Watching Sridevi in action is nothing short of a magic. Sridevi was a magnificent blend of oomph and mischief that filled up cavernous single-screens and took her to the pinnacle of popularity in the Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada cinema. She was the pure gold at the box office and even turned out sensitive performances like in 'MoondrumPirai' (Sadma in Hindi), 'Lamhe' and 'English Vinglish' to name just a few, with equal felicity and feel.
The Sridevi phenomenon in Hindi films started with 'Himmatwala' in 1983. But the diva's acting career had begun over a decade and half earlier. She had worked as a child artiste with thespians such as Sivaji Ganesan (KandanKarunai, 1967) and MGR (Nam Naadu) in Tamil films. Many of us would also remember her as a young girl jiving to the track, 'My heart is beating' in Julie (1975). Her lead debut feature in Hindi, SolvaSawan, was a remake of the Tamil hit, 16 Vayathinile, a film starring fellow legends Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Then came 'Himmatwala', with Jeetendra in the male lead. Director K Raghavendra Rao hit the bull's eye at the box office. So did Sridevi. Her rise and shine was part of a great southern wave that hit Bollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her contemporaries like Jaya Prada, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth all found fertile fresh ground but none reached the skyscraper heights like Sridevi. Directors such as K Raghavendra Rao (Himmatwala, Tohfa) and K Bapaiah (Mawali, Maqsad) played key roles at this juncture of her career.
With the passage of time, Sridevi started demanding and getting stronger roles like in Chaalbaaz (1989) and Nagina (1986). She is even said to have refused an inadequate part in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park too. The effortless and expressive superstar, who ruled Bollywood for one of the longest spells, endeared the camera with her own trademark through screwball comedies, social drama, action-packed costume dramas, elegant romances and fun-filled fantasies. Emulated and admired by an overwhelming many, it's no wonder several of her hit songs have made a comeback in remixed avatars.
Sridevi's vibrant jig against the backdrop of painted matkas with Jeetendra to Himmatwala's foot-tapping 'Nainomeinsapna' rocked the song charts in the 1980s. The Sridevi-Jeetendra combo hit the all-familiar beach and matka setting again in yet another hit, Tohfa for the song, 'Gori tereangangmein'. Sridevi's earnest snake (Nagin) dance, boosted by LataMangeskar's vivid playback, in Harmesh Malhotra's snake-woman fantasy turned out to be one of the biggest crowd-pullers in 1986. The team tried to recreate history with its sequel, Nigaahein in 1989. Sridevi, with a microphone in hand, swayed and sashayed seductively in red and white chiffon sarees etched in every film buff's memory in Feroz Khan's stylish sensibilities and Kalyanji-Anandji's groovy declaration, 'Harkisikonahimiltayahanpyarzindagimein', which blended her inimitable oomph for this Jaanbaaz ditty. Oh! and behold, the 'Bijlee Ki Rani' arrived and the silver screen turns a shade of gold! No wonder the hero preferred to stay invisible for most of the part. Trust a thoroughly animated Sridevi to spew gibberish like, 'I see Lucy. You see Lucy. HaasiTussi. LaasiPeesi. Mombassa King Kong' (memorised by every single kid in 1987) and pull it off as one of the greatest song and dances of her career.
Sridevi chucked her effervescent side to sizzle a tad too intently for a children's fantasy in the iconic Mr India song 'Kaatenehikatte din yehraat', the actress reaffirms there's nothing quite sexier than a sari. Yash Chopra's gorgeous creation is a woman everyone falls in love with. And so it's love-at-first-sight for Rishi Kapoor and the viewers as they watch her delightfully romp to the hugely popular wedding number, 'Mere haathonmeinnaunauchuriyaanhai'. Constantly expanding her range as a performer, Sridevi won us over once again with a dazzling double role in Chaalbaaz. Her chirpy rain dance 'Najanekahan se', clad in a transparent raincoat, not only underscored her child-woman appeal, but miraculously concealed Sunny Deol's wooden dancing skills. The exquisite Yash Chopra-Sridevichemistry sparkled again against the folk beats of 'Mornibaga ma bole' in Lamhe (1991). MukulAnand's Khuda Gawah (1992), the tale of a Pathan keeping his word and the repercussion it has on his young bride and estranged daughter was an unforgettable one in the early 90s. And one of its sentimental moments include Sridevi pleading Amitabh Bachchan not to abandon her for the sake of a promise in 'Tunaja mere badshaahekvaadekeliyeekvaadatodke' in. 49-year-old Sridevi returned to films with renewed grace to play a taken-for-granted wife and mother of two in GauriShinde's breezy dramedy 'English Vinglish'. It's a not a straightforward story as complications arise when she finds herself drawn to a handsome classmate from her English-speaking class leading to the premise for its most enchanting song 'Gustakhdil'.
Born in Sivakasi, the city of fire crackers in Tamil Nadu, this iconic actress indeed has left us too early. She was stunningly gorgeous and magnificent that every 80s and 90s kid was completely mesmerised by her. She was a versatile actor and a trendsetter and showed the way as to how a Hindi film heroine or an Indian film actor should be. Sridevi broke the notion that actresses cannot do comedy. Sridevi was a master at comedy and her timing was exemplary. She brought about the trend of being versatile. Even the cute faces and animated expressions she made were so endearing. After watching her, heroines were not hesitant of attempting comedy. She was a rare heroine with an incredible sense of comic timing - who would forget her Charlie Chaplin act in Mr India!
After her marriage in 1996 to producer Boney Kapoor, followed by the birth of her two daughters Jahnvi and Khushi, she exited the scene, only to return after a long hiatus in and as MaliniIyer (2004), a television series in Sahara One and the movie English Vinglish (2012), which also became a hit in Hong Kong and England, showed her further maturing as an artiste. Sridevi was last seen in her home production titled Mom (2017), which marked her 300th film. At the time of her death, Sridevi was not shooting for any upcoming films, her last on-screen appearance is in Anand Rai's upcoming film Zero (2018) in a cameo. At the core of Sridevi's prowess was a range of natural attributes. Her elfin smile could light up a pinball machine. And her eyes mirrored every emotion. She was the first ever female superstar in Indian cinema. Her sudden demise is a grave loss not only for the Indian film industry but for the entire country. Her work, art, her dance, her contributions will remain glorified in the hearts of every Indian forever.