It was a special day, father was home early and we were off to the movies. It didn’t matter which movie father was taking us to as I was just interested in going to the movies, it was a rare treat! It’s only much later I realized I had been to one of the greatest movies of Indian Cinema history, Mr.India. The movie mesmerized me, the menacing Mogambo, tapping his ringed fingers the globe, the scary acid pit (I was 8 years old, of course, it was scary then), the funny cross-connection telephone, Bob Christo’s “Indian God marta hai”, Anil Kapoor’s loser turned invisible savior avatar and the best, Sridevi’s Miss Hawa-Hawai. For the next six months, my neighbor blared Mr.India’s songs on full blast and tried to sing “lak-chika-lak-chik”. The movie remains a much loved one and recently we even introduced our children to it and their whole gang saw the movie sitting in a hotel room in Kaula Lumpur.
The only time I had seen Sridevi before this movie was in the huge posters of the movie Nagina with her contact lensed blue eyes. I don’t even remember seeing Rishi Kapoor on the poster.They were all over our small town and relatives were raving about the movie.My father, however, refused to take us for that movie since it was all about snakes and he had no intention of sitting through three hours watching snakes cavort on the screen. I finally saw that movie during our annual trip to Chandigarh when someone in the neighborhood hired a video machine and Nagina was one of the cassettes hired(people who grew up in the eighties might remember the phenomenon of video hiring and playing for the entire neighborhood!). Needless to say the “Nagin” dance made way to all the parties and still does.
Our family was not going-to-the-theater-to-watch movies kind of family and there were only a handful of movies that we have seen as a family in theatre. Two which stood out were Mr.India and Karma, both movies of Sridevi. Growing up in the eighties and nineties meant you were acquainted with Sridevi hitting the bulls-eye on the silver screen. There are so many memories associated with Sridevi movies. There was Chandni which made the “churi” song a mandatory one in the wedding sangeets ; there was my favourite movie “Lamhe” which was a trailblazer in terms of story and whose music still gives me goosebumps ; my cousins dancing on the songs of “Chalbazz”(I saw it much later on Doordarshan); the pathos of Sadma (again seen on Doordarshan).
Her dialogues became favourites to be quoted when appropriate (“Main madira nahin peeti ji” remains an eternal favourite!). Her vivacious dance moves were copied in parties and weddings and shows. In an interview director, Shekhar Kapoor even said it was very difficult to shoot the iconic Hawa Hawai song. If he took a long shot to capture Sridevi’s technical mastery of dance, he missed out on the close-up of her face which captured the joy and mischievousness of the dance.
Sridevi was an entertainer through and through, churning out one masala movie after another, ensnaring the audience with her comic timing, dancing, and her serious acting chops. I read an article in Illustrated Weekly of India stating Sridevi as the “Rupees Thirty Lakh Girl”. This was way back in the 1980s I think around the time Mr.India released. Now, I understand the significance of that headline. In that day and age, when actresses were nothing more than arm candy, Sridevi managed not only to carve a niche for herself but was also commercially very successful. That she asked for and received such a hefty sum spoke of her caliber as an actress, one who could make the movies run on her name alone.
My friend was the first one to send me the news of her demise. I initially thought it to be a hoax , though it turned out to be otherwise. People started posting how shocking it was that such a beautiful, talented actress was taken away so soon. Since the past one hour though the message which has been doing the rounds is the how much pressure Sridevi was to lose weight and be eternally beautiful. This post is not to disccuss the pressures on Indian Actresses to look forever young.
This post is me looking back upon the hours of entertainment Sridevi has given. The times she has made us laugh, dance and fall in love. It is about the rich legacy she has left behind.