My Sridevi: A fanboy’s tribute to a fine actress and a superstar
Sridevi — the queen of the silver screen, the queen of my heart. At a time loyalty was divided between Madhuri and Sridevi fans, I stuck to Sridevi throughout — even during her hiatus and of course her fantastic comeback. There was something about Sridevi that always enamoured me — her expressive eyes, her mischievous smile, her powerhouse performance in every film, however trashy some might be, and her ability to hold her own and, in most cases, surpass the performances of her much fancied male co-stars.
Sridevi and Jaya Prada were the most beautiful actresses to me, but Sridevi scored over Jaya in terms of versatility. I guess starting off as a child actor and then playing roles like that of a “step mother” to Rajinikanth while still in her teens gave her the maturity as a performer. She was much more than the unflattering sobriquet “thunder thighs” given to her, and proved that in an industry dominated by men, a lady could be an equally potent force to reckon with. She had a seemingly quiet and unassuming demeanour off screen, but in reel life she was a livewire, and unlike some stars of today, Sridevi let her on-screen performance, and not off-screen rants, do the talking. She could play the docile exploited girl and the flamboyant extrovert with equal ease. This is why news of her death came as such a rude shock early on a Sunday morning.
Arnab Banerjee picks 10 Sridevi films based on the merit of her performance and not the movie itself. The list is in no particular order, just a salute to a fine actress and a superstar.
1. Chaalbaaz: A remake of Seeta Aur Geeta, I’d dare say it was better than the original, all due to Sridevi’s stupendous performance. She outdid even the mighty Rajinikanth.
2. Sadma: Another remake, this one of the Tamil original starring the same lead pair of Sridevi and Kamal Haasan. Sadma is a poignant tragi-comic film with beautiful songs and splendid performances by all, especially the lead pair. The last scene, showing Sridevi’s nonchalant indifference to Kamal’s desperate antics to make her recognise him, is arguably one of the best in the history of Indian cinema.
3. Lamhe: Another double role, another powerhouse performance by Sridevi. Lamhe was ahead of its time in its bold theme of an older man uniting with a much younger woman, and for our conservative cinegoers it was too liberal an idea to swallow and the film bombed.
4. Nagina: The film that elevated Sridevi to Numero Uno among her peers. A forgettable movie otherwise, most wouldn’t even remember the male lead opposite Sridevi (it was Rishi Kapoor by the way) so powerful was her performance. Sridevi’s scenes with her bête noire Amrish Puri were the highlights of the movie.
5. Mr. India: The film that showcased Sridevi’s brilliant comic timing and her sensuality. Her Charlie Chaplin act at the casino was absolutely spot on and her oomph was on display in the sensual “Kaate nahi katti hain” number.
6. Laadla: Divya Bharati was playing the lead role in this film and most of the scenes were already picturised on her. But due to her untimely demise, Sridevi was roped in. Watch the scene where Sridevi chides Anil Kapoor in front of her factory staff. The difference in performance is palpable. Precisely why Sridevi will always be the best.
7. Guru: Yet another double role, this was probably the last film of Sridevi and Mithun Chakraborty together. Sridevi excelled as the “bad girl” who undergoes a change of heart at the end. Guru is one film where Sridevi undoubtedly outperformed Mithun da.
8. Mr. Bechara: A woefully underrated film, this had a storyline similar to Sadma but with a happy ending. Neelam tried a similar act in Ek Ladka Ek Ladki but failed. Again proving Sridevi’s merit over others.
9. English Vinglish: After years of hiatus, Sridevi returned with a fantastic performance in this wonderful film. Her monologue in English at the end of the film was worthy of a standing ovation.
10. Mom: A flawed film rescued by a stupendous performance from Sridevi. It is so unfortunate that this would be her last film, because Sridevi proved to everyone else with English Vinglish and Mom that she was here to stay.
Sridevi beat her biggest rival Madhuri even on a comeback.