Sridevi the Iconoclast Challenged

Male-dominated Bollywood

"Those whom Gods love, die young" - wrote Shelley in his Adonais, the elegiac masterpiece to lament the death of Keats. Today when Sridevi is no more, we recall the premature and unexpected death of many earlier film actresses.

Aarthi Agarwal who made her acting debut at the age of 16 with the Bollywood film Pagalpan died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in the US after a failed liposuction surgery. She was battling against obesity and pulmonary illness. Her Bollywood career failed and she attempted suicide after an alleged relationship with a co-star turning bitter and her films not doing well. From 2008 to 2015 she worked in only four films and was almost forgotten.

Divya Bharti is another starlet who too succumbed to death at the age of 19. She was a rising talent in films and her death came as a huge shock for the industry. Many think that her death was due to the unhappiness of their conjugal life of eight months. Smita Patil was another most loved actress who had proved her acting prowess with a lot films. She fell in love with Raj Babbar and married two weeks after the birth of Prateek their first son she died and it might be due to childbirth complications.

Taruni Sachdev popularly known as the Rasna girl passed away in a plane crash in Nepal in 2012. She did a remarkable role in Amitabh Bacchan's Paa.

Most tragic is the death of Jiah Khan who was a budding talent but found dead in her Juhu apartment in 2013 at the age of 25. It created a stir in the industry because her alleged boy friend Sooraj Pancholi was arrested on charges of abetment to suicide.

The journey that Sridevi began at the age of four as a child prodigy ended at 55 and the five decade long journey in the film world came to an tearful end when she had a massive heart attack while after attending a marriage ceremony at Dubai reached her hotel and fell unconscious after the heart attack. A private jet which will bring her dead body after the post mortem is expected to arrive at Mumbai around 8pm. The child artist Riva Arora who played the role of her young daughter in her last film 'Mom' with tearful eyes told what she felt in front of the ABP reporter 'I miss you Sridevi Mom'. Yes all her fans and admirers now only can this much after the tragedy with tearful eyes. 'We miss you Srideviji'.

She was the superstar in the South when she acted as heroine with Rajanikanth or Kamal Hasan. But in Bollywood she was the Queen of glamour. In our youth all that was romantic in film was Sridevi's dance and anything that was intelligent was Sridevi's acting. She acted in more than 125 films in Tamil, Telegu, Kannad and Malayalam as heroine to all the superstars of Bollywood besides her Hindi super duper hits.  At the age of four she played the role of a child artiste. She stopped acting for some years and had her comeback with English Vinglish.  From Chandni to Chaalbaaz from Sadma to Mr.India and English Vinglish and finally to Mom she showed her versatility in being comfortable with all the roles assigned to her.She was awarded Padmasree in 2013 besides her innumerable other awards from the film industry and the Cineworld.

In 1975 she startled the film world by her role in Julie and one after another challenging role she accepted in the films which became milestones in her five decade long journey - in 1983 Sadma, in 1987 Mr India , in 1989 Chaalbaz, in 1991 Lamhe, and so on. We cannot forget her inimitable acting in Himmatwala, Nagina and the film which she acted in after fifteen years English Vinglish facilitating her comeback to Bollywood till she did her last film 'Mom' where she became the mom to two daughters.

Agnimitra Pal a Kolkata based fashion designer told about her to Star Anand that she was a very generous hearted lady with all family bonding and the way she took care to bring up her two daughters is simply incredible. She helped the artistes in the film world and outside. She never was egotistic or egoist. That she was a film superstar cannot be guessed if one talks to her personally. She was above everything a wonderful woman, a human being.

Like Suchitra Sen in Tollywood, Sridevi too came out to challenge the stereotypes in the Indian films where male domination hardly allowed the superstardom to be accessed by females. At one time Mahanayak Uttam Kumar dominated Tollywood. But in a film like 'Deep Jele Jai' Suchitra played in the lead role and the film was superhit without any male superstar and this is no less true about Sridevi's rise as the first female superstar in Bollywood after she had established her safe niche as the most successful heroine in the South where she was born. Her rise as a superstar started in the Telegu superhits and the Malayalam films where she hit the bull's eye. After K.Balachander's 'Moondru Mudichu' where she co-starred with Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth she did not have to look back any more. Some films flash through one's mind when we discuss the rise of Sridevi as the first female superstar in Indian films which never depended on male superstars as in Moondram Pirai (Sadma in Hindi) Johnny, Vazhvey, Maayam Meendum Kokila , Dharma Yuddham .In Ramgopal Varma's Govinda Govinda where she was the heartbreaker she showed the combination of childlike innocence with great sensuality and acting prowess. The South Indians owned her but when she came to Bollywood she again conquered Bollywood. It is interesting to know that even in North and Northeast too she brought all the gusto of her stardom as the silver screen idol since her 16 Vayathinile days.

She always regarded her last performance as her first film and she will have a long way to go. India is shell-shocked to know that Sridevi is no more. Tears idle tears flow and keep the memory of her wonderful films wet and evergreen like her. The moment we think of anyone breaking the Bollywood stereotypes , the very first name that comes to our mind is that of Sridevi. She dashed into the North from the South like other iconic heroines but paved her path in her inimitable style. She made the audience and film lovers understand and feel a new gusto. A female superstar too can have stardom and Sridevi never failed .Each of her film was a story of success and nothing succeeds like success. She was comfortable in any role she was assigned to. Born as Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan , Sridevi created her niche as the first film superstar in her five decade of acting beginning at the age of four . She took a break from acting when she married Boney Kapoor in 1996 and staged her comeback with the Gauri Shinde's blockbuster English -Vinglish in 2012 after fifteen years when her two daughters grew up. Her last performance in Mom was that of an angry mother who was bent on avenging for her daughter's rape.

She was at heart a very simple lady. She once told : "I am very simple. All these praises scare me. I feel like a newcomer." She was so caring, said the child actor of Mom who played the role of her younger daughter in her last film ." Sridevi aunty did not allow me to go outside as there was a snowfall in Georgia during our shooting." She used to call her to share lunch with her and advised her not to be panicky in her acting time. She only should imagine that she is her mom and that was all. This shows how sincere she had been as a mother and as a guide and friend to the junior actors.In one interview she confessed that she looked arrogant to the unknown people and she opens up only to the people to whom she was close.

We saw with surprise how she rose to the eminence of the fist female superstar in the male-dominated film Industry of India. Today India is shell-shocked , so is the Bollywood and millions of film-loving people all over the world and most of whom had a special space for Sridevi in their heart of hearts and all are praying for her soul to rest in peace. Since her first film as a child prodigy at the age of four , she rose to eminence and She shared the screen with some of Indian film's most iconic leading men from Amitabh Bachchan to Shahrukh Khan. We cannot forget her inimitable acting in Himmatwala , Nagina and the film which she acted in after fifteen years English Vinglish facilitating her comeback to Bollywood till she did her last film 'Mom' where she became the mom to two daughters. But she is here an image breaker as she appeared more than a soft affectionate Indian mother, she plays in the role of an avenging mother for giving justice to her raped daughter. Thus from the very first film at the age of four she was poised for doing something great. Kamal Hasan is not fully right that she did not have much talent that time but gradually improved by her perseverance because without inherent talent this kind of superstar cannot come to steal all the limelight in a male-dominated film industry with the people having a conventional mindset.


More by :  Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

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