Her bewitching eyes and the enchanting smile made every heart beat and lit up the cinema screens, making her the woman of the dreams to her millions of fans. Bollywood's first female superstar Sridevi passed away to a cardiac arrest in Dubai on Saturday night. She was 55.
In a career spanning over four decades, the actress ruled the commercial cinema space in 1980s and 1990s like no other Bollywood heroine had done before. In an industry dominated by male superstars, Sridevi reversed the trend and her name and screen presence almost invariably ensured a film strikes gold at the box office.
Sridevi's dance moves would be copied by her fans and her popularity post 1989 film “Chandni” success gave her the sobriquet “Miss Hawa Hawaaii”.
Much before she shifted to Bollywood, Sridevi was a known name in South Indian cinema where she made her acting debut at the age of four in Tamil movie “Thunaivan”. She continued acting in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada language films, establishing herself as a leading heroine with films such as “16 Vayathinile”, “Sigappu Rojakkal”, “Meendum Kokila” and “Moondram Pirai”.
But it was Bollywood which made Sridevi a household name. Making her debut in 1978 as a lead actor in “Solva Sawan”, she gained prominence with the 1983 film “Himmatwala” opposite Jeetendra, which also established her as one of the best dancers in Indian cinema. She was grace personified, dressed as a celestial beauty performing on the popular song “Nainon Mein Sapna”.
The year 1983 also saw Sridevi give stellar performances in both critically acclaimed and box-office hits such as “Sadma” where she played the role of a woman who loses her memory.
Both she and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan played the roles in the Hindi remake of their 1982 Tamil movie, “Moondram Pirai”. The climax of the heart-wrenching movie was deemed as poetic as the entire plot. Sridevi followed it up with a number of commercial hits such as “Mawaali”, “Tohfa”, “Masterji” and “Nazrana”. In 1987 in director Shekhar Kapur's “Mr. India”, produced by her future husband Boney Kapoor, Sridevi gave a memorable performance as a crime reporter.
The dance sequence in “Chandni” gave Sridevi a cult status and the song by Kavita Krishnamurthy was recreated a number of times in films such as “Shaitan” and most recently in Vidya Balan's “Tumhari Sulu”. Yash Chopra cast Sridevi in the title role of “Chandni” and impressed with her performance, roped her in again for “Lamhe” in a dual role where she played the mother and the daughter. It failed at the box office but came to be known one the best films of Sridevi, Yash Chopra and Anil Kapoor's careers. The film was said to be ahead of its times as it dealt with a woman falling for an older man who is in love with her dead mother.
Among Sridevi's other major box office hits of the era were “Chaalbaaz”, where she played the role of twins, “Nagina”, and “Khuda Gawah” opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Her pairing with Anil Kapoor, her “Mr India” co-star and brother-in-law, was particularly successful and she would work with him again in “Laadla” and “Judaai”.
After “Judaai”, Sridevi went into a 15-year hiatus from acting to focus on her marriage with Boney Kapoor, and daughters Janhvi and Khushi.
The actor made a successful comeback to cinema 15 years later with Gauri Shinde's “English Vinglish”, playing a housewife who learns English after feeling left out in her family, followed by another successful outing in “Mom” which also featured Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna.
Sridevi's daughter Janhvi has also begun her journey in her mother's footsteps beginning her career with the upcoming film “Dhadak”.