“Can you please pack it quickly? My daughter is waiting in the car.” The voice sounded familiar. There was only one person who had that unmistakable quiver to her tone. The first time I saw Sridevi in flesh and blood was not for an interview or at an award event. I remember waiting for a friend in the coffee shop of a plush suburban hotel when I had my first encounter with Sridevi. Dressed in all black from head to toe, wearing big glares and a hoodie no one could have recognised the legendary actress had she not opened her mouth and spoken those words. The hotel manager greeted her warmly and my curiosity to get a glimpse of my childhood icon couldn’t be contained.
Under the pretext of making small conversation with the manager, I mustered the courage and walked right next to Sridevi. She obviously had her eyes fixed on the job at hand - getting some coffee and sandwiches packed for her kids and was oblivious to the people around her. In a fraction of a second, I looked to see the face under the hoodie to get a look at my favourite actress without the masks and the makeup. What I saw was a frail woman, so thin that the wind could blow her away. I still can’t get that image out of mind after so many years.
If you grew up in the '80s, there was no way you could have missed the magic of Sridevi. The first time I saw her on the big screen was in Mr India. That Charlie Chaplin scene from the film can be watched on loop to just fathom the genius that she was! I remember in school there were camps you swore your loyalty to - either Madhuri or Sridevi. Even though I remain a loyal Madhuri supporter till date, there was a certain magical, mystical quality to Sridevi that was unmissable. It was all in the eyes, and boy, did she use those eyes to their full potential in Rishi Kapoor’s Nagina. Mein Teri Dushman has not only become a song that defies time, but to see her in her full glory, one needs to watch Sridevi’s expressions in this track.
Sridevi’s personal life held no interest to me. I was mesmerised by her on screen persona to an extent that I remember doing a marathon of her films with friends who idolised her. Sridevi was able to transcend age groups, sex, religion, race and any other man made barrier to make a place in everyone’s hearts. Over the last few years however, Sridevi’s image underwent a serious makeover and she suddenly transformed into this fashionista wearing her friend Manish Malhotra’s ensembles at various society events. She was always a recluse and someone who spoke very little. She hated interviews and avoided the public eye at all costs. The only place she enjoyed herself the most was in the company of her daughters Jhanvi and Khushi.
The Sridevi I will always remember is the one from Lamhe dancing to the tune of Morni Baga in the desert of Rajasthan. That song and those visuals are forever etched in my mind. There will be obituaries and farewell pieces written that will speak of her glory and magic, but not none of them will be able to fill the void she’s left in the hearts of her fans. Thank you for the movies! May your soul rest in peace.
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