Back on screen

Kamal Hassan was a big influence on Sridevi's come-back. Photo: Special Arrangement  

There are actresses you wish would marry and retire. Then there are the men you hate for marrying actresses at the peak of their performing powers. All our male superstars are married and the anomaly is that none of them retired and their female fans did not desert them. When I accused Suriya, in jest of snatching Jyotika from her fans especially after terrific performances in ‘Veteyadu Vilayadu’ and ‘Mozhi’ the star smiled wryly and said, “I miss her onscreen too but it’s entirely her decision.”

Ajay Devgan and Boney Kapoor will most probably parrot Suriyas line of defence. Will Saif too say ‘yes’ to marriage vows and ‘nay’ to producers?

Anyway the one actress who succumbed to marriage and motherhood that I miss is Sridevi. She’s probably the only artiste other than Kamal to successfully make the transition from child to adult star. Her baptism with greasepaint as an adult started with a complex role in K. Balachander’s ‘Moondru Mudhicu’ with Kamal and Rajni. Her confrontation scenes with Rajni won applause from the public and plaudits from critics. She ascended the star ladder as swiftly as the actress in her blossomed. There was no doubt that her acting was influenced by Kamal with whom she made a magical pair onscreen. They acted in around thirty films together. When we talk about memorable screen pairs we usually think of the ones that looked good together. Kamal and Sri not only looked good but brought out the best in each other be it in a comedy like ‘Meendum Kokila’, an intense film like ‘Varumayin Niram Sivappu’ or a ‘Moonram Pirai’. Their last film together I think is ‘Oka Radha Iddhuru Krishnulu’, a laugh riot.

Sridevi was ruling the Tamil and Telugu film industries when Bollywood beckoned. Strangely, the same audiences who termed anything loud as ‘Madrasi’ lapped up the garish ‘Himmatwala’ while sensitive ‘Sadma’ received a tepid response. Audiences were initially more perceptive of Sridevi’s ‘thunder thighs’ than her tremendous talent. It took films like ‘Mr. India’, ‘Chaalbaaz’ and ‘Gumraah’ for Hindi audiences to realise that here was a special actress who could make them cry as easily as she could have you rolling in the aisles. Her films with Yash Chopra, sashaying in chiffons in chilly Switzerland were a cakewalk for her. Just like it was Gautam Menon’s ambition to make a film with his idol, Kamal, Ramgopal Verma yearned to direct his favourite actress and fulfilled it with ‘Kshana Kshanam’, a breezy comedy.

It’s fifteen long years since we last saw her onscreen and I can’t think of any actress as versatile as her in the South or North save Kajol in a few roles. She fulfilled her domestic responsibilities while her fans waited patiently. Many a producer tried to woo her with astronomical sums and author backed roles. Sri was unfazed. We have to thank Gauri Shinde for making her an offer she could not refuse. ‘English Vinglish’ is complete and Sri has mesmerised preview audiences. I suspect she identified with the role because she herself grappled with her inability to communicate in English in the early days. Her usual response was, “Ask mummy.” Age may have drawn crow feet around her eyes but I’m sure her acting abilities are intact. That’s because she’s a natural.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 8:38:35 PM |

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