In the early hours of Sunday, the world was greeted with the terrible news of legendary actress Sridevi’s sudden demise . But a tweet posted late Saturday night by superstar Amitabh Bachchan is sending shivers up social media’s spine. A little after midnight, he wrote about feeling a sense of unease, tweeting in Hindi: “Na jaane kyun, ek ajeeb si ghabrahat ho rahi hain.”
His tweet is now being seen by Twitter as an eerie premonition – hours later, the world learnt that actress Sridevi had died of a cardiac arrest in Dubai, where she and the family were attending a wedding. Sridevi, who was just 54, was Mr Bachchan’s co-star in films like ‘Inquilaab’, ‘Aakhree Raasta’ and ‘Khuda Gawah’. Bachchan also made a special appearance in 2012’s ‘English Vinglish’, the film that marked Sridevi’s return to screen after a hiatus of many years.
In life & death, cine goddess Sridevi held nation of movie-goers in thrall
The Sridevi phenomenon in Hindi films started with Himmatwala in 1983. But the Sivakasi-born’s career had begun over a decade and half earlier. She had worked as a child artiste with thespians such as Sivaji Ganesan (Kandan Karunai, 1967) and MGR (Nam Naadu) in Tamil films. Aging Hindi film buffs will also remember her as a young girl jiving to the track, ‘My heart is beating’, in Julie (1975).
Her lead debut feature in Hindi, Solva Sawan, was a remake of her Tamil hit, 16 Vayathinile (At 16), a film starring fellow legends Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Director Bharathi Rajaa’s take on a village belle being seduced by a city slicker vanished like smoke in wind, setting her Bollywood career back. And that’s despite a much-discussed scene where the teenage heroine is baited unsuccessfully to wade through water without getting her dress wet.
Directors such as K Raghavendra Rao (Himmatwala, Tohfa) and K Bapaiah (Mawali, Maqsad) played key roles at this juncture of her career. The movies were aimed at the frontbenchers at a time when the gentry was being lured away from the theatres by the new techno-toy: the video cassette player. The thoughtful Sadma, released the same year, sank without a trace.
With the passage of time, Sridevi started demanding and getting stronger roles – Chaalbaaz and Nagina to name two. Later she is even said to have refused an inadequate part in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.
When Bollywood A listers Shekhar Kapur (Mr India) and Yash Chopra (Chandni and Lamhe) cast her, it meant her conquest of Bollywood was complete. Sridevi became the chiffon in Chopra’s Switzerland. In both Chandni and Lamhe, she displayed a more expressive and less flamboyant side to her film persona as evident in some of her Tamil and Telugu movies such as the award-winning Meendum Kokila (1982).
At the core of Sridevi’s prowess was a range of natural attributes. Her elfin smile could light up a pinball machine. And her eyes mirrored every emotion. They could convey anger (Army, Sherni) or hesitant love (Lamhe, 1991). Acting seemed to be like a switch which could be turned on or off at a moment’s notice. She could play a woman interrupted (Sadma) and be both whipsmart assertive or silently submissive in the same space (Chaalbaaz). She was a rare heroine with an incredible sense of comic timing. Exhibit 1: Her Chaplin act in Mr India.
Few heroines could transmit the joy and abandon of dancing like her. Be it the desi ‘Gori tere ang ang mein’ (Tohfa) or the western ‘Hawa hawai’ (Mr India), Sridevi brought a bounce and spontaneity to her showstopper moves. That ‘Gori tere ang ang mein’, a song where Jeetendra and Sridevi run around a thousand copper vessels, has 40 million YouTube views, only shows her brand of sensuality continues to enamor in the size-zero age.
After her marriage in 1996 to Boney Kapoor, who produced her super hit Mr India as well as the super flop Roop Ki Rani, Choron ka Raja (1993), she exited the scene, only to return after a long hiatus. English Vinglish (2012), which also became a hit in Hong Kong and England, showed her further maturing as an artiste.
Her sudden death comes as a shock to all, especially family and colleagues.