Just the other day, a few cinematic moments ago in the months gone by, fans- who’d been complaining they see so little of Sridevi- were enthralled by her feisty performance in Mom. Through a thoroughly understated but unbelievably impactful performance, Sridevi overpowered and ruled over a motion picture- that had no ordinary actors or lame pushovers in Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna. Today, as the world sleepily wakes up to embrace another lazy Sunday, Sridevi has set the day’s wheels in motion, albeit with a suddenness of her absence.
This is no ordinary absence; it is a void none can fill. It puts forth focus on celebration of a talent that possibly no salutation can ever sufficiently accommodate. Regardless, for her fans- tons of them around the world who grew up with gold-studded memories in films like Mr. India, Nagina, Chaalbaaz- Sridevi won’t be pardoned for going absent without leave. As it is, it was hard to deal with seeing so less of an actor who was both a charisma and a star and often, a charisma that shone brighter than most contemporary talents that are labelled as ‘stars’.
At a time where just her incredible presence was enough to provide more gleam to a lamp, her absence marks a blotch that goes beyond the embers of pitch darkness. That, in essence, conveys the personality of a star who was both a cult and a simpleton, an inspiration as well as a yardstick against which many a actress judged her potential. But for a world that goes beyond Bollywood, Sridevi will always be remembered as a connecting bridge between the south and the north; two contrasting cultures that thrived on a shared love for films and entertainment.
54 is no age to go. But then, for her infectious smile and blithe disregard for shenanigans, would we have allowed Sri- as she was often lovingly called- to leave us ever? Sordid and painful as it may sound for death announces itself with a bumper sticker that reads ‘No Way Back’, it is but heartening to note that thanks to an extensive body of work- an apt compliment to Sridevi’s full arc of expressions- there are tons of memories with which to remember one of Bollywood’s true divas. You didn’t just make movies that could offer something to Sridevi, you wrote movies that could be done by no other than Sri. With her cutely cunning shenanigans, she settled scores with her detractors in Chaalbaaz.
With suave and grace- laced with a twinge of romanticism- Sridevi was the Chandni that could light up a room filled with gloom and moreover, even today one can’t think of anyone else apart from this siren who could combine wit, humour and an incessant bout of energy with such charismatic ease as seen in Mr. India. As admirers of her raw, jaw-dropping beauty, you didn’t simply view “Kaate nahin katate ye din ye raat” on multiple occasions, you wished to trade places with Anil Kapoor. At a time where much of the film industry is about actresses resorting to skin-baring and success often linked to dropping one’s inhibitions, Sridevi wore a strong essence of pleasant simplicity as a somewhat sad, forlorn but puppy-eyed innocent Nehalata Malhotra in Sadma.
But what is even more admirable about an actress who not only held her own against a Madhuri Dixit, but emerged as an acting powerhouse unsullied by excesses of stardom was just how different her portrayals appeared in the latter half of her career, picture Mom, English Vinglish. A complete polarisation to the sassy and salubrious renderings in Lamhe, Judaai, Laadla and Chandni stamped by an authoritative but signature smile, Sridevi was a figure of grace and quiet surety in two of her most acclaimed outings in recent times: as the English-Vinglish speaking simple saree-clad soul and a mother who resorts to feisty and uncompromising measures to settle scores with her daughter’s harassers.
What we will miss most about Sridevi was just how great a live-wire was she on stage and in movies and just how unassuming and simple she led a life off starry lights and Bollywood’s razzmatazz. RIP Ma’am!