It is not often that comebacks rank among an actor’s finest films. In the flood of actresses returning to the screen after different periods of absence, Sridevi Kapoor is perhaps the luckiest.
Not only is her comeback film “English Vinglish” equally loved by masses, classes and critics, but the role as well as performance and the film itself rank among her finest. As Shashi Godbole, she has proved that her 15-year break from the big screen has not made her lose even a spark from her histrionic fire (she was last seen in “Judaai,” the serial “Malini Iyer” discounting her delayed “Mere Biwi Ka Jawaab Nahin” that came and vamoosed in 2004). Between 2002 and 2005 she also produced three films – “Shakti – The Power,” “Run” and “Bewafaa” starring other actresses.
Sridevi, who first faced the camera at the age of seven, is full of beans when India-West has a ‘phoner with her.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: How does it feel to be the luckiest in a whole range of actresses coming back to films?
A: Yes, I need to say a big thank you to my fans and the audiences, and to God. When Gauri narrated the subject to me, in a chance meeting for something else between Boney-ji and Balki-ji, he told my husband that his wife was planning such a story. Boney-ji suggested my name. When we meet we just clicked as people apart from my loving the script.
Q: Isn’t this your first-ever film with a woman director? Or have you had any in the South?
A: Never! Though the gender did not matter by itself, I admit there was a greater comfort level, because you can talk about almost anything with a woman. And I enjoyed every moment of working on this film, especially because Boney-ji was there throughout the ten-week schedule of the film in New York. It was like a free holiday for him! (Laughs)
Q: What does he think of your performance?
A: You will have to ask him! (Chuckles)
Q: All your co-stars were new to you. How were they to work with?
A: I loved working with the small boy, Sagar, who was so unusually sharp and good as an actor and so cute. My French co-star Mehdi Nebbou was so enthusiastic and quite a perfectionist. Adil Hussain and everyone else were good too.
Q: Which is the best compliment you have received for this role?
A: Well, I never planned any comeback. But I feel so lucky and grateful at what is happening. Such praise leads to a great responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. The compliments – the sms-es and the calls - have never stopped. Strangers call me, stop me and there are ladies who call up or hug me and say how the film changed their lives. I am amazed that so many people have told me that “English Vinglish” is exactly their story - not just wives, but even husbands and kids have come and told me that they have apologized to their wives and mothers after watching this film! Daughters have called from abroad to tell us how they have called their mothers in India to say sorry for behaving the way they did with them.
Q: How much has all this motivated you to do more films, or maybe become choosier?
A: I will look for quality films, because I will have to be away from my family during shooting. Before we shot this film, my husband took my daughters Jhanvi and Khushi, and me for a month-long holiday to Las Vegas because I was going to be away from my kids.
Q: Which have been your past favorites from your films?
A: All my films are close to me! But among those in Hindi, Yash Chopra-ji really made me look beautiful in “Chandni” and “Lamhe” and “Sadma,” “Mr. India” and “Chaalbaaz” are also special.
Q: Your music was a great asset to your career, especially in the films of Bappi Lahiri at first and then Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
A: I am very grateful to these stalwarts. They really gave me such great songs. I had lovely songs in Yash-ji’s films too.
Q: Recently Tusshar Kapoor expressed his anger at a statement you had made about “Himmatwala” being no “Mughal-E-Azam.”
A: I would rather not speak about that.
Q: What is the truth behind all the conflicting media reports about your daughter Jhanvi doing films, your grooming her, and then her not doing films and so on?
A: I am quite disturbed by whatever the newspapers keep writing because it is all untrue. Jhanvi’s just 15 and she is doing very well in her studies. We do not even discuss a career in films.
Q: Will it be okay if she decides on a film career later?
A: We will see about that if the time comes. Why should I break my head on it now?
Q: What is the status of the sequel to “Mr. India?”
A: That is again something that my husband knows better!
FILMOGRAPHY – SRIDEVI (HINDI FILMS ONLY)
(Successes and Hits in Capitals)
1975- JULIE (child artiste)
1978- Solwa Saawan
1983- HIMMATWALA, MAWAALI, JUSTICE CHOUDHURY, Jaani Dost, Kalaakar, Sadma
1984- TOHFA, MAQ:SAD, Naya Kadam, Jaag Utha Insaan, Inquilaab, Akalmand
1985- Balidaan, Masterji, Sarfarosh
1986- KARMA, NAGINA, AAKHREE RAASTA, JAANBAAZ, GHAR SANSAAR, Bhagwan Dada, Sultanat, Aag Aur Shola, Suhaagan, Dharam Adhikari
1987- WATAN KE RAKHWALE, MR INDIA, JAWAB HUM DENGE, Aulad, Nazrana, Majaal, Himmat Aur Mehenat
1988- Ram Avatar, Sone Pe Suhaaga, Sherni, WAQ:T KI AWAZ
1989- CHAALBAAZ, CHANDNI, Joshilaay, Nigahen, Main Tera Dushmun, Guru, Gairkanooni
1990- NAAKABANDI, Aadmi Aur Apsara (dubbed)
1991-Banjaran, Patthar Ke Insan, Farishtay, LAMHE
1992- KHUDA GAWAH, Heer Ranjha
1993- Garjana, Chandramukhi, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, GUMRAH, GURU-DEV
1994- Chand Kaa Tukda, LAADLA
1996- ARMY, Kaun Saccha kaun Jhoota, Mr Bechara
2002- Shakti (producer only)
2004- Malini Iyer (TV), Run (producer), Mere Biwi Ka Jawab Nahin
2005 – Bewafaa (Producer)
2012 – ENGLISH VINGLISH