Back in the 1970s, there was a film named Julie which created quite a flutter among many of us. Dealing with the rather touchy topic of inter-caste marriage and unwed pregnancy, it focused on an Anglo-Indian family whose daughter breaks the traditional boundaries of Indian society.
Among all the drama and flashes of flesh, was this young child star, rather plain looking, who playing the protagonist’s little sister. Many of us kids were of course not allowed to watch this kind of cinema as the theatres were very strict about admitting those below 18.
But when we finally did, this rather gawky girl did make an impression despite all the fleshy bits and kisses and the buxom figure and thunder thighs of the actress Laxmi which were any adolescent’s delight.
Indian cinema was then dominated by Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz and Sharmila Tagore who gave a string of wonderful films and Sridevi was not in our minds at all. We gobbled up all those love stories with superb songs or blockbusters which were senseless entertainers but kept you occupied for three hours.
Then in 1983, a beautiful lady danced so gracefully to the rather racy number Naino Mein Sapna that many of us were left totally transfixed. There were wonderfully crafted pots and pots and among them Sridevi danced away with strange outfits as the pots faded into the distance.
The film was Himmatwala and was the first among her 16 films with Jeetendra, of which 13 were hits. This launched Sridevi as a leading lady in a big way in Hindi cinema.
Dubbed South Indian family dramas became the order of the day in the early 1980s when Sridevi and Jaya Pradha paired with Jeetendra to foil the machinations of the bad guys, often played by Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor.
Sridevi often lost out in these dramas but she expanded her range, playing flippant girls to serious characters, switching from one to the other with ease.
In between all this, came Sadma. Now here was a film with a theme which was extremely touching. It dealt with a girl who regresses to childhood after an accident and lands up in a brothel. She is rescued by a lonely teacher who loves her and both begin a relationship which is funny yet sad.
This established her as one of the best actresses in Hindi cinema. She did superb justice to her role and we all laughed and cried with her. Here was an actress beyond par who could hold her own among great actors like Kamal Hassan.
No wonder she became number one. Amazingly she got more beautiful as time went by. She looked like a goddess in the film Chaalbaaz.
The epitome of her beauty was revealed when she danced in the rain in a blue sari in the song Kaate Nahin Kat Te from Mr India, directed by Shekar Kapur. This must surely be the number one sensual song in India cinema. The Oohs and Aahs while she gyrated, swung and pranced were simply wild. We just didn’t want the song to finish…
The film was total Sridevi as she did a Charlie Chaplin takeoff which was really funny and sizzled in the song Hawa Hawai.
We grew up with her and she in a way reflected the society we were living in, the norms under which we were bound and the constant need to break away and be free.
As we got into the routine of life, slogging to earn that bit of extra cash, we knew Sridevi was there telling us on celluloid to stretch the boundaries and even break it. She was our three-hour route to escapism, a time when every problem could be solved or just laughed off.
That ringing laughter of hers, the smile that sent flutters to the heart will be missed.
Har kisi ko nahin milta
Yahan pyar zindagi mein
Khushnaseeb hai wo jinko hai mili
Yeh bahaar zindagi mein
Love you Sridevi. May God Give You Eternal Peace.