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Knowing Sridevi, a shy girl behind the diva

versatile Icon's first Hindi co-star Amol Palekar dumbstruck at her sudden exit

FOND MEMORIES: Veteran actor Amol Palekar mourns the demise of Sridevi at Chamber Bhavan in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Manob Chowdhary
 
A still from their film Solwa Sawan.
 

Ranchi: For veteran actor Amol Palekar, Sunday was a black day. Palekar was Sridevi's first Bollywood co-star in her debut Hindi film, Solwa Sawan, the 1979 remake of the acclaimed Tamil film 16 Vayathinile.

"Oh my God, what an unexpected exit," Palekar, in Ranchi on Sunday with wife Sandhya Gokhale before his recce to Hazaribagh and Netarhat for a film, told this paper when asked about the movie legend's untimely demise in Dubai at age 54 .

Palekar had essayed Kamal Hasaan's role in the original Tamil film, of a lame simpleton in love with the vivacious character of Sridevi.

"I am just hakka-bakka (dumbstruck) at the news of her death and I still can't believe it," Palekar said about Sridevi while speaking in Ranchi's Chamber Bhavan, where he was felicitated by some theatre persons and people connected to the arts. "Initially, she wouldn't speak much, perhaps due to the language barrier," he recalled, saying those days she was not comfortable in Hindi or English.

"But, I was impressed with her acting. And gradually, I discovered her as a pyari (lovable), chulbuli (bubbly) and bauri (playful) girl," the Golmaal actor said, adding that during the course of shooting, they became good friends and would spend a nice time on sets.

On how he became Sridevi's first co-star from the Bombay film industry, as it was then called, Palekar said Kamal Haasan, who along with Sridevi and Rajinikanth, had starred in 16 Vayathinile, called him up one day.

"Kamal called me up to get me through to the producer who wanted to make a Hindi version of the Tamil original," he said.

Despite the Tamil original being a critically acclaimed blockbuster, the Hindi remake bombed. But Sridevi went on to become Bollywood's heartthrob.

"She didn't change at all," Palekar said, indicating that her status as box office queen did not alter her. "Years later, when I met her accidentally at a function, I found she still was the same person."

Coming back to his own trip to Jharkhand, Palekar said he once had come to Lohardaga 35 years ago during the days of united Bihar and spent time with actor Jalal Agha. "Now, we want to explore Hazaribagh and Netarhat for a film but nothing is final," Palekar said.

Asked about Jharkhand's film policy, he said he had not gone through it in detail but had been told it was "favourable".

A trained artist from Sir JJ School of Arts, Palekar smiled when asked if he still painted. "I feel like I'm coming a full circle. Believe me, I have been painting again for the past three years," Palekar, who held about half a dozen solo and several group shows as a painter before switching over to acting in Marathi stage with the likes of Satyadev Dubey and then films, said.

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