Remembering India’s first superstar Sridevi on her 1st death anniversary.
By Dhiraj Kumar
It’s already been one year of the day that shattered India and most of the world, Sridevi who has been a part of the life of every Indian over the past five generations was, no more.
A rude shock early Sunday morning, 25th Feb 2018, the world woke up to the most terrifying news of the biggest icon of Indian cinema Sridevi passing away in a hotel in faraway Dubai. It was an emotion of denial, shock, vulnerability, protectiveness, fear, anger and a huge sense of loss across for Indians across the globe. Millions of her fans are yet to recover from her passing on. People across different age groups has started crying already while watching television, tears flowing down silently as they flipped, news channel after new channel to check if the news were true. Each one had a quiet prayer in mind that hope the news was fake.
Sridevi had united the nation in her demise, where the entire country was going through the same sense of loss and vacuum. This was unprecedented for an actor, where Tamil Nadu would connect with the same broken heart as much as someone in Punjab would do. Sridevi was and always be a unifier of force for India. I know of people who stopped watching Sridevi movies ever since her demise as they did want to cry! Her death drew people from across the country, lining up to see her global superstar for one last time.
The grief that people shared was somewhat like when India mourned in millions, the demise of the Gandhis- The Mahatma, Indira or Rajiv. People strongly believed that she belonged to them and they belonged to her is unmistakable.
Sridevi, a household name across India, across the world, first lit up the screen as kid all of 4 years old when she greased up her face with makeup to play Lord Murugan in Tamil Film Kandhan Karunai, 51 years ago in 1967. Fast forward that to her last shot, 50 years later with Shah Rukh Khan in the 2018 movie Zero where she made an appearance as herself. One could watch her performances and get goosebumps even today, no matter if you watched her same films many times over, she still manages to give you goosebumps in Sadma (Hindi 1983), Meendum Kokila (Tamil 1981), Premabhishekam (Telugu 1981), Johnny (Tamil 1980), Lamhe (Hindi 1991) Khuda Gawah (Hindi 1992) English Vinglish (Hindi 2012) or Mom (Hindi 2017), just to name a few.
There have been millions of words written on the legacy and influence that Sridevi has had on India and its people, be it from South or from North India. No actor till date has been able to surmount the massive love and affection of people across our vast varied linguistic character of India.
Many publications around the world called her a Bollywood superstar, but in truth she was India’s first superstar, female or otherwise. Threw a challenge to my colleagues, to name one actor or actress who had a pan India appeal, even after 10 minutes could not get a single name! Pan India appeal not only meant appearing in news or attending an inauguration. Sridevi had acted in 301 movies in 5 different languages and was a numero uno in each one of those. This is apart from the millions she generated with her blockbuster movies than any other female actor at the box office in every language her movies released in.
Who else in India can even boast of such a resume than Sridevi!
When Sridevi morphed into a snake In Nagina (1989) people believed that she really had turned into a snake, when she played a celestial being in Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari (1990), audience believed that she had just descended on to earth, she played her characters as if it were her real self. Such was her power as an actor.
The influence that Sridevi had on India is huge and unmatchable. She managed to stay relevant to India across a span of 50 years with performances as a child, adolescent, teenager, young woman, married woman and a woman with children. Over the years, since the 1970’s she was competing against every actress of that contemporary era, right from Jayaprada, Jayasudha, to Revathi, Vijayshanti in Telugu to Lakhsmi and Radhika in Tamil, to Shabana Azmi, Rekha, Hema Malini to Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla to Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhat and Priyanka Chopra in Hindi.
However, Sridevi is credited much less than her immense contribution to Indian cinema, and what she meant for all of us. Maybe it was because of her shy nature, where she never invested in PR to talk for her or her work. As she would always say “the work should speak for itself”. People would always remember the names of her characters, her clothes, her dialogues, her funny antics, her dances and those illuminating eyes. She has made a place for her in every Indian’s heart which no amount of PR could ever help.
She deserves every top award this country can offer, be it Bharat Ratna or the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for her unmatchable and humongous contribution to India and its cinema which cannot be ignored or wished away.
In her life as in her death Sridevi unified the India with her performances, much like Sachin Tendulkar would wield the whole country to his side with a stroke of his bat. If there was one actor who India could celebrate as a pan India appeal and power that had to be only Sridevi and no one else.
Well, it may take centuries for someone to fill up those gigantic shoes that Sridevi left behind so suddenly.