For acting and dancing legend Sridevi, her entire world revolved around her children and her family. “Being a housewife is a fulltime job. My children, my husband and my house — are all I can think about all day. Even when I am in the middle of my work, giving interviews, promoting films, I am wondering what my kids are up to. I am always assisting my daughters,” Sridevi had said during her last interview with this writer.
“By constantly keeping in touch with them like this, I’m not turning them into spoilt brats, but they are all dependant on me for the smallest of things, and I like helping them always,” she said.
As a doting mother, Sridevi was always protective of her kids. Throughout the last year, the actress was mentoring elder daughter Jahnvi Kapoor for her acting debut with Dhadak.
Unfortunately, the dream remains unfulfilled. On Sunday, millions of fans woke up to the news about the demise of the celebrated actress, at the age of 54. Sridevi was in Dubai with her family and close relatives for the wedding of her nephew Mohit Marwah when she suffered a cardiac arrest.
The doe-eyed diva was never nervous in front the camera. As a child of four years of age, Sridevi made her debut with the Tamil devotional film Thunaivan. Her first Hindi film was Julie in 1975, where she played the role of the leading lady’s younger sister. However, it was Himmatwala alongside Jeetendra that made her a favourite among her audiences.
Subhash Ghai recalls working with Sridevi for Karma in 1985. “Sridevi was a quiet lady with a bundle of talent — it was pure magic watching her on the screen. The country can never get another star like her,” he begins. Even as Sridevi was known to be a shy, quiet person, the actress wasn’t just all that. “She was an introvert by nature, but the minute she was in front of the camera, she was filled with a certain electricity. She would shock directors with each shot that she took.
Be it dancing, working in a drama or a romantic film, the actress was an uncrowned queen of acting in all languages in her times,” he says.
The actress was never worn down by the trappings of her role. Perhaps what worked best in Sridevi’s favour was the manner in which she excelled her comic timing, especially as seen in Chaalbaaz, where she played the double role of a street-smart girl and a docile, shy one. With Nagina (1986), the role of a shape-shifting woman who is actually a snake in the human form, Sridevi proved that she was nothing less than her male counterparts. She displayed her apparent effortlessness once again, with Lamhe, where she played the double role of a mother and daughter.
With a vast body of work limited to not just the Hindi film industry but across languages including Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada, Sridevi finds a fan following amongst millions of Indians.
Subhash remembers her fondly as someone who prioritised her family. “Boney is a dear friend and as result, I have known Sridevi closely. She was an out and out traditional housewife and a great, loving mother,” he says.
The Nightingale of the Country, Lata Mangeshkar also has fond memories to remember the actress by. “Both our families have been very close all these years. Whenever there is a family function, Sridevi would make sure to visit; and not alone, she would come along with her husband. She was always warm and affectionate,” she says.
Taking some time to remember the work they have done together, Lata says, “Sridevi has lip-synced some of my best songs including the iconic Mere haathon mein nau nau chudiya hain in Chandni and Morni baghan ma in Lamhe. Her expressions in these two dance numbers matched my voice. I used to always feel happy watching her dance to my songs. Maze ki baat yeh hai (the most interesting this is), Sridevi told me she never learnt dancing! When she was a child she just followed the dance steps that were given to her. She learnt to dance on camera. And to be so good at it!”
Rohini Hattangadi, one of Sridevi’s many co-stars who worked alongside her in the very popular Chaalbaaz, says, “It is so shocking — 54 is no age to leave the world. Fortunately, I got to work with her in a few films, with Chaalbaaz being the most prominent one,” she recalls. Sharing a memory with the actress, Rohini says, “I still remember very clearly how the director was not convinced with the makeup shot in Chaalbaaz. Eventually when Sridevi saw me struggling, she decided to do the make up herself. What you all saw on screen was actually done by her,” she says, adding, “The minute the director said action, you could see a different version of Sridevi altogether.