On this day, three years ago, Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor lost his actress-wife Sridevi in an accidental drowning incident in a hotel bathtub in Dubai.
While Indian cinema lost a brilliant artist on February 24, 2018, Kapoor says he lost his anchor and his sole driving force. But in an exclusive interview with Gulf News on the eve of Sridevi’s third death anniversary, Kapoor says she’s never going to stop being a major part of his life.
“I am not looking for closure. I want her to be around me all the time. She is there in my thoughts and will remain in my thoughts all the time. There is not a single moment of the day where she is not with me,” said Kapoor, speaking from Mumbai over Zoom, as his eyes welled up and his voice faltered.
As he struggled to regain composure, a beatific black and white portrait of Sridevi stares at us from his study indicating her presence in his life.
Kapoor, 65, tells us that he had just returned from performing a Hindu ritual in her native town in Chennai to pay homage to her soul. Last year, he did the same on March 4, and this year, the ritual day fell on February 22 as per the Hindu calendar.
I want her to be around me all the time. She is there in my thoughts and will remain in my thoughts all the time. There is not a single moment of the day where she is not with me.
“First of all, I must thank God and I must thank my wife who has given me so much love that I can still live with it. She may not be here physically, but she’s there in my mind all the time and that keeps me going,” said Kapoor.
The producer, who has been the backbone of more than 30 star-studded Indian films, including blockbusters such as ‘Mom’, ‘Wanted’, and ‘Mr India’, has a request to her adoring fans who continue to grieve their beloved idol’s loss.
“I would love her fans to remember her and give the same love reserved for her to her children,” said Kapoor, referring to their daughters Janhvi and Khushi. “The way they adored her and the kind of love they gave her, I hope they bless my children with the same. I hope they pray for me to remain sane too.”
Three years on, his coping mechanism to overcome the loss of his loved one is simple.
“Only to remain sane, I am working round the clock 24/7,” said Kapoor.
Kapoor has at least 10 projects in the pipeline — a whopping number for any filmmaker.
“I am doing films in every which way possible. I don’t want to sit back and think about it [her death] because there should be no negativity in my mind. I feel she’s still with me and will remain with me,” said Kapoor.
His four children — actor Arjun Kapoor and Anshula Kapoor from his first marriage to Mona Shourie and his two daughters Janhvi and Khushi with Sridevi — helped him survive the darkest phase in his life and he called him his pillars.
Arjun and Janhvi are actors, and Kapoor earlier said that Khushi would be making a movie debut too.
“I hope they give us the space, love, and affectation they gave her. My children deserve to be seen in the same light. I don’t want you all to compare them with her in their initial movies. Give them time. She did almost 300 films and she started at the age of four,” implored Kapoor. “So my children don’t have that kind of an experience and then they have that handicap of being her children. There is a lot of baggage that they are carrying in any case so just give them space and time and look at them with a lot of affection. Be patient with them.”
While Sridevi was a bonafide legend, her daughter Janhvi is a rising star and is yet to court the kind of admiration her legendary mother garnered.
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As Kapoor asked her fans to take it easy on his kids, you could see that he was speaking as an emotional, overprotective father and not a calculative, often ruthless, producer.
Following Sridevi’s death, his principal identity is being a family man first and then a discerning producer who looks at films as work opportunities. Sridevi had famously put her acting career on hold for more than a decade after her marriage to Kapoor, apart from a brief foray into television. Even in earlier interviews, the couple had revealed that she was an involved mother. So now, it’s the husband’s turn to play a hands-on single parent.
“My son [actor Arjun Kapoor] has been through a lot. He lost his mother too [to cancer], but I feel blessed to have a son like him. He has been so supportive of my girls. My elder daughter Anshula has been so supportive of Janhvi and Khushi. … These two are real pillars who have supported my family which would have been in a really bad place if they had not stood with us,” said Kapoor.
His brothers — actors Anil Kapoor and Sanjay Kapoor — and mother were also his rock when grief overtook him.
“They helped us remain sane. Her fans also played an equally big part …They are important to us … I just feel blessed to have four lovely children who are always pepping me up and encouraging me. They are so sensible and intelligent. They are always pushing me to take up any journey I choose to,” he said.
While Kapoor was visibly shattered about losing his wife Sridevi, he said he has learned to be pragmatic.
“I am blessed since I have my family around me. Life goes on. So, it’s best to be realistic and just move on. That’s the reason I want to remain busy 24/7. I am a hands-on producer, a hands-on father, a hands-on brother, and a hands-on son too. My mother is the world to me … Today I feel fortunate and have learned to accept my reality. The vacuum will remain, but the memories can’t be snatched from me. So, I am OK,” said Kapoor.
Kapoor has indeed thrown himself into his work. At 65, Kapoor tried his hand at acting for the first time in director Anurag Kashyap’s inventive film ‘AK Vs AK’. In his cameo, where he played himself, Kapoor was seen as a dominant family patriarch — albeit an impatient and a crabby one.
“By choosing an acting career at the age of 65 is something rare. As an actor, your personality comes through. The camera catches everything … In ‘AK Vs AK’, I was playing Anil’s brother and the family head and it came naturally to me. It was easy to play myself. But in my next film with director Luv Ranjan, I am playing Ranbir’s [Kapoor] father,” he said.
Though he is forbidden to talk about the project, he calls it a ‘fun film’. He’s enjoying reinventing himself and discovering his acting genes.
“I have been on Luv Ranjan’s set for almost 18-20 days. I enjoyed every moment of it … As a producer, I was always watching out for everybody and if everybody is comfortable. I was concerned about how the job is being done and if the actors and directors were getting all the support … But for the first time, I was on the other side of the cinema. It was good to experience it,” he added.
As a producer, he has been on a purchasing rights spree. Kapoor, who was born to a family of producers and actors, has bought the rights to Hindi hit ‘Article 15’ and Malayalam thriller ‘Helen’ to be re-made in other languages. He has also purchased the rights to the Egyptian romance ‘Hepta: The Last Lecture’ to be made into a Bollywood film. For an incorrigible romantic who has built an emotional shrine for his late wife, this widely-adored Middle Eastern love story that explored the seven stages of love stirred his interest.
“It’s a love story that will be identified in every country and every walk of life … Everybody has been in love … Sometimes it turns sour, sometimes it’s bitter and sometimes it’s bittersweet … It’s just love, love, and love,” Kapoor said. “And for me, it has always been about love. I identified strongly with the entire film and I want that story to be told....”
“It was all about my wife, my life. So I had to be supportive and I had to be around to see that he [Satyarth Nayak, the author of Sridevi’s biography] gets all what he wants and I just played my part,” said Boney Kapoor, when asked about sanctioning the biography ‘Sridevi: The Eternal Screen Goddess’.
Did you know?
Actress Janhvi Kapoor shared a handwritten note from Sridevi on her mother’s third death anniversary. In her caption, she wrote simply, “Miss u.” The note, written by Sridevi for Janhvi, reads: “I love you my labbu. You are the best baby in the world.” Her sister also shared a loved-up picture of her parents with no caption.
Who was Sridevi?
Sridevi was India’s leading cinematic icon and was hailed as the country’s first female superstar with incredible box office power. She featured in over 300 films including blockbusters such as ‘Mr India’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Chaalbaaz’ and ‘Sadma’.
Film folklore has it that she began acting from the age of four and worked across films ranging in languages including Tamil. She was one of the highest paid Indian talents and was known to eclipse even a male superstars in her films. Her name also was enough to catapult a film into a blockbuster.
She was known for vivacious and charismatic screen presence. Her sudden death in Dubai on February 24, 2018, where she fell unconscious and drowned in her hotel bathtub, stunned us and left a nation of movie-mad Indians disoriented and disillusioned. They are yet to gain closure and continue to patronise her films, as a mark of their devotion.
Sridevi won the first Indian National Award of her career spanning several decades posthumously, 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 younger daughter Khushi is also planning to carry her mother’s acting legacy forward.