Sridevi tribute

Iconic Bollywood actress Sridevi died at the age of 54 in Dubai. The last film for which she shot was Aanand L. Rai’s “Zero,” in which she has a cameo. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

MUMBAI — Legends like Sridevi happen once in a blue moon. She was 54 when she passed away, so we present an oblique tribute to her with 54 facts that the world should know.

  1. Her real name was Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan, and she was born August 13, 1963 to a Tamilian father and an Andhra-ite mother.
  2. Her birthplace was Sivakasi, the home of fireworks in India. And Sridevi was a true-blue firecracker on-screen.
  3. She faced the camera at the age of four as the child Lord Murugan in the film “Thunaivan” in Tamil. It released in 1969.
  4. Ergo, 50 of her 54 years were spent in film studios.
  5. She told this reporter that she was so used to the camera and the sets that she could not possibly deny daughter Jhanvi her desire to become an actress.
  6. She also said that her parents supported her desire to act and would not have forced her if she had not liked to do films. She was thus supportive of Jhanvi doing films.
  7. By working, she supported her mother, sister, stepbrother and stepfather.
  8. As a child artiste, she played the childhood of several deities apart from Lord Murugan, like Lord Krishna.
  9. Her first Malayalam film was “Kumara Sambhavam,” also in 1969.
  10. In 1970, she made her Telugu debut with “Naa Nanna Nirdoshi.”
  11. In 1974, she acted in her first Kannada film, “Bhakta Kumbhara.” She would do only five Kannada films in the 300 she acted in, all her life.
  12. In 1972, we saw her for the first film in a Hindi film, in K.S.R. Doss’ “Rani Mera Naam.” Her first noted film was, however, the 1975 “Julie.”
  13. Both the Telugu and the Tamil film industries claim that she did her best work with them, and her maximum releases in the South were in Telugu.
  14.  Her lead debut was at 13, in the 1976 film, “Moondru Mudichu” (Tamil), opposite Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. The film was directed by their mentor, K. Balachander.
  15.  She continued for a while as a child artiste, being still called Baby Sridevi.
  16. Recently, Sridevi opined that she did better work in the South compared to the relatively few meaty roles she got in Hindi films.
  17. There was virtually no South titan among heroes who did not work with her, though not all were romantically teamed opposite her, or did films with her as an adult. Sivaji Ganesan, M.G. Ramchandran, A. Nageshwara Rao and his son Nagarjuna, N.T. Rama Rao, Dr. Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh, and Aravind Swamy were among them.
  18. Among father and son co-stars, she also worked with Dharmendra and Sunny Deol, doing films with Sunny before working with the father!
  19.  She won the Kerala state Film Award for best child artiste in the 1971 Malayalam film, “Poombatta.” A slew of awards came her way from all states as an adult actress.
  20. She was conferred the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2013.
  21.  One of her most acclaimed performances was in Bharathiraja’s “16 Vayathinile,” which won her the Filmfare Special Award – South in 1977.
  22. K. Raghavendra Rao directed its Telugu remake, “Padaharella Vayasu,” in 1978, while Bharathiraaja was back to direct her in the Hindi, “Solva Sawan” (1979), which marked her Hindi debut opposite Amol Palekar and Adil Amaan. It was a non-starter,
  23. As an assistant director for a film in which she was a child artiste, Rao had once rushed her in his arms to a doctor after an accident on sets, though she had only minor injuries. This director was fond of her and insisted on giving her a big film opposite Jeetendra in “Himmatwala” despite her flop start. Sridevi said that she could not understand why he insisted on her.
  24.  “Himmatwala” (1983) marked her sensational entry into Hindi films, starting a new phase in Jeetendra’s career. Sridevi became known as Ms. Thunder Thighs after her role in this super-hit and the follow-up films “Jaani Dost” and “Justice Chowdhury” with the same director and K. Bapaiah’s “Mawaali” the same year, all opposite Jeetendra.
  25. Their duet, “Nainon Mein Sapna” heralded a new style of filming songs, with props like pillars, balls balloons and pots being seen for many years. Romantic songs were now enacted with several dancers. Most such songs were composed by Bappi Lahiri and rendered by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle.
  26. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, no less, decided to present the Hindi remake of her “Moondram Pirai” directed by Balu Mahendra, as “Sadma” the same year. It was a washout. Officially it was produced by Romu and Raj N. Sippy.
  27.  A decade down, Raj Sippy directed her again when Vinod Mehra left his directorial venture, “Guru-Dev,” incomplete after his death.
  28.  In the ‘80s about half-a-dozen Hindi films co-starred Jaya Prada. They became intense rivals and Rajesh Khanna and Jeetendra shut them up in a room on the sets of “Maqsad,” but to no avail. Many months later, Sridevi, who did not like tensions while working, broke the ice with her and they became good friends. Recently, Sridevi and her entire family attended the other actress’ daughter’s wedding.
  29. The first true-blue Mumbai filmmaker to sign her was Rakesh Roshan for the sensitive “Jaag Utha Insan,” but the film flopped too. It was directed by K. Vishwanath, the Southern titan, who had somehow never worked with her down South.
  30. The film starred Mithun Chakraborty, and the two fell in love and got married the following year according to reports. They did “Watan Ke Rakhwale,” “Guru” and “Waqt Ki Awaz” and then had a divorce in 1988.
  31. For the record, Sridevi did two films with the title “Guru.” Earlier, she had done a Tamil blockbuster in 1980 opposite Kamal Haasan. Her Hindi, “Guru,” (1989) was a remake of the 1985 Tamil film, “Kaakki Sattai,” also starring Kamal Haasan!
  32. In 1983, she also did the Tamil movie, “Devi Sridevi.”
  33. It is said that around this phase, even Ashok Amritraj had wanted to marry her.
  34. The Mumbai filmmakers were staying away from her until then, but slowly they opened up to her. Leading them were Feroz Khan, who worked only with the topmost heroines in his own productions, who offered her a cameo in “Jaanbaz,” and Arjun Hingorani and director Mukul S. Anand in “Sultanat.”
  35. Rakesh Roshan also signed her for “Bhagwan Dada” again. Hrithik Roshan, as a child artiste, had his first speaking part in this film in 1986. He recalled how Sridevi also pretended to be nervous about their shot together to put him at ease.
  36. Subhash Ghai’s “Karma” and Harmesh Malhotra’s “Nagina” (in the title solo lead) clocked up her first two super-hits from Mumbai, running for 75 and 100 weeks, respectively. Suddenly, she was the Numero Uno and the highest-paid heroine in Mumbai who had now zoomed past Jaya Prada and Meenakshi Seshadri.
  37. Boney Kapoor, smitten by her despite being married, offered her Shekhar Kapur’s “Mr India.” Sridevi’s mother demanded Rs. 10 lakh as fee, but Kapoor signed her for 2 lakh more!
  38.  “Mr India” was a big hit and its two songs, “Hawa Hawaai,” and “Kaate Nahin Kat-te” are considered benchmark comic and seduction songs. It consolidated Sridevi’s reign in Hindi cinema. The couple fell in love and married in 1996, having also done the 1993 flop, “Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja.” They were then shooting for “Judaai.”
  39. It was around this phase that Sridevi was offered “Jurassic Park” by Steven Spielberg, which would have meant that she do a film in a sixth language. But Sridevi turned down the role as she did not consider it worthy enough of her and the peak phase she was enjoying.
  40. Unlike most actresses from the South, Sridevi continued her southern career even while and after reigning in Hindi films.
  41. In 1989, with Yash Chopra’s “Chandni” and her Filmfare-winning performance as twins in “Chaalbaaz,” she was matchless as a saleable heroine and had formed teams in Hindi cinema with, after Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor.
  42. The ‘90s saw her fight the onslaught of Madhuri Dixit. She gave a tough fight, thanks to wonderful roles and films like Yash Chopra’s “Lamhe,” Mukul S. Anand’s “Khuda Gawah” (two of the bevy of dual roles she did in Hindi films), Mahesh Bhatt’s “Gumrah” and Raj Kanwar’s “Laadla” and “Judaai.”
  43. Besides singing in the Telugu “Kshana Kshanam” in the S.P. Balasubramanima duet “Ko Ante Koti” under M.M. Keeravani, she sang for Ilaiyaraja in the Hindi, “Sadma” (“Ek Dafa Ek Jungle Tha” with Kamal Haasan), the title-track of “Chandni” under Shiv-Hari and “Taxi Taxi” in “Garajna” under Bappi Lahiri.
  44. She was the original choice for “Beta” but Madhuri Dixit did the film.
  45. She was to do a dual role opposite Shah Rukh Khan in “Baazigar” but the makers thought that Shah Rukh Khan’s negative character would lose all sympathy by “killing” one of the two Sridevi’s and using the other. Shilpa Shetty, a new actress and one-flop old Kajol came in instead.
  46. But she ended up working with Khan in “Army” and with Salman Khan in “Chand Ka Tukdaa” and “Chandramukhi,” a film based on Salman’s story!
  47. Her film with Akshay Kumar, “Mere Biwi Ka Jawaan Nahin,” was released after a huge delay in 2004.
  48. After the birth of her daughter Jhanvi in 1997, Sridevi took a break. Khushi was born in 2000. Sridevi developed her hobbies of cooking and painting also during this phase.
  49. Before returning to the camera, she produced three films, all of which flopped — “Shakti—The Power,” “Run” and “Bewafaa.” In 2005, she acted in her husband’s television serial, “Mrs Malini Iyer.”
  50. She took fashion tips from her daughter Jhanvi and was keen on looking good. For this, she did several cosmetic surgeries.
  51. Her comeback, “English Vinglish” (2012) was the only successful one from actresses of her generation. She was loved by the critics as well.
  52. She was hell-bent on being the earliest to watch “Dhadak,” Jhanvi Kapoor’s debut, which will release later this year.
  53. In 2017, she starred in her 300th film, “Mom,” that again won her critical acclaim.
  54. The last film for which she shot was Aanand L. Rai’s “Zero,” in which she has a cameo. Unconfirmed reports also said that she had signed “Shiddat” with Abhishek Varman, Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala.

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