“Yeh lamhe yeh pal hum barson yaad karenge yeh mausam chale gaye toh hum fariyaad karenge”
The dock of life abruptly stopped the moment Mom announced that Sridevi-ji is no more which made me leap out of the bed without losing a single second. It felt like a jolt and was hard to digest. I still cannot fathom this black Sunday watching Indian TV channels airing milestones on her career, the live interactions replayed during seminars and watching her various performances as an actor. The condolence messages and pictures flooding on Facebook made it harder to fathom that the woman who was part of my growing up years in the 90s is no longer alive. I am still hoping that it’s a silly prank played by Twitterati or people on Facebook on this ‘hoax death’. Today, when I watched the funeral live on TV, the heart bled and cried finding it impossible to believe she is no more. An incredible part of my childhood has been wiped off.
Growing up in the 90s was not easy for my generation and particularly for me as I turned into a crazy film buff, swearing over Bachchan mania and craze for superstar actors like Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and to a lesser extent Juhi Chawla. I had innocent crushes over the late Divya Bharti and Sonali Bendre. Studies took a back seat and I flunked a year or two owing to my love for movies where pocket money or piggy banks were emptied to buy copies of Filmfare, Stardust and Cineblitz. I still remember going gaga about a front cover with Bachchan and Srideviji in white or spending my time indulging in magazines and newspapers cuttings. I still have them! The infatuation over Sridevi Ma’am became a precious moment of existence. What beautiful eyes and divine face speaking directly to the heart!
The decade that my generation calls the best wouldn’t be possible without the first superstar of Indian cinema Sridevi-ji who giggles with childlike innocence or behaving like a kid onscreen. Friends mocked me for drooling over Sridevi Ma’am whom they believe to be childish. But, then, who cared? It was the 90s for us and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Sridevi-ji was among the first women who entered my life, making me dream or worship the statue, a woman closer to Goddess and seeing her in my innocent crushes. I literally worshipped her. She was not intimidating yet unreal. Why statue? More than that, the song ‘Lagi aaj Sawan’ picturized on the late Vinod Khanna and Sridevi-ji explains why I worshipped her in idol or statue form. She embodied perfection, flawless beauty, a magnet and vulnerability but also someone who we couldn’t touch. The rare trait of a heroine that Yash Chopra has tapped in an aesthetic manner and creating this illusion through sheer expression in front of the camera, an angel that nobody could possess took form. Oh gosh! I don’t want to write about her in the past tense and will not.
Chandni was one movie that we will always associate with Sridevi-ji and it doesn’t go without saying that Mere Haathon mein nau nau choodiyan is a song where women and men still dance during weddings or her act in this song inspiring many of my female friends who took dancing both as a profession and hobby.
There is something very rare and unique in Sridevi that drew me towards her be it watching her along megastar Amitabh Bachchan in Khuda Gawah on the silver screen or the countless VHR rented in the shop to watch in our next-door neighbor’s house since we didn’t own a VHS at that time. I remember watching Chandni, Chalbaaz, Lamhe, Aakhri Raasta and Mr India countless number of times. Sridevi-ji has had such an impact on the growing years so much that many of us wanted to date or dream to fall in love with someone as fun loving as her who would dance to Hawa Hawai or Kissi Ki Haath Mein Na aayegi yeh ladki. Only someone of her stature could pull such acts with the effortless gaze.
She always stood tall as an actor and the seamless charisma would never go unnoticed in the face of the storm called Amitabh Bachchan while superstars like Rajnikanth, Jeetendra, or Sunny Deol wouldn’t mind playing second fiddle to her. Imagine, films like Aakhri Raasta and Inquilaab that were altogether a Bachchan fest but we couldn’t think about those movies without Sridevi-ji. The spunk, irrevocable screen presence, electrifying presence and ebullience like magnet gave a bright shade which was a sharp contrast to the dark, brooding angry young man. That’s Sridevi-ji, for you who never faded in comparison.
I have a confession to make. It’s no secret that I abhor watching India television post-2000. Yet, I sat to religiously watch a soap opera during my college every day and waiting for 10 p.m to strike during 2004 or 2005. It was Malini Iyer, the sitcom the legend choose to make a comeback that showed her star power, an aura that captured the imagination of countless admirers and fans whose hearts she conquered. There was something so effortless in this electrifying persona who never tries too hard to woo hearts. Her first show abroad was the Jhooma Chooma in London where she performed with megastar Amitabh Bachchan and one could see there was no pretense unlike many. Sridevi was happy being herself and it’s one trait that makes for her versatility as an artist.
Of course, fans like me waited for her second inning as an actor after the long break post motherhood and Judai in the late 90s. I was anxious that Sridevi-ji may not be able to recreate the magic of yesteryears after a long hiatus or whether fans would identify with the characteristics or USP that defined her during the lost decade.
English Vinglish simply surprised me and was such a sheer delight which is among my favorite Sridevi’s performances. She redefined herself as an actor in the film, pushing the boundary a notch higher to make us forget for a moment the Sridevi of the 90s and giving another dimension to her stature, albeit, lending depth to the role. Sheer delight. It’s heart-breaking to see that her second innings that comprised of English Vinglish and Mom was cut abruptly short. There was no question that she would carve history but destiny can be tragic.
Who can forget her Charlie Chaplin act in Mr India? Sridevi is perhaps one of the rare actors who can make wearing garish costumes looking so believable and lending so much dignity, credence and grace like she did in Hawa Hawai. Poise and grace, Sridevi has tons in her that makes one fall in love with her every moment and she must truly be a special woman that blew Boney Kapoor mind. She is simply extraordinary. The movies of 80s and 90s cannot be possible without her. She was the hero of her times.
Sridevi is one intriguing person who has always guarded her private space and is known as someone who speaks very less on sets. This is what makes her so real, someone who respects her privacy and professional life to the core. According to industry insiders, she is someone who is interested solely in her work. It speaks volume about her sheer professionalism.
Born Amma Yanger Ayyapan, she started her career at the age of 5 to act as a child artist in Julie and right from Solwa Sawaan to Mr India, Lamhe, Khuda Gawah and Chandni, Nagin or Chaalbaz, she remains an enigma. Sridevi is timeless and unreal. Who can forget Lamhe’s Pallavi infatuated for her Kunwar Saab or the last gut-wrenching scene in Sadma! Hearts will take a long time to heal from this Chaalbaaz act she played on us. We haven’t lost our Chandni. She stays forever in our hearts. Yes! I do love the Vinita of Aakhri Raasta crying for ice cream.
Take a bow Sridevi Ma’am. Perhaps thanks or emotions won’t suffice for you have given me unbridled joy during the growing up years filled with blissful memories. An era that stays forever and the precious childhood days of watching you shining brightly on screen. Let’s celebrate the timeless beauty and sparkle in the times of grief.
I pray for her children and husband who lost their world. In us and the celluloid magic, Srideviji remains forever alive for she has carved a special place in our hearts. Sridevi-ji, every single moment you gave is meant to be cherished. Your death was personal for we lost a family member. I personally postponed all my work and still feeling unsettled. We shall no longer see the poise, grace and elegance yet she is present among us, forever but except we cannot see.
Grateful to have been born in your era and witnessing your rise as an artist, that gave so many of us the possibility to dream, break free and be adventurous. Thanking you can’t be enough for the part you played in my life. I choose to honor you as an artist and human being. I lit a lamp and candle in front of your picture. Call me crazy if you may but it feels so peaceful to connect with such a beautiful soul. The only Pan Indian star and actor that we will ever have whose appeal has cut over states, regions and countries. Very few can claim to do that and today you united an entire nation.
Love you loads Sridevi-ji
PS: I would never imagine writing something like this on Sridevi-ji and still incredibly hard to believe she is no longer among us. The draft was written last Sunday but choose to post it after the actor’s funeral as a mark of respect to her.