Her sudden death stunned us and left a nation of movie-mad Indians disoriented and disillusioned.
Such is the power of India’s inscrutable movie icon, Sridevi, who died on February 24 last year in an accidental drowning in a bathtub in a hotel in Dubai.
If her movies charmed us into believing in love and fairytale endings, her violent death at 54 was a stark reminder that life is fleeting and unpredictable.
She left behind two daughters, Janhvi and Khushi, and her husband, producer Boney Kapoor — who are still coping with this irrevocable tragedy, seeking closure.
I am a simple, ordinary mother. I am after their lives all the time, making their lives miserable saying eat, eat, eat and sleep, sleep, sleep... But there’s one dialogue [in ‘Mom’] which says our job as a parent is not to make them understand, but to understand them. This is very poignant and important, that it is not necessary to give them lectures. I apply that to my life too.
A few months ago, Gulf News tabloid! was witness to Sridevi’s husband Kapoor breaking down on stage in Bangkok during the International India Film Academy Awards 2018 — dabbing at his tears — as he collected the Best Actor (Female) posthumously for his wife’s role in Mom as a fierce mother who avenges her step daughter’s gang rape.
“I miss you every day, every night,” said Kapoor.
Sridevi’s stepson Arjun Kapoor hugged his father and ushered him off the stage. There wasn’t a single dry eye in the house.
Sridevi’s magnetic appeal hasn’t diminished after her death. Her cameo in Shah Rukh Khan’s recent release ‘Zero’ in which she played herself at a star-studded party was lovingly embraced. If you listened carefully, a collective sigh could be heard in the cinema hall as Sridevi appeared on the big screen. She seemed to be the silver lining in an otherwise lacklustre film.
Her fame continues to spike even after her demise.
Sridevi won the first Indian National Award of her career spanning several decades and 300-plus films, posthumously, last year for her role in Mom. Her daughter Janhvi carried a piece of her mother with her that day; she wore one of her mother’s silk saris for the awards function.
Her first death anniversary also prompted this journalist to go back to her voice notes gleaned from the interview taken over the phone while the late icon was promoting her revenge thriller Mom in July 2017. Let it be known that Sridevi was a woman of few words.
This age-defying, well-preserved diva wore her fame and blazing talent like a cape on her shoulders. She told us back then that she felt as if Mom was the first release of her career.
“I never look back... I feel odd watching myself in movies or on TV, so I never watch. So I just look forward.”
She seems to have instilled the “look forward” attitude to her daughters, too. The two young women seem to have grappled with the loss of a parental figure with impressive tenacity. They continue to celebrate life, despite their personal tragedy. Their social media accounts are flush with celebratory pictures of them vacationing in lush destinations and taking part in family get-togethers.
Janhvi’s acting career has also taken off the ground.
In fact, her daughter Janhvi’s professionalism is the stuff of legends. After the funeral, she swung back to filming ‘Dhadak’ almost immediately.
“I think that acting and being on set was one thing that gave me the courage to move forward and pick myself up. It gave me more strength and I was forced to deal with it. Acting was cathartic for me,” Janhvi told tabloid! at the time of Dhadak’s release.
Surprisingly, the 21-year-old actress — who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sridevi — claimed she never felt bogged down by the weight of expectations from her mother’s fans.
“I remember while I was filming thinking that I need to act like her. She has got so much love, respect and admiration from so many people. I have so much gratitude for that and I know that she did too. I want to make them [her fans and well-wishers] happy and proud as much as I want to make her proud. The validation that I looked from her, I would now be looking from them,” says Kapoor, adding that everyone felt a certain kind of attachment to her mother and that it was valid.
Sridevi’s death also seems to have been a catalyst in bringing the Kapoor family together. Sridevi’s stepson Arjun Kapoor — who wasn’t particularly close to his half sisters — stepped up and has become a sturdy pillar of support. Their camaraderie and new-found closeness was on display as Janhvi and Arjun appeared on a popular chat show ‘Koffee With Karan’ together. The daughters were also seen having a good time at their cousin Sonam Kapoor’s wedding, underlining the fact that life needs to be celebrated — no matter how complicated the curveball.
But there’s one thing that has been ruled out since Sridevi’s death — a possibility of a Mr India sequel.
A reboot to the iconic film starring Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s brother Anil Kapoor has been binned since Boney cannot imagine the film without his wife in the picture. Sridevi played a spunky journalist in the fantasy romance.
While Sridevi has millions of fans who idolise her for her performances in films such as Chandini, in which she played an incorrigible romantic, or double role in the comedy Chaal Baaz, or a mother who takes charge of her life in the coming-of-age English Vinglish, her husband seems to be her biggest fan.
In an interview that was conducted in June 2017 with Kapoor, he spoke of his wife in the most glowing terms.
“Imagine an actor who started working at the age of four and it is her 50th year of her professional career. Her focus is still the same. When we call her 300th film, it could be more. Her mother who used to manage her career is no more. There is no proper record, but I have put numbers together. She is unmatched and there’s no one like her — it is a fact. I can watch her 24/7,” he told Gulf News tabloid! in an earlier interview.
So can we.
SRIDEVI’S LIFE IN A NUTSHELL
- Born Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan, Sridevi started acting at the age of four and made her big screen debut with the Tamil director MA Thirumugham’s Thunaivan.
- Sridevi made her Bollywood debut as a child artist in 1975 hit Julie where she played the heroine’s sister.
- In 1978, Sridevi bagged her first lead actor role in Solva Sawan.
- In 1983, she enjoyed her first hit of her career with Himmatwala starring Jeetendra. Her song Nainon Mein Sapna was a big hit and showcased her dancing skills. But it was Sadma, that released in the same year with Kamal Haasan, that established her as an actress to reckon with.
- In 1987, Sridevi impressed in director Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr India. Her comic timing in this fantasy drama is unrivalled.
- In 1989, the romantic blockbuster Chandini with Rishi Kapoor released. Sridevi played the title role of woman in a complicated relationship in this love triangle.
- The 1990s was a big year for Sridevi who delivered a string of hits including Nagina where she played a shape-shifting snake and Judaai where she played a wife who agrees to share her husband with another rich woman, earning her the title ‘Bollywood’s first superstar’. After Judaai in 1997, she took a sabbatical from films.
- In 2016, she returned to the big screen with the blockbuster English Vinglish, directed by Gauri Shinde, and topped it up with her avenging mother role in Mom in 2017, her last major film.