Sridevi — the full story

Sridevi: Star for all seasons


The true barometer of success and popularity for an actor who cuts across barriers is how people own them across multiple industries. So it’s fitting that Sridevi is called a national star. It wouldn’t be fair to say the actress had a normal childhood- she grew up hopping from one set to another, making sense of the craft at each step, closely guarded by her mom and lawyer-father. She many a time essayed male characters as a child, an aspect more common in theatre than cinema (the most popular role in Telugu being-Yashoda Krishna), before she established herself as a lead actor.

In an era when actresses could not vouch for author-backed roles or choose between the parallel cinema wave and mainstream cinema Sridevi’s career encompassed a healthy mix of both. For every Akali Rajyam or a Padaharella Vayasu, she didn’t complain about the damsel in distress-parts in films like Bangaru Kanuka and Karthika Deepam. Even in roles that didn’t quite require her to tap the ‘actor’ in her, say in Bobbili Puli, Sardaar Paparayudu or Vetagadu she showed her strength; the poorly crafted roles that are often written off as ‘commercial’ ones enjoyed new sheen when she essayed them. Her personality was a director’s dream — the mettle, the dances and her comic timing.

Top five songs
  • Jaamu Raathiri- Kshana Kshanam
  • Kanne Pillavani- Akali Rajyam
  • Abbani Tiyyani- Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari
  • Sirimalle Puvva- Padaharella Vayasu
  • Vennelainaa Cheekataina- Pachani Kapuram

If Bharathiraja and K Balachander moulded her in Tamil, the Dasari-Raghavendra Rao duo lay the foundation for her stardom in Telugu and Hindi cinema. Incidentally, though director K Vishwanath didn’t cast her in any of his Telugu films- he did rope her in for his Hindi remake of Telugu film Saptapadi, titled Jaag Utha Insaan opposite Mithun Chakraborty. Many of her films in Hindi, from her first commercial success , Himmatwala, were produced by Telugu bigwigs initially— Ramanaidu and actor Krishna’s Padmalaya Studios banner. Though she went on to do Telugu films after Himmatwala, it was clear that her priorities had changed.

When Nagarjuna was making his initial steps in the industry, Aakhari Poratam had Sridevi donning the main protagonist over the male actor. She was the quintessential hero, did most of the dances, fights, had better punchlines. The film’s success was proof of her immense commercial reach. The Kamal-Sridevi pair meanwhile tasted success across three languages. The two did straight Telugu films too — Guru, Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu — not quite a success in comparison to their Tamil-dubbed outings. She even starred in the Tamil remake of Premabhishekam with the actor, but it didn’t taste success at the box office.

Sobhan Babu and Sridevi in Devatha

Sobhan Babu and Sridevi in Devatha  

Despite all the Hindi remakes of the South, what is appreciable is the sincerity with which she played her roles, her live-wire self on screen was a treat to watch in remakes of Gharana Mogudu, Devatha, Ooriki Monagadu, Subhalagnam. Just when the Telugu film industry saw their emergence of other successful actresses like Radhika, Vijayashanti, Bhanupriya and Radha, her angelic appearance in Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari showed she’s the boss. She wasn’t a teenager anymore, a woman assured of her space, stardom and a pay cheque that matched Chiranjeevi’s. She had set a standard that no other heroine could match.

So, was anything else left in the tank for her to prove? Yes, said Ramgopal Verma with Kshana Kshanam- where Sridevi explored her charm, sense of humour and spontaneity like never before. S P Parasuram and Govinda Govinda were among her last Telugu films. She actively mentored actor Maheshwari’s career, attended most film and award gatherings in the south and made frequent television appearances. Sridevi deserved another, fitting finale to her wide body of work in Telugu cinema, but destiny had other plans!

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 9:40:50 PM |

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