Sridevi was truly special. Her mere presence could light up the screen like no other actress.
Sridevi started her career as a child actor at the age of four. “I knew nothing about acting at that age. I’d do exactly what the director would ask me to do. I think I continued doing that even in my later years,” Sridevi once told me.
All our conversations were co-ordinated by her husband Boney Kapoor. It was difficult to make Sridevi talk. She was an actor, not a talker. And she was extremely health conscious. No late nights, no partying. Though she avoided eating anything beyond her diet regime, Sridevi loved to feed others. I remember when former actress Asin came to stay in her building Sridevi would prepare and carry tiffins with South Indian goodies for Asin.
Sridevi was shy. But once she took to you she was comfortable. She enjoyed shopping with her daughters Jahnvi and Khushi.
Her stint as an adult Bollywood star began with Solva Sawan in 1978 which bombed. She was written off for the next three years until she was re-launched in Himmatwala in 1981. There was no looking back thereafter.
Jeetendra who starred with Sridevi in Himmatwala and a string of hits in the 1980s told me, “Uss ladki mein ek lagan ttha, ek junoon tthi. She was determined to make it big in Hindi cinema — as big as she was in Tamil and Telugu. I’ve never seen a more hard-working actress.”
After marriage Sridevi slowed down her career but returned with a bang in 2012 with English Vinglish.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali a huge Sridevi fan, remembers his last meeting with her. “She came to my special screening of Padmaavat with Boney Kapoor. She loved my film and said she wanted to work with me!”
Sridevi was magical. There’s nobody else who can do Hawa hawaai and Kate nahin kat-te the way she can. She had natural-born instincts for the camera which she sharpened over the years. It is strange to be talking about her in the past tense.