February 25, 2018. 9.30 am. It was one of my hourly Whatsapp scans. Just as I was skimming through the customary boring ‘Good morning’ messages, philosophical advices and stale jokes, I came across a forwarded news link. ‘Bollywood actress Sridevi no more’!
Sridevi? No more? The mind was stunned for a moment. The next moment, out of the blue, my eyes became moist. It was something unexpected…. this kind of emotional reaction. But then it was also natural. The actress who had reigned over Bollywood in my adolescence and youth was no more. With her, I had lost a part of my life, too!
A series of flashbacks kept reminding me of her innings. A small girl dancing in Julie, an innocent teenager falling prey to a womanizer in Solva Sawan, a mentally challenged girl in Sadma, a haughty ‘thunder thighs’ in Himmatwala, a woman caught up in a love triangle in Chaandni, a perky investigative reporter in Mr. India, a girl falling in love with her guardian in Lamhe, a Seeta-aur-Geeta type double role in Chaalbaaz, the ichchhaadhaari naagin in Nagina, the greedy wife ‘selling’ her husband in Judaai……her portrayals had such verve, variety and versatility.
There are stories about how cold and emotion-less she would look just before the scene and how magically she would transform into the character as soon as the camera rolled on! Any role, any attire, any mood and she could carry it with aplomb. As per the demand of the scene, she could look sedate or seductive; break into a reflective monologue or an electric dance; make you laugh or tear up.
The South Indian tinge to her Hindi dialogues was unmistakable but then she could grab your attention without any dialogue. She had the most fluid face and most expressive eyes, which could express any emotion- happy, sad, romantic, comic, jealous….anything! At times her sugary coyness could rankle (Shona…shona…shona!) but as an all-round package, she was simply unbeatable.
She could carry entire films on her shoulders. It did not matter whether it was Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Rajnikant or even Amitabh against her, she held her own, often putting the leading men into shade with her incandescent performance.
Then the success dwindled, as it often does in this fickle entertainment industry. Other heroines came to occupy her throne but to be frank- none of them was as good as her. She accepted the verdict and moved on in life. She got married, had kids and took a long hiatus.
Then unexpectedly she made a comeback after 12 years and a triumphant one at that. It was yet another stunning performance, that of a neglected housewife finding her own niche in English Vinglish. Then last year, she played Mom, a mother avenging her step-daughter’s rape. There was a scene where she comes to know of step-daughter’s ordeal, a step-daughter who has never accepted her as a mother. The devastation and breakdown portrayed by Sri in that scene was so, so powerful and so realistic. There was not a dry eye in the entire theatre!
Just when one hoped that she would be delivering many more such moving performances, she decided to take a dramatic exit. This time there will be no comeback! There is talk about her overzealous weight control and cosmetic procedures having played a role in the untimely demise but now all that is immaterial. The queen is dead! Long live the queen!!
Good bye Sri! There will be no one like you!