August 13th is Sridevi’s 55th birthday. Without doubt one of Bollywood’s most beautiful leading ladies, Sridevi, who died suddenly in February, is also credited with giving heroines in B’town a personality they seldom had in the past. Such was the power of her presence that she could compete with the heroes of the time for screen real estate, and get it. Little wonder then that she was called the first female superstar of the industry.
A veteran in her own right, Sridevi proved her mettle across languages, from Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi films, and gave hit after hit in a career spanning decades. Though her first film Solva Saavan (1978) proved to be a dud, it was with her second movie opposite Jeetendra, Himmatwala (1983) with which she announced her arrival in tinseltown. Her first ever appearance in a Hindi movie was Julie in 1975 when she played younger sister of the heroine, Laxmi.
Sridevi discontinued her school in the first grade itself when Tamil filmmaker MG Ramachandran spotted and signed her for Nam Naad (1969) at the age of four. She also featured in MA Thirumugham’s devotional Tamil film Thunaivan the same year. However, her father who was a lawyer, ensured a private tutor was available for her education.
With charges rumoured to be at par with the heroes of her time, Sridevi was perhaps the only actress to have refused films with Amitabh Bachchan. “I have never said I won’t work with Amitji. But then what’s there for any artiste to do in a film starring him? He does everything himself,” she had said in an interview in 1987. However, Sridevi later starred in a few movies opposite Amitabh, including Aakhiri Raasta and Khuda Gawah.
We take a look at some of the milestones in Sridevi’s Bollywood journey.
The 1975 hit was Sridevi’s first appearance on the Hindi film canvas. Julie was a remake of Malayalam hit Chattakari (1974). The movie was also remade in Telugu film (Miss Julie Prema Katha, 1975) and Kannada (Julie, 2006).
Even as she worked towards creating a space for herself in the Hindi film industry, the actor had already established her name as one of the most sought after heroines in Tamil cinema. One of her most popular pairings was opposite Kamal Haasan. The sensitivity with which Sridevi played the woman with a mind of a child was both heart-breaking and touching.
The 1983 film found a new hit pair for Bollywood – Jitendra and Sridevi. The duo was paired together in 16 films and 11 of these were superhits at the box office! Himmatwala was followed by hits like Ghar Sansaar, Tohfa, Mawwali and these established the pair as the most bankable couple of the decade.
Those eyes of Sridevi continue to haunt fans of the actor from 1986 when they saw her as an ‘icchadhari nagin’ in the Rishi Kapoor-starrer film. Sridevi performed one of her iconic dance numbers in movie, Main Teri Dushman, a song that continues to be one of the best dance songs in Bollywood..
The chirpy newspaper reporter who would fight with her landlord at one moment because he has too many kids in his house and risk her life trying to bring out stories she believes in the very next moment won our hearts in Shekhar Kapur’s Anil Kapoor-starrer 1987 hit film. Sridevi’s song Hawa Hawaai was the top chartbuster and established her as one of the leading heroines of Bollywood.
Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna-starrer Chandni established Sridevi as a romantic heroine in tinsel town. Her white dresses were a rage and became THE fashion statement for years after 1989 when the film released. The film won the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment. Chandni was also the first Hindi movie where Sridevi dubbed for her own voice. Earlier, Naaz used to dub her films as she was not comfortable with Hindi. Rekha had dubbed for Sridevi in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Aakhiri Raasta.
Sridevi’s double role in this 1989 remake of Hema Malini-starrer Seeta Aur Geeta, proved to be a fun ride. Her rain dance in the song Na Jaane Kaha Se Ayi Hai and the versatility she displayed essaying the two diverse roles onscreen established her prowess. Sridevi is also said to be the highest paid Hindi film actress from 1985-1992.
Sridevi played the daughter of Anil Kapoor’s ex-lover in this one-of-a-kind Yash Chopra romantic film. The 1991 movie remains a cult classic romantic that traces a love story dealing with a huge age gap, a novelty in Indian cinema. The film bagged five Filmfare Awards that year: Best Film (Yash Chopra), Best Actress (Sridevi), Best Comedian (Anupam Kher), Best Story (Honey Irani) and Best Dialogue (Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza). Reports even claim that Steven Speilberg offered a brief role to Sridevi in Juurassic Park but she refused as she didn’t find the role ‘meaty enough’.
9. English Vinglish
Barring a small stint on the small screen with the 2004 sitcom Malini Iyer, six years after remaining out of the limelight, Sridevi stayed away from any onscreen appearances for over a decade untill Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish came her way in 2012. Sridevi’s character, a housewife who seeks respect from her own family, struggles to acquire new skills in the process and realises soon that she can be complete unto herself, rang such resonance with the modern day Indian woman that the film was the most appreciated and also one of the biggest hits of the year. American entertainment weekly, Variety, compared Sridevi’s charm in English Vinglish with that of Audrey Hepburn while several foreign film critics called Sridevi the Meryl Streep of India!
A revenge drama, the film had Sridevi and Akshaye Khanna. It is about a mother who decides to avenge the rape of her daughter because the law couldn’t get her the justice she deserves. Five years after English Vinglish, Sridevi again impressed us with her acting acumen.