New Delhi: On February 24, a cardiac arrest felled Sridevi, cutting short a career that she had just got re-rolling in 2012 with English Vinglish. This Hindi film came after a 15-year hiatus, and had not just an interesting plot, but also a great performance by an actress who was legendarily known as an interviewer’s nightmare, but a viewer’s delight.
Sridevi, respected by her colleagues as a fine actor with a gift for comedy, is considered the first female superstar of Indian cinema and leaves behind her a rich legacy of films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi. She starred opposite some of the biggest names from filmdom, many of whom have posted condolence messages on social media – among them Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Rishi Kapoor.
Sridevi was born in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu on August 13, 1963. She began acting at the age of four in 1969 film Thunaivan. Malayalam film Poompatta won her a Kerala State Film Award for Best Child Artist in 1971. She also co-starred with late actress-politician Jayalalithaa in three films, including Adi Parashakti. In 1975, a year before Sridevi made her debut as a leading lady, she appeared in her first Hindi film, Julie, playing the sister of the heroine.
1976’s Moondru Mudichu, opposite Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, was Sridevi’s first lead role. She would go on to co-star with the two actors in several films, both Tamil and Hindi. Her best-known Bollywood collaborations with them are Chaal Baaz with Rajinikanth and Sadma with Kamal Haasan.
Sridevi’s extensive filmography contains as many outings in Bollywood as it does down South. Her breakout film was 1983’s Himmatwala, opposite Jeetendra, remembered for the song Nainon Mein Sapna. She went from strength to strength in the Hindi film industry, starring in memorable films such as Nagina and its sequel Nigahen. Her scene-stealing turn in Mr India included the iconic song Hawa Hawaii. The films Chandni and Lamhe helped Sridevi become the definitive ‘Yash Raj heroine.’
After marrying producer Boney Kapoor, Sridevi took a break of many years – her last starring role before the hiatus was Meri Biwi Ka Jawaab Nahin with Akshay Kumar, which was filmed in 1994 but released in 2004 – before making what the film industry calls a comeback. 2012’s acclaimed English Vinglish was the comeback of comebacks and Sridevi worked steadily ever since, appearing in Tamil film Puli and last year’s MOM. She will be seen posthumously in a special appearance this year in Shah Rukh Khan’s film Zero.
Sridevi received the Padma Shri and won several Filmfare awards. She is survived by husband Boney Kapoor and her two daughters, Janhvi and Khushi.