A complete actor, equally equipped to make you cry or leave you in splits, she gave every hero she worked with a run for his money. In fact be it Kamal Hassan or Sunny Deol, I am sure they would be terrified at the thought of being outclassed by her. And more often than not, she did. When she came to Bollywood, she had already acted for more than a decade. And her ability to bring life to a scene was just incredible.
One of my favourite movies was Mr.India and Sridevi was like a tornado in this film. The intrepid journalist who falls for the superhero but is in many ways tougher than the hero himself. I was simply amazed by this character who disguises herself first as Hawa Hawai and then as Charlie Chaplin to get to the bottom of her stories. And the comedic timing was spot on. In the era when you had to be fat or deliberately ugly to do comedy, she did it with pure timing and an alarmingly expressive face. Be it Chalbaaz or Lamhe or Chandani, she was always the centre of attraction of every film. She carried it on her shoulders. If she was on screen, nothing else mattered.
While she got some amazing roles in Tamil/Telugu/ Malayalam cinema, the thing that makes me most sad is that she was short-changed in Bollywood. After the masterclass in Sadma, she had to do a spate of ridiculous movies with Jeetendra (Himmatwala / Justice Chaudhry / Tohfa). The great films were too few and far between. While I lapped up Nagina, Nigahein, Joshilay, Sone pe Suhaga - let’s face it, these were atrocious films. Even the late 90s had films like Chandramukhi, Chand ka Tukda, Ladlaa, Mr.Bechara and Judaai. This was cinema at its worst, even though Judaai was a roaring hit and her performance was outstanding.
I secretly had a desire of writing a film for her. But alas, that wish will never come true. And I am sure there are many like me who were itching to work with this stellar actress. Just when Bollywood had become more accepting and was finally writing some good stuff for actors of all ages and appearances, have we lost the brightest flame.
And all I can say is ‘Thank You’ — for the laughs, for the school boy crush, for the paper clippings, the mix tapes, the insanity, the rain dances, those hypnotic eyes and that beautiful, expressive face that could break the hearts of millions. Thank you Sridevi.
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