Sridevi, the big-eyed enigma

The world cries a river at the untimely death of the Bollywood icon

Mahwash Ajaz February 25, 2018

DUBAI: If you grew up in a household obsessed with movies and film stars, you would know her. You would know her big eyes, the big hair that was all the craze in the late 80s, the hazel lenses and the megawatt smile. You would know her from her fantastic dance moves that could swing just as easily to a pop tune as they could to a kathak or folk melody. She could make you laugh, she could make you cry, she became one of the most powerful actors in Hindi cinema and one of the most memorable.

Sridevi Kapoor, born Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan, began her career as a Bollywood child artist in the mid-70s. Her Tamil and Telegu films garnered her critical and box office success as well as her ventures in Bollywood. Whether it was Moondram Pirai, in which she played a woman suffering from retrograde amnesia – or whether it was Tohfa, a film with a love triangle, Sridevi could do it all. By the late 80s, with films such as Mr India, Chandni, Lamhe and Chaalbaaz – she had made her mark on the industry. There was simply no one like her.

In Chalbaaz, where Sridevi played a double role, she can be seen shifting between the two polar opposite characters, very convincingly. One where she becomes the goddess of power with some sort of Amazonian strength emanating from every gesture she makes, to the kind, childlike earnestness with which she addresses her old uncle. Her emotional and dramatic range was inspiring - astounding even. She was in her mid-20s when she did Chalbaaz but her body of work and raw talent enabled her to be a star beyond anyone her age.

Sridevi’s recent foray back into mainstream films came with a sensitive family comedy English Vinglish - another role she performed with grace and compassion. Sporting simple saris and a typical bun or braid, with little to no makeup, Sridevi seemed to have a genuine connection Shashi who is taken for granted by her family.

Last year, Sridevi starred in Mom alongside Sajal Aly, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Adnan Siddiqi. Sridevi and Sajal bonded instantly, as it was seen from their social media posts and interviews. Sajal became somewhat of an adopted daughter of Sridevi - even more so when Sajal’s mother passed away just weeks before the release of the film.

In times of high tensions between the two countries, where Pakistani artists were not allowed to visit or work in India, Sridevi spoke candidly and beautifully of her co-stars Sajal and Adnan. As many write tributes and eulogies to the legendary actor, the value of her statements and her appeal to peace is one of most humble characteristics that made Sridevi an epitome of brilliancy.

Her dances were why many flocked to the cinemas. Her portrayal in perhaps even the most absurd movies, shone out like an odd ray of light in a very dark dungeon. Only Sridevi’s faultless dance and girlish charm could save horrible films from being pure torture.

Sridevi’ daughter, Janhvi Kapoor, was to make her debut with Ishaan Khatter, Shahid Kapoor’s brother. The film produced under the banner of Dharma Productions, titled Dhadak is set to release on July 20, 2018. Like any proud mother, Sridevi was excited for her daughter’s debut and many saw glimpses of her in Janhvi’s face and persona.

Sridevi’s death is truly the end of an era. She succumbed to a heart attack in Dubai and left the world in shock and horror. Tributes have poured in but none of them are enough. She has taken a bit of our youth, our idealism and our sense of beauty with her. The world is bleaker today and without her perfect smile, we have all lost a great ambassador of peace and unity.

Have something to add to the story? Share in the comments below.