This is partly because there are some friends in real life who are asking me to explain what happened, and partly because I feel the need to sort of write it out like a story for myself. And partly because this will be the last Sridevi news type post (probably. Unless something big changes), I don’t want to keep chewing away for ever, I want to sum it up one last time and move on to remembering her life, not her death. (previous as it happened posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here)
It all starts with a wedding. A very very big wedding. Not big for the public, we don’t know the bride and groom that well, but big for the industry. These were two extremely well-connected people.
The groom Mohit Marwah is a young actor who hasn’t made much of a mark yet. But his father owns a studio lot, and his mother is Boney and Anil and Sanjay Kapoor’s sister. The Kapoors have never been the most famous or powerful family, but they are respected, and more than that, they are liked. They work hard, they keep going, and they have been upstanding members of the film fraternity, there to support everyone else during their times of joy or sorrow. And so, from the groom’s side, many people wanted to make an effort to come because of his family.
From the bride’s side, there was something a little different. The bride, Antara Motiwala, isn’t famous at all. But her aunt is Tina Munim, a popular actress of the 1980s who made connections and good friends in the industry. More importantly, Tina Munim married Anil Ambani and became Tina Ambani. Anil Ambani is the 45th richest man in India, and owns RelianceMediaWorks which has gone into film in a big way (they bought Speilberg’s studio Dreamworks, along with the Indian studio AdLabs). This wedding brought together the goodwill of the Kapoors, the friendships of Tina Munim, and the massive power of Anil Ambani. So everyone came. It was in Dubai, and the airport shots showed essentially every celebrity of the Hindi film industry was going to it, one by one.
(Happy wedding fun)
And then returning one by one. The media began to work on the post-wedding stories, videos leaked out celebrities dancing and partying, more airport shots as people flew back home, etc. etc. And then, in the middle of the night India time, middle of the day US time, and evening Dubai time, the story broke that Sridevi Kapoor had died.
Sridevi, at this point, wasn’t even a part of the story. She was married to Boney Kapoor whose nephew was getting married. But she wasn’t closely involved with the wedding, she was merely there as a guest, as were many other film celebrities. She enjoyed herself at the wedding, and then planned to stay a few more days to enjoy Dubai while her husband flew home with their younger daughter. Their older daughter had imbibed the Kapoor work ethic and was already back in Bombay, working hard on her film launch. Boney decided to surprise his wife and to fly back to Dubai without telling her. He arrived, met her in her hotel room, they talked, and then she went into the bathroom to begin getting ready for dinner. Boney didn’t hear her respond to him and began to get worried, eventually broke in to find her unconscious. She was whisked off to the hospital and the news came out “Sridevi dead of cardiac arrest”. Which somehow got translated to “Sridevi dead of heart attack”.
Immediate the news systems sprang into gear and twitter rumors began. Meanwhile, the family was scrabbling. Boney Kapoor was in Dubai and was not going to leave without her body. But his daughters were alone back home. In a building which was already beginning to be surrounded by media and fans. Jhanvi Kapoor called for help to the one person she could trust, producer Karan Johar who was coordinating her launch film. Karan immediately came to her rescue, went to the house and helped her get out and over to her uncle Anil Kapoor’s house. The rest of the family slowly began to gather there while the media set up camp outside.
(Here’s Jhanvi at a party at Karan’s house with his previous mentee Alia Bhatt and his good friend Manish Malhotra, who was also Sridevi’s preferred designer and costumer)
The problem was, again, the Kapoors are very hardworking. Most of them hadn’t even gone from Dubai to Bombay, but rather straight to their location shoots without stopping. Anil Kapoor and his daughter Sonam weren’t home, Sanjay Kapoor returned from Dubai just to turn back around again and go back to help Boney, the daughters were left alone.
Except, not alone after all. Sridevi was Boney’s second wife, his children with his first wife Arjun and Anshula had never been close to Sridevi, or their halfsisters. In fact, Arjun said in an interview that he never met or interacted with them at all. Arjun and Anshula lost their mother a few years back, as Arjun was preparing for his film debut, just as Jhanvi lost hers as she was preparing for her debut. But Jhanvi was even less prepared. Only 20 years old, her entire life was wrapped up in her mother. This debut was meant to be carefully coordinated and helped along by her mother, unlike Arjun’s debut when he was 26 which was put together by several friends and relatives, but Arjun himself was expected to carry most of the burden. This week, Arjun had no filming on schedule, he was still in Dubai, he flew back and went immediately to Anil’s house to be with his half-sisters. He went from there back to Dubai to be with his father when the body was released and accompany it home. And then back to Anil’s house with his sisters. During the funeral, he was seen coordinating the crowd, by his father’s side, with his sisters. If anything good has come out of this, it is that apparently Jhanvi and Khushi have lost a mother but gained a caring and supportive big brother who, it turns out, does care about them after all.
While Arjun was going to support his sisters, and the majority of the film industry was visiting the house as well to offer condolences, things were changing rapidly in Dubai. The Dubai authorities ordered an autopsy and someone somehow got a copy of the autopsy report and spread a photograph online. The cause of death was listed as “accidental drawning” (typo in original) and alcohol was present in the blood. Immediately speculation started up again and rumors started flying. Meanwhile, the Dubai public prosecutor started an investigation to establish what happened (something which according to the Indian embassy in Dubai is common in these cases) and the release of the body was put on hold. However, within a day, the investigation was over, Boney and some others had been interviewed, and “accidental drowning” was established as the official cause of death. Not a very common death, but not completely unheard of, especially if there is alcohol involved. Doesn’t even have to be a large amount of alcohol, just enough to make you sleepy and dehydrated, leading to fainting, leading to slipping under water, leading to death.
Anil Ambani provided one of his private jets to fly her home from Dubai, Arjun and Boney brought her back to the house and the funeral plans began. It was decided to offer a public viewing, unusual even for a celebrity death. For three hours on the grounds of a club near the house, Sridevi’s body would be visible to all, friends and colleagues and the general public. The crowd outside grew and grew, and grew rowdy when they realized they could not all go in. Arjun went out to calm them, the police did a lathi charge to drive them back. Meanwhile, inside, Sridevi was receiving full state honors by order of the Maharashtra government. Her coffin was draped in a flag and she received a salute. And then she was loaded into a closed and flower draped truck for the journey to the crematorium. Her stepson and daughters and husband and a few others went with her, while other members of the family and leading members of the film fraternity went separately to the crematorium.
And finally, after all of this, the family issued two statements. First the full formal statement from the entire family, posted on Sonam Kapoor’s twitter:
And second a statement from Boney himself, grappling with the reality that the world lost a beloved film icon while he lost a wife.
And that’s it. A sad random tragic accident, followed by a lot of confusion and difficulties. With the unexpected but hopeful result of a seemingly permanently divided set of siblings that has now come together.