Sridevi: Too Big To Ever Really Die

This is one I didn’t expect.  I think it might be so much of a shock that I’m not really feeling it yet?  I’m strangely numb right now.  Sridevi, at age 54, seemingly in perfect health, her daughter not yet launched, has died.  Died as she lived, with great fame, but also great privacy.

Sridevi is one of the last great female stars to grow up onscreen.  The public has known her, and known her well, since she was 4 years old.  She started in Tamil films, where the audience has always known her best and cared for her most.  But at age 11, she had her Hindi debut in Julie playing the heroine’s little sister.

Image result for julie sridevi

Two years later, she became a leading actress at age 13 with a phenomenal performance in Moodru Mudichu.  After years of success in the southern industries, she broke through as a Hindi star with Himmatwala at age 19.  And from then on her career hopped between languages, beloved through out India for a variety of performances in a variety of films.

And yet, through all of this, there was a certain distance.  Sridevi was not someone the public, the media, or even many of her costars were allowed to really know.  Her marriage at age 33 to producer Boney Kapoor was completely unexpected and sent shock waves not just through the general public, but even those within the film industry who would be expected to have known it was coming.  An earlier marriage to Mithun Chakraborty is merely rumored, not clear as to whether or not it occurred or under what circumstances.  Despite being between two of the biggest stars of the day.

And then for 15 years she disappeared from the public eye.  Lived a life as a wife and mother somehow within India and yet invisible to the rest of the country.  Until she returned with English/Vinglish, as bright and sparkling onscreen as ever, that magic had merely been in hiding, not extinguished.

 

How is this possible?  How can an actress who the whole country, the whole world even, watched grow up onscreen, loved from 4 to 54, who was so shining and stunning and impossible to ignore, how can she have lived her life in complete privacy?

And yet, she did.  Surrounded by scandals, and yet untouched by them.  The “Sridevi” we saw onscreen never felt like the Sridevi who married an already married man, who was forced to do love scenes at age 13, who may have been married to and divorced from one of the leading actors in the industry in her 20s.  Somehow her screen image was bigger than all of that, she was bigger than herself.

She was, truly, so big.  The biggest Indian actress possibly of all time.  Because she really was an “Indian” actress.  She didn’t just crossover between industries, she advanced and defeated them.  Where ever she went, she was loved.  And loved equally, there was no need for the Tamil industry to feel jealous of her Hindi success, or the Hindi industry to be unhappy when she went back south for a film.  She was large enough to encompass all languages, all industries, all heroes and all villains and all directors and all scriptwriters and all of the whole wonderful fantasy that is Indian film, north to south.  She was so big that Sridevi onscreen ultimately eclipsed even Sridevi offscreen.

In the end, there were two Sridevis.  The dancing perfect charming sparkling impossible not to love siren that we saw onscreen.  And the modest quiet soft-spoken woman in real life.

Image result for sridevi boney kapoor

And maybe that’s why I am not as sad as I expected.  That modest quiet soft-spoken woman is dead.  And that is a tragedy, a tragedy for her young daughters, for her husband, for her extended family, for all of them.  I am sad that Jhanvi will not have her mother there at the premiere of her first film.  I am sad that her stepchildren Arjun and Anshula will never have a chance to reconcile with her.  I am sad that her husband has been left strangely twice widowed in the course of 5 years.  I am even sad for her relative whose wedding she was attending in Dubai whose joy will always be a little over-shadowed with grief.

But I am not sad for myself.  I never knew that Sridevi, the quiet modest mother.  And the Sridevi I know has not died.  Sridevi dancing across the screen, smiling with her eyes, flirting and winking, jingling her bangles, breaking my heart with a twist of her lips, that Sridevi can never die.  She will live on so long as her movies are playing somewhere, little girls are dancing to her songs, little boys are falling in love with her smile, and men and women who grew up with her are feeling young again as they watch her.  That Sridevi was so much, so big, so wonderful, that she cannot die.

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50 thoughts on “Sridevi: Too Big To Ever Really Die

    • Too many to count. Easier to list what to avoid. Check out her films in Tamil and Telugu — she was in Hindi films during their worst phase. Check out her films with Kamal Hassan to begin with, whatever language (the two of them co-starred in Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi films).

      And sorry, Margaret, I know I’m supposed to let you answer first, but this popped up as I was posting my comment, so I am still in shock.

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      • I second this. Watch kamal-sridevi movies.

        I’ve seen Moondraam pirai. Kamal won a national award but sridevi didn’t & there was hot debate around that.

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    • Chandni and Lamhe. And then English/Vinglish. Those are her best ones in Hindi, her most famous and the best all around movies. If you like those, just hundreds of others as well.

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      • Sadma, though a remake of a Tamil film, is also considered iconic (it co-stars Kamal Hassan). And how could you forget Mr. India? Another iconic role. Lamhe. Khudah Hawah (?) with Amitabh Bachchan.

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        • I did forget Mr. India! You are right. Although I think Khuda Gawah can be dropped off of the “potential first Sridevi film ever” list. Good, but not good enough for that.

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  1. OMG!!!!

    I was busy all day and just came here to unwind a little, to find this. Now I guess I must hunt up the news to get the details, or maybe I won’t. This is just too sad.

    I’d just add that Sridevi was a huge star in Telugu as well. There’s always been confusion in my mind whether her mother tongue was Telugu or Tamil.

    All I can say is that a part of me has died now. That’s something I seldom say about anyone, least of all someone in the entertainment business.

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    • I just looked up her biography quickly for this, one of her parents was Telugu and one Tamil. So you are right, in a way, her mother tongue was both.

      She died of a heart attack in Dubai where she went for a wedding.

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  2. So many people keep comparing Sridevi and Madhuri and ask who was the bigger star? To me there’s no argument at all. Whatever Madhuri might have achieved in Hindi films vis-a-vis Sridevi, she was never the number one star in three industries simultaneously. She was never an undisputed star from her childhood into adulthood. And of course, now we can also say, she could never manage a comeback film as great as English Vinglish.

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    • Absolutely. If you limit the conversation to Hindi films they were in as adult actresses, then it is a reasonable comparison. But Sridevi was all of India, and a lifelong star.

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  3. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know anything about Sridevi until I saw English Vinglish. And, I immediately was dumbfounded by her acting. By just her making breakfast, you completely understood her character. What a loss!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! And she was also the one star big enough to break through all age barriers. Any movie she wanted would have been offered her, any role she desired could have been hers. An actress where age meant nothing in terms of where her career could have gone from here.

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      • Here’s an interesting look at Sridevi breaking “age barriers.”

        First, a song where she as a child is acting with A. Nageswara Rao (ANR), the Telugu legend:

        Then, an older Sridevi acting as ANR’s heroine:

        And finally, Sridevi as heroine to Nagarjuna, ANR’s son:

        For each pairing, there are many more songs to be found. 🙂

        Similarly Sridevi acted with Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor as their heroine, then later with SRK and Salman Khan as their heroine. I don’t think she ever acted opposite, did she?

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          • I was just going through the same process. I don’t think she did ever act with Aamir. I do remember that she only acted with Shahrukh because Shahrukh was so eager to act with her, he took a small really more of a cameo part just for the opportunity. Which is saying something, when one of the top Hindi stars is eager to have the honor of playing second fiddle to an actress.

            On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 9:10 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Hi Margaret, I just posted a comment with multiple links. They had to be together (you’ll see why if you read the post). In case it’s gone into moderation, could you please approve it quickly. And, btw, sorry about the comment spam. I’ll try to resist now.

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        • No worries about the comment spam! That’s part of the reason I wanted to put up a post right away, so there was a place for people to talk.

          On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 9:08 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Another film clip of child Sridevi acting with the legendary Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan. Note that, though she probably wasn’t more than five years old, she’s not just acting the “cute kid” role. She has to deliver solid emotional punches in these scenes.

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    • It’s really amazing, it’s as though Shirley Temple grew up, kept acting, and became even more successful as an adult. I was going to compare her with Meena Kumari and Madhubala and Neetu who also acted as children. But you really can’t compare it, they played the child roles in films, but they weren’t really “stars”, not exactly. For instance, Madhubala changed her name when she began acting as an adult. Sridevi couldn’t have done that because she was so famous and memorable as a child, the audience already knew her as “Sridevi”.

      On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 7:25 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Plus she hardly had a break in between being a child star and an “adult” one. Most girls who act as children are forced into at least a three or four year break to cover that period when they are too big to be the “cute kid”, but not yet grown up enough to go for the adult role (or even a teen heroine). Sridevi went right from stopping the child roles to adult roles. I always thought I saw her first adult role in a Telugu film, where she played a girl who was supposed to be 18. IRL I would guess Sridevi was more like 15, but it was still an age appropriate role for her. The reason I thought it was her first adult role was that, in a scene where she is wading into the ocean, with her skirt flying up, you can clearly see that she has hairy legs. 🙂 So, she had hit puberty, but had not yet started on the professional grooming to play a proper “heroine. But actually this is not the case. She was playing an adult woman who was the second(?) wife of an older man when she was 13! I saw a clip from this film once (whose title, I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember). It was a scene where she had just had an emotional encounter with a blackmailer, and returns home desperate, not knowing how to stop him, and commits suicide. Pretty adult emotions for a barely teen aged actress to portray! and yet she was perfect, and I didn’t know till I read the description that she was only 13 when she acted it.

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        • Moodru Mudichu. I watched it, it was also Rajinikanth’s first film! And it was a love triangle between Rajinikanth and Sridevi and Kamal Haasan. So, future legends all around. And directed by K. Balachander. An amazing movie and worth watching even without that cast, but extra interesting because of it.

          On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 7:40 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. A “tandav” dance from Chalbaaz. I’ve never seen this movie, and it’s quite intriguing to me that the equivalent scene in the Hema Malini version of the film was a drunk song. 🙂 Brilliant dancing here by Sridevi.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Here is a lengthy tribute from one of Sridevi’s biggest fans, director Ram Gopal Varma:

    Posted by RGV on Saturday, February 24, 2018

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  7. I am going to dive into her films tomorrow but on a shallow note, I think Sridevi could be in the running as most beautiful actress to appear in films. Her eyes were incredible and even in English/Vinglish she looked at least 15 years younger than her age. Looking forward to seeing the film tomorrow.

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    • It’s an amazing combination of regular features and so on, and a trained ability to use them (ever slight muscle twitch, eye movement, everything, is perfectly controlled and calculated), and some inner spark that just shines through. She’s also one of those actresses who is a very beautiful woman in real life, but nothing more than that. And then once she starts performing, everything changes and you can’t look away from her.

      On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 11:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. “Lived a life as a wife and mother somehow within India and yet invisible to the rest of the country. ”

    Not within India, she raised her daughters in Texas (Houston?) for many years. A well known fact among Texan Indians. Not uncommon for Indian celebrities of that generation to escape to the comfort and anonymity of the usa to raise kids.

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  9. I woke up this news. Spent all morning in the middle of frantic texts from almost everyone. What a horrible, horrible day for us all. The sense of disbelief I feel is pretty much on the same level for me as I remember having felt with Diana even though I was barely a child when the latter passed away. This is just too much of a shock. Everyone is talking about this today. I heard sobs coming out of the house behind mine and you can hear the news on all around. Her face is all over the news and it just doesn’t feel like it has happened!

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    • One of my fellow non-desi film fans sent me a series of texts. She is visiting people off in the country, none of them are Indian film fans, and she was having the opposite experience of you. Feeling this huge loss and emotion, and no one around her had any idea what had happened or any reaction to it.

      On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 1:57 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Here in the usa we’ve already spent Saturday grieving, we got the news real-time around noon Saturday. Normally we turn to India, Indian news articles, Indian celebs, Indian Twitter, Indian YouTube tributes, etc to lead us through the grieving process. This time, there was precious little online, so we lead ourselves through our own grieving process, with local nri posting personal tributes and testimonials. In a way, it allowed us to share our personal sense of loss in a way that we don’t normally get to.

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  10. When I read ShahRukh praising Sridevi (many years ago), I watched some of her movies and could easily understand his love and respect for her.
    Then I also read about her life and I wondered if she really was ever deeply happy in real life…and now her heart failed…seemingly…

    I agree with you, Margaret, she will never die… not for those who knew her in real life, not for those who know her through her movies.
    Thanks a lot for all the following posts you dedicated to her work, for the comments here and there…I am sad…for many reasons.

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    • My understanding is that he did Army just because he wanted a chance to work with her and knew it may not come again.

      On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 3:21 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  11. Sridevi was a complete package in her first innings. Beautiful face, enviable figure, charismatic screen presence, great comic timing, exceptional dancer. She looked great in Indian & western clothes & could do serious & funny with equal charm. Her performance as Anju & Manju in Chaalbaaz is the best for me. Two entirely different looks & two entirely different performances. You cannot believe it’s the same actress. I agree with you that the Sridevi we knew will live on through her prolific performances. Off late I was kinda put off by her offscreen appearances. So to me-the best of Sridevi is done with. The true loss is for her daughters. I cannot imagine what they must be going through now.

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    • I really do hope that the family pulls together. Jhanvi and Khushi always seemed closer to their mother than anyone else, even their father. I hope this is a chance for their larger family to embrace them and support them. They have their grandparents (Boney’s parents), the cousins Sonam and Rhea, and their aunt Anil’s wife, along with their half-siblings, a lot of wonderful wise supportive people who could lift them up.

      On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 5:19 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Just read that Sri was staying back to spend time with her sister Srilatha-whom we haven’t heard much about. Also Arjun K seems to be around to console his step sisters. Had seen in some of the pics at another Kapoor wedding that Sonam, Rhea, Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter& Arjun’s sister seemed to be like how cousins usually are. Sridevi’s daughters were not much photographed with them. They were always around their mother and off late with Manish Malhotra & other filmi people. Hope the family does come together.

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  12. One of my favorite Sridevi films is MOM. She is really scary as the vigilante mom. I believe she won a Best Actress Award from someone for her role. After that, I just had to buy the DVD and it was/is well worth it. Along with Sridevi in the role as the amazing MOM, Sajal Ali as her step-daughter, Akshaye Khanna, the inquisitive detective, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays a rather interesting character.

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    • It was a great film. Odd that it will be her final film. It felt like something that promised so much more. A nice interesting film to show her range, on the way to making a bigger more impressive film once she proved she could do such a stretch. But now we just have the interesting film, the bigger film it promised is now gone.

      On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 1:39 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  13. Condolences to the great Soul! I’m still shocked and her mystery of dying is becoming complex day by day. I loved her movie ‘Nagina’ , in India we believe in existence of shape shifting cobras which was truly represented by her in Nagina
    ❤️ From India.

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  14. Pingback: Another Youtube Video! On Sridevi | dontcallitbollywood

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