Dear Sridevi, I Wanted To Be That Tough Woman You Played. We Will Miss You!

Posted: February 25, 2018

Besides her intense acting, gift for comedy and her stunning dancing, Sridevi brought to many women a vicarious pleasure through the many ‘tough women’ roles she essayed – and enjoyed. She will truly be missed!

Sometimes when I get very upset, I feel as though I should block each person on social media as I had previously done on Facebook; recently though, I came across a tweet which read, “Life is very short. And there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend”. Today my eyes well up, when I think of this. The saying is true. Life is indeed short, and 54 is not an age to bid goodbye to life.

I was a little girl who loved to dance. It was at a school function that I gleefully danced to this song from Mr India played by none other than Sridevi, one of my favourite female actors.

Mai Khwabo Kee Shehjadee,
Mai Hu Har Dil Pe Chhayee,
Badal Hai Meree Julfe,
Bijalee Meree Angdayee
Bijalee Girane Mai Hu Aayee
Bijalee Girane Mai Hu Aayee
Kehte Hain Mujhko Hawa Hawayee
Hawa Hawayee, Hawa Hawayee

At a very tender age I fell in love with this stunning actress who won my heart with several blockbusters – Chandni, Lamhe, Chaalbaaz, Mr India, Sadma and many more. There was one more reason why I loved her: in each of these movies she played the role of a tough woman and I wanted to be strong like her.

Born in Sivakasi, TamilNadu to a Tamil father Ayyappan and a Telugu mother Rajeswari, Sridevi made her debut as a child artist when she was only four – similar to my age when I started dancing. She acted in a Tamil movie Thunaivan where she played the role of young Lord Muruga. Though her father was a lawyer and she also regretted the fact that films to a certain extent did hamper her education, it was the acting which ran in her blood and when offered a choice between education and films she opted for the latter.

Acting came to her naturally, as did her slapstick comedy and her sophisticated dancing skills. In her tribute today,  Nandini Ramnath over at Scroll mentions how she was among the few female stars in Hindi cinema who could steer a movie’s commercial fate on her own merits. She starred in some of the biggest hits of the 80s and the 90s, and as Nandini Ramnath highlights, “won acclaim for her sensitive portrayals of women thrown into challenging situations.”

It was in the year 1976 that she played the lead role in the Tamil movie Moondru Mudichu. In 1982, she won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress for her role as a woman suffering from amnesia in Moondram Pirai, remade in Hindi as Sadma. In 1975 she commenced her work in Hindi film industry with Julie where she played the role of Julie’s younger sister Irene.

By 1979, Sridevi had made her debut as a lead heroine in Bollywood with the movie Solva Sawan. Since then there was no looking back. She emerged among the top heroines in the Bollywood film industry since the 70s. In an extremely male-dominated industry, she held her own and often, eclipsed her male stars too, as happened in Mr India.

In the 70s and 80s, she also acted in many multilingual films across the Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada film industries which proved to be major block busters. But behind each success there was a story of tremendous hard work and dedication. From the ageing NT Rama Rao Rishi Kapoor, mature stars like Jeetendra and Amitabh Bachchan, to the emerging big stars of the time like Rajinikanth, Anil Kapoor and Kamal Haasan, she acted with them all.

As I am writing this essay I confess I am weeping. I remember her in the movie Sadma where she played the role of a young girl who regresses to her childhood after a head injury in a car accident. She lands in a brothel only to be rescued by Somu (played with elan by Kamal Haasan), a school teacher who falls in love with her. Her staging of this character was noteworthy and she was nominated for the Filmfare best actress award alongwith several state and national awards. I cried watching that movie and now the same tears roll down my cheeks as I recall the movie.

Sridevi was last seen in the movie Mom, which won her many accolades for her portrayal of an avenging mother.

A winner of Padma Shri in the year 2013, she also won several other awards for her magnificent performances. Her dances were mostly choreographed by Saroj Khan and she was truly number one.

We lost her on 24 February 2018. She died of a cardiac arrest in Dubai where she went to attend the wedding of her nephew and actor Mohit Marwah. She leaves behind her grieving husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters Jahnvi and Khushi. She was only fifty four.

While several noted politicians, film stars and other dignified personalities mourn her loss, we as women will miss her as we see her as a feminist icon through her powerful acting. RIP Sridevi, I have no words of consolation but stay happy wherever you are!

Image is a still from the movie English Vinglish

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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of

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