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Birthday Special: The Heroine Who Was A Hero Sridevi, The Iconic But Simple Superstar Bows Out Of The Game…. BY LT. ALI PETER JOHN

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Saturday, 24 was dead and Sunday, 25 was struggling to rise and shine. I don’t know why I was  lying restless and sleepless on my bed when my mobile which I had put on charge and which I had left hanging fell on my forehead exactly at 2:30 and before I could get over the unexpected shock and pain , the mobile rang – Ali Peter John

It was a well-known friend giving me the mind shattering news about Sridevi’s untimely death. I did not take it seriously as I had received several such shocking messages about the “deaths” of Dev Anand , Rajesh Khanna , Nutan and Dilip Kumar which had driven me out of my senses till the truth about their being alive gave me life.

I felt this too was one of those mischief- creating news items to shock people for reasons I have still to find out even after all these years and banged my mobile on my bed and tried to go back to sleep, but sleep evaded me till 9 ‘O’ Clock that morning when my news vendor- Ikram broke the news of Sridevi’s death to my attendant  who carried it to me very carefully as he knew my temper whenever something went wrong.

sridevi-death-anniversary

The message at 2:47 was right. Sridevi, the actress who had reached new heights of stardom and was better paid than any of the male stars in the country and who was loved and admired even when she had taken a fifteen year long hiatus to get married to producer Boney Kapoor and bring up her two daughters , Jhanvi and Khushi was really dead.

She had gone to Dubai with her husband and Khushi to attend a marriage in the family in Dubai.

The marriage was over. She was in her elements which was very rare for the superstar who was known to be a very quiet person and spoke very little , like Rishi Kapoor, her co-star in films like “Nagina” and “Chandini” said that the only two words she spoke to him during the making of “Nagina” were “Namaste Ji” and “good night ji”  besides the dialogues and the songs she had to sing with Rishi.

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She then spent time with her daughter Khushi and her brother-in-law  Sanjay Kapoor. Boney and Anil and the rest of the family left for Kanpur on some “official work” , but Sridevi called Boney back to Dubai as she wanted to do some more shopping. Boney followed her request and they finished shopping. They went to bed as they had to catch a flight to Mumbai.

“Sri” as she was popularly called complained of pain in the chest and rushed to the washroom where she collapsed. She was rushed to hospital where she was declared dead after a massive cardiac arrest and the  curtain came down on one of the greatest sagas among stars who had proved her talent in more than three hundred films made during her fifty – year long career spanning films made in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi. The tragedy had just begun for the Kapoor family.

Her body lay in a morgue for the next two days where all the medical formalities were completed , including “reparation” of the body and a thorough postmortem was completed and her mortal remains were handed over to her family which brought it to Mumbai in a specially chartered flight and she was cremated at a suburban crematorium  in the presence of lakhs of mourners who had still not got over the shock ……….

Sridevi  never had any formal education. She started as Baby Sridevi when she was just four years old and by the time she was in her teens , she was the leading lady of some of the best films made in the early seventies and then there was no stopping her for over fifty years of dedicated and dependable work.

She first made her Hindi  film  debut with “Solva Saawan” with Amol Palekar as her hero. I still remember the press-conference called at the Tea Center near Churchgate Station.

Sridevi

It was Amol Palekar who did all the talking while a young girl sat silently most of the time and the  press saw no future for her and the film flopped very badly and Sridevi was not heard of for the next eight years in Bombay or in any Hindi films.

She continued working in all the southern language films and made quite a name for herself. It was at this stage that director K. Raghavendra Rao who she considered her mentor decided to make the Hindi remake of a Telugu film. The film was “Himmatwala” which was a crass effort to put her body on display in every way .

 I was in Hyderabad when she was shooting for “Himmatwala”. It was during one of the scenes that the director wanted her to wear a two piece swimming costume and she refused to wear it till the director who was known as “the Manmohan Desai of the south” forced her to wear the costume and she had to give in.

Little did she know then that it was the first posters of her in the swimming suit  that would give her stardom even before “Himmatwala” could be released. The film when released with all her sensual dances , body movements and double meaning dialogues was a super hit and Sridevi brushed aside all the ruling stars in Bombay at that time when there were actresses like Madhuri Dixit , Manisha Koirala and Juhi Chawla  very much in the race.

The success of “Himmatwala” opened up a new school of filmmaking with Sridevi playing the same kind of sexy roles in films like “Mawaali”, “Maqsad” and“Tohfa”. She was declared the number one actress at the box office. But if filmmakers and the audience felt this was the be all and the end all of Sridevi, they were in for another big shock  from Sridevi. The actress who was known as “Sridevi Amma” was known as “Sridevi Ma’am” now.

sridevi-in-himmatwala

It was Jeetendra who had done thirteen films shot in the south with her who became her new mentor and talked her and her mother to move to Bombay for better prospects and they followed him. Sridevi first lived with her mother and sister Srilata at the Sea Rock Hotel and then at the Centaur Hotel(both of them now defunct) and doled out dates to producers from Bombay. She was  big and busy now and producers’ fell on the floor before her as she walked ahead like the new queen of Bollywood and I was reminded of the countless scenes I had witnessed in cities like Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Rajahmundry and Secunderabad where hundreds of men , women and children fell before her car just to have one darshan of the Devi.
A new sophisticated, sensitive and dedicated “tigress” was on the prowl in Bombay and there were victims who were only too willing to fall prey. The new Sridevi began her conquest with “Nagina” which was a very big hit and she got more credit for the success than her hero , Rishi Kapoor. This was the beginning of a new reign of Sridevi and the films “she did in the next ten years were enough to write her name in letters of gold.”according to Anil Kapoor who was to work with her in some great entertainers.Anil kapoor sridevi

 Among  the films she was outstanding in were “Sadma” , “Mr. India “, “Chalbaaz(a double role)”, “Roop Ki Rani Choro ka Raja”, “Chandini”, “Khuda Gawah”, “Aakhree Raasta” and “Judaai”(she could have signed many more films , but her mother ‘s ailment put an halt to her galloping success. She had to spend more than six months in America where her mother was being treated for an incurable ailment. Boney Kapoor who had made films like “Mr. India”  and “Roop Ki Raani……” with her decided to be her support in this critical time, he left all his business affairs and stood by Sridevi throughout and till her mother died. There was an unfortunate crises during her mother’s hospitalization which Boney is said to have fought for and got Sridevi a hefty  compensation of crores.  Their long stay in the U.S led them to get close which led to love and love led to marriage and Sridevi gave up her career at the prime time to settle down and look after her husband and two daughters .sridevi boney kapoor

She was now free to live the life a common house-wife which she had always craved for and Sridevi , the “moon among stars” was very happy to live the life of Mrs. Sridevi Boney Kapoor who could go to the market to buy vegetables and go shopping with her husband and little daughters. Life for her was “the life of a free bird” as she said. But destiny had other plans for her and fifteen years later when the industry had taken so many turns and the trends and tides had changed , she decided to take up the challenge of making a come back as a middle aged Mrs. Godbole who was made  fun of for not knowing English and how she masters the language. The film , “English-Vinglish” won her any number of awards and she was inspired to do yet another film  which was very different from “English –Vinglish”. She played a mother who avenges the rape of her daughter. She was flooded  with offers to do more films but she asked for time as she was fully occupied in her duties towards bringing up her actress – daughter Jahnvi and her younger daughter “Khushi”…….sridevi Daughter

Sridevi was a superstar without any airs , without any attitude , without any fanfare  about her . She had worked with the greatest stars like Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth, Mammootty, Mohanlal, Mohan, Chiranjeevi, A.Nageshwara Rao, N.T Rama Rao, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Jeetendra , Dharmendra and down to a rank new comer like Kunal Goswami, the son of Manoj Kumar about whom there is a true story I was witness to. Manoj Kumar wanted to make a film with her as the main heroine and sent his messenger Gopal Pandey to her saying that he wanted to meet her. Pandey who knew her well told her about Manoj’s request and she in her innocence or ignorance asked , “Manoj, who?” , a question that put off Manoj so badly that he never thought of making a film again…..sridevi wtih chiranjivi

She was all set to consider some new scripts as it was she who had inspired filmmakers to make films with women in pivotal roles. She had promised some writers time to listen to their stories, but there was a greater writer above who had already written her script and the end was supposed to be like what happened to Sridevi in real life and how death snatched away all her dreams when she was just fifty-four and what a time to go for a beautiful woman for whom life should have begun!

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SRIDEVI

I was in a group of journalists invited to Hyderabad to watch the first shooting of “Himmatwala”, especially to promote the new actress Sridevi. She was a very shy girl who kept to herself or talked to her mother or her sister and if it was very necessary to her director , K. Raghavendra Rao who had directed her in several Telugu films. She looked scared when she saw the group of journalists from Bombay. She had no experience of dealing with them as she believed publicity was done by people who charged a few hundred rupees and got shootings covered.

The first time she reacted to the presence of journalists from Bombay was when she asked her director to keep the journalists and photographers out of the set when she was doing the swimming costume scene and the director had to plead  with us to leave for the day.

The second problem was in the night at the Banjara Hotel in Hyderabad. The PRO had lined up all the journalists to talk to her. She  put her foot down and said she would not meet any of the journos . The director had to be sent for and she finally agreed to talk to me (I don’t know why). She knew very little English and answered just three questions from me and then asked the PRO to circulate the same answers to the entire group as she openly said ,”I don’t know English . I don’t have anything new to say , thank you , Namaste ji”.

P.S– According to Sridevi herself, there was a time when she was shooting for eighteen films with eighteen different heroes at the same time. She did not know which shooting she was going to or coming back from. She could recognise the hero she was shooting for “only by recognising the back of his head”.

IT IS A YEAR SINCE THE “COMPUTER ACTRESS”ACCORDING TO THE LATE YASH CHOPRA WHO MADE FILMS LIKE “LAMHE”AND“CHANDNI”AND PEOPLE LIKE USUAL ARE SHOWING SIGNS OF FORGETTING HER. ISN’T THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO MAKE A BIOPIC ON HER? WHY CAN’T BONEY KAPOOR WHO HAS NOT MADE A FILM FOR YEARS PAY HIS TRIBUTE TO HIS WIFE AND ONE OF THE GREATEST STARS AND ACTRESSES OF OUR TIMES?

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Sridevi

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