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Sridevi redefined what an actress could and could not do

I have grown up on a healthy diet of Hindi cinema. I owe my dramatic behaviour to my childhood spent watching films on Doordarshan (and later Zee). Today when I woke up to news of Sridevi’s death, a part of me could not believe it. Just yesterday I was stalking her Instagram account and soaking in the gorgeousness she is… was.

I am not a film critic, and I do not watch films to judge them for their cinematic brilliance. I am a regular viewer, who watches them for entertainment. So when I think about my favourite films of Sridevi, I think of Chaalbaaz, where my constant fear whenever I attempt to put on make up is I hope I don’t look like Amba.

Then there is Chandni, where Sridevi looked ethereal. I had all plans of singing this song when I got married and generally freak out the in laws.

And Lamhe, which was way ahead of its time. It still remains one of my absolute favourite Yash Chopra films. Sridevi effortlessly played the role of mature Pallavi and the younger, yet another generation Pooja in the film.

Her father, Ayyapan Yanger, had passed away while she was shooting for Lamhe. With 90% shoot of the film over, Sridevi had to leave for Chennai as soon as she heard of the news. On returning after the last rites, she shot a comedy scene with Waheeda Rehman. Sridevi’s mother passed away when she was shooting for her film Judaai and in another unconventional move, though it is Hindu custom that son lights the funeral pyre, Sridevi performed the last rites. She was a thorough professional and set her own rules.

Her journey in the film industry has also been an interesting one. While many child actors faded away, Sridevi was one of the few actors to transition from a child actor to successful actress. She also managed to be one of the few actors to move successfully from South Indian movies to Bollywood.

In 1983, at the beginning of her adult career, she took the risk of playing autistic child-woman in Sadma. I still cry when I see the film. For 14 long years she ruled Bollywood acting against all top stars. A testament to her dominance was the movie Chaalbaaz, where two male superstars like Sunny Deol & Rajnikant played second fiddle to Sridevi’s double role. It isn’t much of a secret that she had an affair with the much married Boney Kapoor with whom she got pregnant and in 1996, eventually married him and bid farewell to her careeer at her peak, to start and raise a family.

Most of us had thought that would the last of her but she did something unexpected again. She made a grand comeback in 2012, not with a side role but a leading role, at an age of 48 in English Vinglish which was a runaway hit! Her latest film Mom, too, won accolades.

Today, with Sridevi’s passing, a part of my childhood has died. I pray for strength to the family and peace for her soul. Om Shanti.

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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