Sridevi is a name to reckon with not only down South, but in Hindi cinema as well. She started out as a child actress, went on to become a leading Telugu and Tamil actress and today stands strong as one of the most successful and talented actresses in the country. This year marks the 50-year milestone of Sridevi’s career. No wonder then, that she’s called the ‘first female superstar’ by industry experts.
After English Vinglish, her upcoming Bollywood film Mom, a thriller, produced by her husband Boney Kapoor, will be released in Telugu too. It’s been years now since the audience have heard her speak in Telugu. When asked how she felt while dubbing for the film, Sridevi says, “When I spoke the Telugu dialogues, I never felt like I was dubbing — I felt like it was a Telugu film from the start.”
The 53-year-old actress started acting at the age of four with a Tamil film and continued to act as a child artist in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada films. After acting in a string of big films in the industry, the actress took a break in 1997 — got married, had kids and made her comeback in 2012 with English Vinglish.
Did anyone from South offer her a comeback film before that? “Yes, many people approached me. I had never planned whether I wanted to do a Hindi or a South Indian film. I just wanted to do a good film irrespective of the language,” says the Sivakasi-born actress, adding that she couldn’t take up those offers because of personal affairs. “I wanted to be with my kids while they were preparing for their exams. I was never confined to Bollywood but wanted to be selective about my films. If I wanted to do Hindi films alone, I could’ve done many films in the last few years.” Sridevi explains.
So does the superstar have any regrets? “No,” she says, adding, “I never plan anything as I believe in destiny. If I couldn’t do a film, that is also my destiny. I’m doing Mom after another long break. I am grateful to God and I owe a lot to my fans.”
It is difficult to handle successful careers in three film industries simultaneously. How did Sridevi manage? “All my directors and producers offered me good films and I feel lucky. Today, Raghavendra Rao garu says that he directed me in 24 films — it’s not a joke. Like him, many other people offered me good roles, and I continued performing in all the languages,” she says.
But she also says, “I don’t know for how long the audience would want to see me on screen; I hope I don’t disappoint them as I am committed to doing good work.” About her journey in the world of cinema, she says, “What can I say? People should tell me more about it. I just did my work — something that I love.” With a long list of hits to her name, Sridevi recalls, “I feel this is the best time for me as a mother, wife and an actress. I don’t know how big a hit this film will be, but for me as an actress, this film gave the most satisfaction.”
Currently, many actresses from the South are trying their luck in Bollywood but are not successful. They are also unable to make a comeback here. Why is that? “I don’t know the exact reason, but actresses now are hard working. The difference between my time and now is that I learned everything such as horse-riding, swimming, dancing and acting after I entered the industry. But actresses now are learning everything before their debut film because they don’t have time later. Also, they have to show their best in their first film itself,” Sridevi says.
The actress currently stays in Mumbai with her husband and kids. But is she in touch with any of her friends in Hyderabad? “Not many. T. Subbarami Reddy garu is a family friend and we have a special bond; K. Raghavendra Rao garu too. My husband calls Ashwini Dutt garu whenever we come to Hyderabad and asks him to send us food. Many of my co-stars are busy with their work and I stay in Mumbai mostly. However, I meet them at events and functions,” says Sridevi.
When asked if her children watch her old films on TV, she quickly says, “No, I switch off the television. Not because I feel shy but it gives me an odd feeling. They watch me on TV and then look at me, so I feel awkward. I feel proud of my films. My husband watches all of my films, irrespective of the language, when they air on TV.”