This is the post for people who aren’t sure if they know who Sridevi was, who she married, who her children were, and so on. If you want an unbiased (as much as possible) description of the basic facts of her life, this is it.
It occurs to me that there will be a lot of posts and comments in the next few days that might make Sridevi’s life look either better or worse than it was. As I said in my obituary post, she was a deeply private woman so there is much that is unknown not just by the general public, but even the film community. However, that has never stopped people from talking. I don’t want to talk about her personal life in her obituary post, because that wouldn’t be appropriate. But I also want to do what I can to stem the gossip and changes to her life story that will be appearing over the next few days.
Sridevi was a major star as a child in Tamil and Telugu films. She began working as an adult actress at 13 and immediately became a major star as an adult as well. As a teenager, supposedly, a young Hindi producer Boney Kapoor flew down to meet with her, but that meeting went nowhere and they didn’t end up working together.
A few years later, rumors started flying of a romance between her and fellow major southern star Mithun Chakraborty. Mithun was several years older than her and already married. And already scandalous, his wife had left her first husband Kishore Kumar for him. Mithun never divorced his first wife, they are still together today, but it was rumored that he secretly married and then divorced Sridevi.
(Mithun and Sridevi)
Around the time of their “divorce” Sridevi began working in the Hindi industry, although she never stopped working in the south as well. In the Hindi industry, she worked closely with Boney Kapoor and his family, was welcomed by them. In the south, she began to work regularly with a young visionary director Ram Gopal Verma who became obsessed with her image onscreen and built amazing movies around her.
And then, in 1996, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor suddenly announced they were married. Boney’s first wife and his children continued to live with his parents while he was thrown out of the house. The Kapoor family is also deeply private, but it could not be entirely hidden that this was a rupture in the family. But not a major rupture, she acted with her now brother-in-law Anil Kapoor after marriage in her last film, Judaai.
Sridevi gave birth to their first daughter, Jhanvi less than a year after the wedding. And then their daughter Khushi a few years later. She became primarily a mother after that. she would occasionally be seen with her husband and daughters out and about, but no more than that. Until her daughters became teenagers, at which point she began performing at awards shows again. And eventually picked her “come-back” movie, a brilliant human story with her playing an average middle-aged and middle-class housewife, English/Vinglish. The audiences loved her and immediately responded, and she was a star again. And we all eagerly began waiting for the launch of her oldest daughter, Jhanvi.
Meanwhile, there was a shadow on all this. Boney’s first wife died of cancer shortly before the debut of her son Arjun in his first movie. Arjun was forced in interview after interview to dredge up the whole painful series of events. And there was no way of hiding that the family had never reconciled. Arjun was clear that he was still close to his father, and did not claim an ill will to Sridevi, but also said that his half sisters and his stepmother had no place at all in his life or in the life of his full sister.
No one can really know what happened exactly 22 years ago. The most scandalous version has Sridevi becoming pregnant while being sponsored and protected by Boney’s wife, possibly even while living in their house. The most romantic version has Boney in love with her since that first meeting years earlier, forced into an arranged marriage with another woman but never forgetting her. But it is clear that Boney’s family considers him, and his new wife Sridevi, to be at fault. And the death of his first wife just served to make it more painful. Now, Sridevi is gone. Boney is alone with his 4 children. His daughters have lost their mother just as his son and daughter lost their mother. Even more striking, Jhanvi lost her mother while preparing for her debut just as Arjun lost his.
So that is what will be in the air during this time of grief. How will the family pull together? What scandals will be dredged up and what ghosts put to rest?
(an earlier version of this story focused on the Boney Kapoor side of it is available here)