I know. I’m Kenyan. Both my parents are Kenyan. And I am the last person you would expect to talk about this, but I feel like I must celebrate this woman called Sridevi Kapoor.
Her big eyes, infectious laugh, great dance moves and flawless ability to take on any role thrown her way – they all played a critical part in drawing our hearts to her, following her career in each and every movie she released, up until one of her last roles in English Vinglish.
I can’t remember the first Sridevi movie I ever watched, but there are some of her roles that defined my childhood, and without fully realizing it, I subconsciously identified with her powerful portrayals of women standing up for themselves, and fighting their own battles.
She was definitely one of my heroes growing up.
The movies that have stuck with me along the years include Mr India, alongside Anil Kapoor. I don’t know whether to call it sci-fi, but basically Mr India (Anil) would press a button on a bracelet that made him disappear. Sridevi was his love interest, whom he rescued from the clutches of Mogambo (Amrish Puri). In the movie, she performed the song Hawa Hawaii and even mentioned Mombasa in her lyrics. Awesome movie released in 1987.
Then there was Nagina (1986) and the sequel Nigahen (1989). Here she was a snake lady who captured the love of Rishi Kapoor and Sunni Doel respectively. Her role embraced her power as a snake, who could transform into a woman, but she would always use her power for good. It sounds so cliché, but it was awesome! My niece who is a proper millennial could not understand the graphical challenges in the 80s of having the vision of a cobra planted on Sridevi’s forehead. “Mein tera dushman, dushman tu mera, mein nagin tu sapera… Love that track!
Then the more modern roles came in the form of Chandni and Chaalbaaz. Chandni was the ultimate love story. Whatever she and Rishi Kapoor had in there made Twilight’s bond between the vampire and the human look like child’s play. In Chaalbaaz, she played twin sisters separated at birth, one meek and terrified, the other street smart and owning her own. With her wit, she outsmarts the duo of Anupam Kher and Shakti Kapoor, who were doing all they could to squander the good-Sridevi’s wealth. I know ALL the songs in both these movies… Mere Haatho mein nau nau churia hain… Arerere tanda pani dalo mein chala, gadbad hogai, are citi bajgai (sp).
After more than a decade of not seeing a single film of hers – also because she took a hiatus from acting – she did English Vinglish, which I watched first in Tamil (didn’t understand a word) and then in Hindi (understood, loved and appreciated it).
This is not a smart story with facts, but a tribute to an actress I admired and loved, and will remember fondly always. I had dreamt someday of interviewing her, but I am glad finally, to just write about her. (Perhaps I should try and stalk Arjun Kapoor).
Sridevi, my mom, sisters and brothers loved you. Even my friends in New Delhi and Mumbai! So did I. RIP.
PS: She died of a heart attack in Dubai on Saturday, 24 February, at the age of 54.
**I have since watched her movie Mom – miss her even more. Can’t wait to see the final movie she acted in.