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  Entertainment   Bollywood  26 Feb 2018  Sridevi: India’s first woman superstar

Sridevi: India’s first woman superstar

Published : Feb 26, 2018, 6:15 am IST
Updated : Feb 26, 2018, 7:31 am IST

Sridevi was an inspiration to many actresses and a style icon to many youngsters.


The sudden death of iconic actress Sridevi has left the country in shock and grief. Having started her career at the age of 4 in director A.P. Nagarajan’s Kandhan Karunai, Sridevi, who entertained the masses for five decades, died of cardiac arrest. She was considered the first ‘Lady Superstar’ of Indian cinema, commanding the highest salary and leaving behind a rich legacy of more than 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi.

Sridevi was born in Meenampatti village in Sivakasi on August 13, 1963 to Iyyappan and Rajeshwari. She featured as a child artiste in many films and won Kerala’s Best Child Artiste award for her performance in the Malayalam film Poompatta.  At the age of 13, she became a heroine and director Balachander introduced her in his film Moondru Mudichu in 1976, where she acted alongside both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. The movie was a big hit and a big turning point in her career. She was paired with Kamal and Rajini in many other films. It was Bharathiraja’s 16 Vayadhinile in 1977 when she shared screen space again with Kamal and Rajini that catapulted her to dizzy heights. Moondraam Pirai, where she played a woman suffering from amnesia, won her the first Tamil Nadu state award.

As a child artist in Aathi Parasakthi with JayalalithaaAs a child artist in Aathi Parasakthi with Jayalalithaa

She was an inspiration to many actresses and a style icon to many youngsters. The ‘Sridevi’ brand of pottu (bindi), earrings and bangles were the rage among young college girls in those days. The queen bee who ruled the south industry in 70s and 80s made her Bollywood debut as a lead heroine with the movie Solva Sawan in 1979 and though it did not do well at the box office, her subsequent film Himmatwala, which went on to become a blockbuster, established her in Hindi. Mr India, Chandni, Chaal Bazz and Nagina were some of the Bollywood films which put her on a national pedestal.

Her untimely death has shocked many in the industry and actors and directors who had worked with her share their grief and memories with her. Bharathiraja, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan left for Mumbai to pay their last respects to the departed soul.

Sridevi in a still from LamheSridevi in a still from Lamhe

Sridevi was my close friend for 40 years and I still can’t believe that she is no more. It’s very disturbing for me. She was a soft-spoken person behind the camera but in front of it, Sridevi was totally different. She would totally transform into the character she played. And when this girl became a big star in Bollywood, it surprised me a lot. It was her sheer dedication and hard work. It is the biggest loss for the Indian industry.

Kamal Haasan
I have seen Sridevi growing in each and every stage and now to think of that she is no more, I feel terrible. Even when we acted together in our first film Moondru Mudichu, she looked like a child. On instructions from my guru Balachander, I was like a pupil leader on the sets. I used to teach her dance, body movements etc. My journey with her was long — like a portion of her lifetime — we acted together in 27 movies. She became a huge star in Bollywood, but our friendship continued. She always wanted to improve herself in whatever she did, I see a similarity in me. Right from early morning when I heard the news, the lullaby Kanne Kalai Maane written by late great poet Kannadasan from Moondraam Pirai is stuck in my head. It is her hard work and perseverance which gave her super stardom.

Ilaiyaraaja jjjjIlaiyaraaja

I have composed for many of Sridevi’s films. But I met her only once along with Kamal while composing a song for Moondraam Pirai. There were some dialogues in between a song. So they came to the studio. I discussed how the dialogues should gel with the thalam of the song. Both of them competed with each other and did the song.  I knew her as a child artiste. I was an assistant to G.K. Venkatesh sir then. We used to record Telugu and Kannada songs at Vauhini Studio. Once two child artistes came there. Lava Kusa shooting was going on. Sridevi was one of the child artistes playing one of the titular roles. She was very popular then itself. People around me would constantly talk about 'Baby Sridevi' even then. She was a great artiste. Her untimely demise is an irreparable loss.

I still can’t digest the untimely death of Sridevi. It is shocking. She was a brilliant actress and a great human being. She would never go for rehearsals and just hear the dialogues once from my assistants or me and reproduce the same in a single take. There is a scene in my film Johnny where Rajinikanth proposes to her, and she responds. In that scene she proved her histrionic talent. I still remember Rajini called me several times that night, as he was upset that he could not surpass Sridevi’s acting in that scene.

Tags: sridevi, rajinikanth, kamal haasan