success without the support of a male lead.
When she wasn’t playing a strong female role on the silver screen, she was being her strong female self, fighting for equal pay and status for female actors; long before it became a serious topic of discussion.
Going back over her vast body of work, it is easy to understand why she was loved by so many and why she will continue to be loved for years to come. She mesmerized the audience with the charm in her every movement, every blink, every smile… The way she holds you with her eyes cannot be replicated or explained. She gives an added oomph to every scene she is in, making the movie even more enjoyable.
Many generations have grown up on her movies and you will find scores of fans in each of these generations. Her bubbly and naïve appearance accompanied by a powerful presence is something that has left many in awe and hence, many a broken heart.
The legendary actor was not only a frontrunner in the film industry but also in the fashion industry as well. She modeled for clothing lines of designers and even for jewellery lines, debuting in the year 2008. She also graced the covers of many prestigious magazines including Hi Blitz, Marie Claire, L’Officiel, and Vogue. She even bagged the 'Ultimate Diva' award at the Ciroc Filmfare Glamour & Style Awards in 2015.
Even though we may never feel the joy of seeing another new movie starring the brilliantly talented Sridevi for the rest of time, she is forever immortalized in the 300 movies to her name and in the hearts of all those who admired and loved her.
Sridevi funeral updates as of 27/2/2018: The Dubai Police have cleared the release of Bollywood icon Sridevi’s body for the embalming process, ending her family’s two-day wait for bringing the body home for cremation. The Dubai Prosecution Service has also closed the investigation into the actor's death. Apart from Sridevi’s husband Boney Kapoor, her stepson Arjun Kapoor is also in Dubai to oversee the formalities. Sridevi’s death was announced early on Sunday but the funeral, which will take place in Mumbai, has been delayed for two days pending paper work in Dubai where the actor had gone to attend a family wedding. Sridevi’s husband Boney Kapoor had given a statement to the Dubai Police on the circumstances surrounding his wife's death. Kapoor reportedly discovered Sridevi unconscious in the bathtub filled with water in the hotel. She was taken to a hospital where she was declared brought dead.
With inputs from: