By Tahreem Niazi
The first female superstar of “of the male dominated industry of Bollywood“, part of 260 films in an amazing career of 45 years, Sridevi was a superstar like no other. She died in Dubai on Sunday, 24th February, 2018. Saying gone too soon is not the right way to justify her legacy – a true icon.
Those who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s would remember her charm and onscreen influence. It was more than just style.
Sridevi was born two days ahead of the anniversary of Independence Day in 1963, and by the age of four, she had already started acting in films as a child artist. Her first film, Thunaivan was a religious film, but it was also the beginning of the fascination with the celluloid world.
13 wasn’t a ripe age to start working as a female lead, but she did. The film was Tamil project Moondru Mudichu (1976). In the next two years, she did other Tamil films like 16 Vayathinile and Sigappu Rojakkal.
The movie Solva Saavan (1978) was her launching pad in Hindi, but it was like a natural transition for her. Sridevi had already become the biggest female star in the Tamil film industry. She was working with Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, (the biggest stars of Tamil film industry at that time) in all the films that mattered, at the box office and otherwise. Nonetheless, she excelled in every role.
However, she was yet to gain an groundbreaking popularity that no Hindi film heroine had seen before. The year was 1983 when her debut movie Himmatwala hit the screens, Sridevi, the Thunder Thighs girl, became an overnight sensation. The film became the biggest hit of the year. Something similar happened with her other movie Tohfa that released next year.
Sridevi was keeping it very interesting. She was doing author-backed roles and she was also doing films that earned the producers millions. It couldn’t be better for an actor to have both her movies (Sadma and Himmatwala), released in the same year. A great commercial success.
By the time her other movies came (Nagina, Karma and Jaanbaaz) , Sridevi was unquestionably the number 1 actor in India. There was no one who could come close to her reach and popularity in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan (top male Bollywood actor)was already on a leave, Anil Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty (also top Bollywood actors) were trying to fill that space at the top and no new potential superstars were in sight.
In 1987, when Mr India released, Sridevi proved her worth when the song Hawa Hawaai took India by storm. Every loudspeaker, every party and every wedding witnessed people dancing to her tunes. People still identify with it even after these many years.
Producers were lining outside her house. She was seen in 33 Hindi films alone. A film almost every month. Imagine the pace she was working on. Her stardom was reaching new heights. Occasionally, there were films like Sherni and Nakabandi, but there were movies like Chandni, Lamhe, Khuda Gawah as well that were earning her good money. Her stardom spilled even more into the ‘90s with all the other popular stars working opposite her.
Producer Boney Kapoor’s strongly ambitious film Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993) that casted Sridevi had a budget of 1.5 crore. At that time, it was a huge amount. The film failed but the producer-heroine duo did click.
Due to her Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja movie debacle, things had become tough for the lead actor. She didn’t have the same kind of box office pull like she once did. Also, other actresses like Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla came as tough competitors. Sridevi’s last hit in that period was Laadla (1994) and a top notch heroine would not want to leave the industry on a low note. Her last movie Judaai (1997) became a hit and Sridevi bid farewell to Bollywood. She got married to the producer Boney Kapoor and started to focus on family.
That was just an interval.
Sridevi later returned in the second half of 2012 with a movie English Vinglish (2012). She proved that she hasn’t aged in all those years. She started winning hearts with her performance of a person living with a deep complex. Many even believed it was her best performance till date. Then she marked her two decade return to Tamil cinema with the movie Puli (2015). The last movie she was seen in was Mom (2017), a mother who seeks revenge when her daughter is raped. Yet again her performance was highly praised and she became like a representer for how far mothers can go to protect their children.
Unfortunately, her fate could not support her any longer. Sridevi’s impact was felt far beyond India. Her style, her expressions, the love and care she gave, the dedication, her death has been one of the most mourned in Bollywood. She will always be loved and cherished and the happy and beautiful memories she left for people all over will always be remembered.