Sridevi’s bungalow in Mumbai is called ‘Bhagya’. In many ways, it is a reflection of the chequered life that the actor, who passed away in Dubai on February 25, 2018. The cause of death is reportedly a cardiac arrest that eventually led to drowning. In the 1980s Sridevi was known as ‘Lady Bachchan’. At her peak, she was bigger than the men, overshadowing the male storm. Her dance numbers, performances and striking personality made her the undisputed diva of Bollywood. Films like Tohfa, Nagina, Mr India, Chaalbaaz and Sadma not only showcased her incredible talent but also her box office pull.
However her great success was not without controversies. While her personal life was always under scrutiny (her alleged affair with Mithun Chakraborty and later Boney Kapoor, made for sensational headlines), her professional side too wasn’t blemishfree.
Did You Know?
Starting out at the tender age of four in 1969 in the arc-lights of Tamil cinema, Sridevi was a fabulous actress and extremely dedicated to her craft, however she made news not for the films she signed but for the ones she didn’t! These included Ajooba (opposite Amitabh Bachchan; purportedly because he had the titular role), Baazigar (where she was supposed to play a double role), Beta (because she wanted it to be renamed ‘Bahurani’), and Darr (she wanted Shah Rukh Khan’s role of the obsessive stalker). Apparently, Sridevi was also offered a role in Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg. She refused to star in it because it wasn’t a staggering, meaty role. Despite her rejections, there was no one like Sridevi in Bollywood. She was the first actress of her time to get Rs1 crore per film while her peers managed to earn a few hundred thousands.
Behind the scenes
In her personal life, people mostly remember her for creating problems in Boney’s marriage before eventually marrying him, causing Arjun Kapoor to have a rather troubled childhood. However, very few know of her marriage to Mithun Chakraborty while he was already married to Yogeeta Bali. She got married to Mithun in 1985, after a whirlwind romance that began on the sets of Jaag Utha Insan only to get it annulled three years later in 1988. While there is no strong proof of it (both Mithun and Sridevi have denied the affair and the subsequent brief wedding), there are several sources and reports confirming this story. As a matter of fact, even her Wikipedia page mentions that she was married to Mithun for three years. Boney Kapoor, on the other hand, was a quite different story. Sri gave birth to their first daughter, Jhanvi, much before she could publicly announce their marriage. Nevertheless, at the time of disclosure, the couple maintained that they’ve been married secretly for a while.
According to reports, Sridevi was also approached for marriage by several NRIs. Former tennis ace Vijay Amritraj had also, allegedly, been one of her suitors. Even Arvind Swamy, of Roja fame, had supposedly asked his family to reach out to Sridevi’s family for marriage, but Sri rejected the offer because Swamy was younger to her.
The greatest tragedy in the life of this megastar is perhaps the fact that she could not be around to watch her first born’s baby steps into tinsel-town with her debut film Dhadak (a version of the Marathi hit, Sairaat) – that is scheduled for release on July 20. Call it a mind-boggling coincidence or a cruel twist of fate, but this, ironically, finds striking parallels with the life of Mona Kapoor (Boney Kapoor’s first wife), who succumbed to cancer on March 25, 2012. Mona could also not see her son’s debut film, Ishaqzaade, that released on May 11, 2012. If that weren’t enough – both wives of the now twice-widowed Boney Kapoor, passed away on the 25th of a month.
Like I said, ‘Bhagya’. Destiny. Fate.
Tinsel Town Relives Its Lamhe With Sri
As the day dawned, the film industry and its denizens were drowned in darkness by the passing away of its first-ever female superstar. There were several who thought it was a hoax, but as the reality of the tragic news sank in, there was a unanimous reaction – ‘gone too soon!’.
Adil Hussain, Actor (played her husband in English Vinglish) – “I was in bed… My phone had been beeping for a while when I reached out for it only to see a message from a friend, asking me if this was true. I got out of bed and my wife confirmed the news to me. It felt bizarre and strange. It was unbelievable… How could this have happened to her?! I first met her during rehearsals of English Vinglish in Mehboob Studios. I told her I could not eat for two days after watching Sadma. She did not say anything at the time but I think I saw moistness in her eyes. That was really touching… I am at a loss now… I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that we won’t see her grace the screen ever again.”
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor – “Those beguiling eyes, that scintillating screen presence and that unmatched acting prowess. Thank you, Srideviji for the opportunities to work with you and thank you for the love and the memories.”
Karan Johar, Producer-Director – “I danced to Hawa Hawaii as a kid. I have seen every single film of her, multiple times. I remember meeting her on the sets of my father’s film, Gumrah, many years ago, trembling like a leaf! I felt I had arrived when she called me for the first time. Every time I met her, I had a starstruck fanboy moment. I don’t want to believe she is no more. She is a huge reason why I love and live movies. I think Indian cinema just lost its smile and heavens are fortunate they have just got a gift of life!”
Anupam Kher, Actor – “It is very difficult for me to talk about Sridevi in the past tense. Sometimes some people are so close to you, some people affect you so much, the person, the actor, the personality, talking about that person in the past tense is very saddening. We have worked together in sixteen films. So her memory will always be alive in my heart. It will take me some time to prepare myself to talk about her in the past tense. But, we’ve lost the biggest human being, and the biggest star of our country.”
Rishi Kapoor, Actor – “I think Sridevi was the one actor who lit up the screen like no one else did. I didn’t work with Sridevi until 1984, when we first starred in Nagina. Initially, I thought she was a very shy person and arrogant, as she didn’t talk much. Later, I realised it was not arrogance but just that she was not comfortable speaking in English or Hindi, because they were not her main languages. One of my very first conversations happened with her during a rather awkward moment. We were shooting and the camera’s film magazine ran out. While the crew was changing the magazine, the bright lights were still on for about three minutes and we stood in that position with the whole unit around us. I told her, “Sridevi, you danced very well.” She smiled and said, “thank you”. She then added that she saw Khel Khel Mein four times. That was very sweet of her. Those were the first words I heard from her. She was a complete actor, a fabulous dancer and a person who could just switch faces. She could be quiet and be in her own mood, and then suddenly do a great comic scene or a tragic one… During Chandni, we became more friendly and got along really well. When she was carrying her first child, Boney Kapoor had come to meet her on the set of our film Kaun Sachha Kaun Jootha (1997) and she had said, “This is my last film and last few days of shooting.” That was the last time I worked with her. I see her films today and I know how she focused on the nuances, and tried to look different each time. She believed in breaking the typecast. She was a very gifted artiste and I don’t think there has ever been a female actor in Bollywood who attained such glory and marvellous heights. She was truly Chandni and Bollywood will miss its moonlight!”
Dharmendra, Actor – “What tribute do I give her? I am incapable. We have lost her. And it is a huge huge shock. Our film family has lost a darling member. When I was told that Sridevi is no more, I said, ‘Shut up! Don’t say that!’, before realising it was actually true. I couldn’t believe it. I am shocked. Why did she go away so early, so young? It was not her age to go away… She was such a caring person. She would bring food for unit members often, ask about everyone – their families. She has worked with me as well as my son. I was told by Hemaji that she was most excited and nervous too about Janhvi’s debut. She expressed how she cannot wait to see her little girl take her first steps into Bollywood. Sri also said she was proud of her daughter for taking care of herself and putting in her 100 percent in her first film. My heart goes out to her family.”
Vidya Balan, Actor – “She drove across town to watch Tumhari Sulu. Despite our mutual love for each other, I was really scared because of that Hawa Hawaii number. And then when she saw the film, oh my god! I can never forget that embrace. Taken too soon!”
Farhan Akhtar, Actor-Director-Producer – “My first job in 1990 was on Lamhe and the song Megha Re Megha was the very first time I saw this legendary woman create her magic live. Sadma, Chaalbaaz, Mr India, Chandni – no one could take their eyes off her when she appeared on screen. A true star, a gifted actor, but most importantly, a woman with tremendous dignity. It is a sad sad day.”
Annu Kapoor, Actor – “I was fortunate enough to work with her in Chaalbaaz and Mr India. It is shocking! For someone who was so conscious of her health, her well-being. I remember how she would refuse to touch the samosas from that scene in Mr India. As a character artiste, she asked me once on the set of Mr India, ‘how do I do things easily?’ So I told her Hindi is my mother tongue, I guess I would feel the same way acting in Telugu. Then when I saw worked her in Chaalbaaz, I was amazed to see her growth as an actor, her confidence as a performer.”
Subhash Ghai, Filmmaker – “Sridevi worked with me in Karma in 1985. A quiet lady with bundle of talent. We can never get another Sridevi again on screen. I am deeply grieved. She has not been one of the finest actor but THE finest actor of Indian cinema since 1985. Introvert by nature, she was electricity with thunder in front of the camera. I knew her as an actor and for being my friend Boney‘s wife. She was a dedicated traditional homemaker, great mother and the perfect host for guests at home. We all loved and respected her. Her work on screen will be written in text books of acting. God bless her soul and may she rest in peace.”