Stardom comes at its own cost. The price tag is often heavy, but the tell-tale sign of your celebrityhood comes with the image of you held by your legion of fans. And only a few get the privilege of being recognized as different characters they played in their career! To a section of Sridevi devotees, she was the beloved girl from Sadma who wore braids while for many others she was this sparkling vision in white in and as Chandni. When she passed away last year, her admirers even remembered Sridevi for the eccentric headgear she wore as Hawa Hawai dancing in an offbeat look as if costume drama were her forte!
Sridevi could dance in the rain with utmost innocence in her big bright eyes (Chaalbaaz), flirt and fall in love with an invisible man in Mr. India, sing songs of triumph and praise while communicating with her bangles in Lamhe, send temperatures soaring even in a historical drama like Khuda Gawah, and decades later give us the perfect wedding song while making laddoos in English Vinglish – Sridevi was her directors' actor. She could be anybody they wanted. She could be anybody we couldn’t imagine! Perhaps this was the reason she chose to be a nobody when the arc lights were dimmed.
Paparazzi culture during Sridevi’s times was still a raging phenomenon. But the South Indian beauty led a life as normal as one could post pack up. Her stardom was enlivened between 'Action' and 'Cut.' Becoming a rarity by choice, Sridevi was an enigma out of her own will. She remained inaccessible and gave very few interviews. When Sridevi entered the cinema industry at the age of four, the years later saw many stories being circulated, talking about the conditions that led her to take up acting.
Child artists in those days were often a by-product of the zeal and enthusiasm of parents. Not many survived in the glamorous world to enjoy the spotlight until they hit puberty or youth, but Sridevi and Rekha were amongst the chosen one it seems. Of course, their fame was bought in exchange for several things. A lack of education in the former’s case for starters.
Sridevi, the star who never hitched her wagon to another one.
The reason behind Rekha's claim to fame could be pinned to her scintillating looks. It only happened after she worked a great deal on her physicality, her accent, diction, and way of conducting herself. As for Sridevi, for the longest her movies were dubbed. She couldn’t even speak in her original voice. Here we had Rekha melting the screen with her killer expressions and seething screen presence, but Sridevi was more of a package – she had the glamorous looks, she was filled with grace and she carried tonnes of innocence in her eyes that will never let vulgarity seep in the frame!
Rekha even mentored Sridevi for some time. But one thing setting the two apart was the male attention. Rekha’s act of the courtesan and several before and after led to her male fans fantasizing about the actress. She was the sexy siren of her era! But even when Sridevi was clad in the thin blue chiffon saree, obscenity was never on the table. She could keep her female fans engaged with her outlandish fashion picks and at the same time, keep her male fans happy with a change of moves and outfits from time to time. She knew how to make them come back for more every time!
Even when Sridevi played the shy Shashi Godbole, age probably got the better of her. But that in no way held her back from owning the limelight and our hearts from the word go. There were whispers that financial problems at home were the reason for her return to the screen after a lengthy absence, but it didn’t matter. Whatever be the reason, we were happy to have our icon back!
Sridevi, the elusive one
It wasn’t like Sridevi never faced the bricks and bats. She was mocked for her voice, which throughout her career was often dubbed. She was body-shamed for having ‘thunder thighs’ – it was definitely not an easy ride becoming the first female superstar of the country! However, one thing no one could ever take away from her was her confrontational attitude towards the roles she took upon. She dived deep under the skin of the character, sunk her teeth into it and made every film as the best of her journey.
However, the Sridevi we know is through the people she portrayed and brought to life on celluloid. The real Sridevi fought her own battles, mighty and small. She weathered several storms and enjoyed the lull too. One of the most expressive actresses in the industry, seemed to have hidden it all from the public eyes and very well if we may say so. Her scars were hidden, her struggles lesser known, her personal life kept a mystery, her many stories left unrevealed to her fan family.
She did whatever was asked of her on the sets, by the director or the producer. "I wear whatever they give me," she once told a portal. Compliments were not exactly on her list of things she cared about. She remained unbothered by controversies and conversations that involved her own self and even family at times.
Sridevi had always been the star that only illuminated when the cameras were rolling. Once the director said 'Cut' and the cameras were off, she went back to being a regular woman. Owning her flaws and mistakes and celebrating the little victories on the personal front with her two beautiful daughters Janhvi Kapoor and Khushi Kapoor and an extremely loving partner Boney Kapoor. Sridevi refused to share herself with the world.
There were many who walked in before her and even after, but the one who left in the last train from Ooty was the most difficult to track down. For her real story always shadowed her, we could see it, but never touch it.