Kamal Haasan on Sridevi: I was astounded by her rise

Sridevi no more You will be missed say Kamal Haasan Rajinikanth

There is Sridevi from Moondram Pirai and 16 Vayathinile in Tamil Nadu. Sridevi was one of the few actresses, alongside Sripriya, who constantly worked with both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan in the '70s and '80s.

Sridevi was a pathbreaker in many ways. The actor from south India who successfully bridged the geographic gap (there were a few before and after her, but none could refashion the aura she had), battled an unfamiliar language, had roles written for her, beautifully balanced glamour with meaty roles, and was the longest running lady superstar in Bollywood. Besides with her performance in serious movies, she also was a part of Bollywood movies like Mr India and Chaalbaaz, which are still admired by filmgoers. Boney Kapoor, who later married the actor, paid her Rs 11 lakh. The collaboration between Sridevi, Haasan and Rajinikanth produced some of Tamil cinema's best-loved films.

In a video message, Haasan remembered Sridevi as an "astounding talent", which was "no luck" but a result of her hard-working nature throughout a career spanning nearly five decades. She revolutionised cinema with her unconventional roles and powerful performances. Her Himmatwala with Jeetu Ji was heavily criticised but over the years it has becamo a cult movie, and was remade recently starring Ajay Devgn and Tamannah. Her chemistry with actor Kamal Haasan was so intense that it paved for a collaboration of around 30 films, which includes Malayalam films such as Sathyavan Savithri, Kuttavum Shikshayum, Nirakudam, Aasheervadam and Adoor Bhasi directorial Aadhya Paadam. "I liked Sridevi when she was in Tamil". It was this renowned director that gave her, her first break.

The audiences wept no end on seeing Sridevi's complete apathy to her man's desperate bids (on the railway platform) to somehow remind her of their relationship. In fact, she has done the maximum number of films in her mother tongue. I found one of the daughters and mother cuddling in a corner and showing love to each other.

As filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma put it, "She was like a creation of God which he does whenever he is in a very special mood as a very, very special gift to mankind".

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Long after many of her peers had hung up their boots, Sridevi made a starry comeback with English Vinglish in 2012.

Then came the blockbuster Nagina (1986) where she played an "ichadhari naagin" or a shapeshifting woman and Sridevi had truly arrived, reinstating another big Sridevi theory - her ability to bring sanity and credibility to the most weird, far-fetched roles in equally mind-boggling films. She was always a quiet, childlike person behind the camera. For the largely rustic film-going Malayalis of the 1970s, though, she was the girl next door (even as it was in Tamil she began [Thunaivan, 1969] and went on to act till 2015 [Puli]). There is nothing Sridevi can not do.

To be No.1 was her destiny in Hindi movies too.

Her Bollywood journey, save for the fag-end, remained consistently successful. Amitabh Bachchan was the reigning superstar of Hindi movies but it was Sridevi who became the industry's 1st female superstar. The film emerged as a trendsetter and Sridevi appeared as Subramanian in this blockbuster movie.

Chaalbaaz, a remake of Seetha aur Geetha, also boasted of that rare feminist character in the headstrong Manju. Similarly, Chandni, Lamhe (a film ahead of its time) were films that had strong, quirky, complex female characters. But she learned every day. With her recent film being one in Hindi titled Mom, that released in 2017 and was quite appreciated by critics and fans alike, it felt like each time one watched her films, the audience were all the more enchanted by her acting finesse.


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