With Sridevi passing away, the country has lost one of its best actors and a woman who managed to break several glass ceilings in a male-dominated industry.
The last time Sridevi was seen in public and social media posts was in a gorgeous green outfit, looking as resplendent as she always did. A picture of grace and dignity. And that’s how the film industry – be it Hindi, Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam – will remember her. A supremely talented actor, and one who remained memorable both on and off the screen.
In a career spanning over 48 years, Sridevi performed memorable roles and acted in films that have been blockbusters at the box office. She made her debut as a child artiste in Thunaivan in 1969 at the age of four, where she played Lord Murugan in a small role. The film was a musical hit. She worked in films across the southern states as she grew up. Six years later, she made her Bollywood debut in the super hit Julie, again as a child artiste.
In 1979, Sridevi played the lead character in Solva Sawan, the remake of a Tamil film. The film bombed at the box office, and it was only in 1983 with Himmatwala that Sridevi got noticed and really made her mark in the Hindi film industry. The film is considered to be one of the biggest hits of the 1980s.
Mawaali was released the same year, followed by Tohfa in 1984, and Jeetendra-Sridevi became a hit pairing. At the same time came Sadma, with Kamal Haasan, where she played a girl who regresses to childhood after an injury. The film earned her critical acclaim, and established Sridevi as an accomplished actor.
In 1987, Shekhar Kapur directed her in Mr India and Sridevi emerged as the female superstar of the industry. Be it ‘Hawa Hawaii’ or ‘Kaate nahi Katte’, Sridevi became the heartthrob of millions. To hold a sensuous song on her own, without an actor in the frame, was unheard of. Her impersonation of Charlie Chaplin in the film was magical and even though it was titled Mr India, the film is still remembered as one of Sridevi’s best.
With Chaalbaaz, Sridevi showcased her comic timing, and with Chandni she became the nation’s sweetheart. Lamhe, which came two years later, was a difficult role that not many would have been brave enough to take on. She played the double role of a mother and daughter, with the latter being in love with her mother’s admirer.
Soon after, Sridevi married producer Boney Kapoor and took a sabbatical from the industry for nearly 15 years, barring home production Judaai with Anil Kapoor. She returned with Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish in 2012, and the country welcomed back one of its favourites with open arms.
Sridevi was able to establish her position not just as an actor, but a commercial success. Her performance as a homemaker who learns English in order to be accepted by her family was a hit. A year later she was awarded the Padma Shri.
Last year, she starred in revenge drama Mom, which dealt with the issue of rape, and her performance won her rave reviews. She recently shot for a special appearance in Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero that releases towards the end of this year.
Sridevi broke several glass ceilings in the Hindi film industry. At the height of her success, she had producers lining up with scripts being written with her in mind, unheard of in male-dominated Bollywood. Quiet and reserved off camera, she simply transformed in front of it, say all her directors and co-stars. From Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, she worked with all the superstars.
Sridevi’s demise is untimely with her fans, critics and colleagues still recovering from the shock of her loss. At 54, she still had much more talent to showcase in an industry where she will be remembered as the first female superstar, and an iconic actor.