Sridevi: A National Treasure Lost Too Early

The first time she faced the camera for the Tamil movie Kandan Karunai in 1967, she was just four years old. Her last release Mom (2017) saw her spending five successful decades in the business of entertainment. Unlike most child actors, who take a break during their adolescent years before returning to the big screen, Sridevi never spent any time away from the arclights while growing up.

Having starred in over 300 films, there’s no doubt that the actress was a national phenomenon and deserved the title of India’s First Female Superstar. When she decided to turn away from the cameras and focus on her family, she did that with utter dedication for 15 years. And when she returned, it almost felt like she had come back to work after a day’s break. In an interview, her co-star Akshaye Khanna gushed, “It’s very rare to come across an artiste like that. She’s probably done about two films in the last decade but look at her — she is a national treasure.” Critics noted that the finesse in her performance was in sync with current times. 

Sridevi had overcome the pay-scale disparity between male and female actors. Such was her star power that her fees did not only match that of her male counterparts, but often exceeded it. 

Be it the innocent Nehalata (Sadma), the fiery journalist Seema Soni (Mr India), there wasn’t a genre that Sridevi hadn’t dabbled in. She even carried on her shoulders the strange concept of an icchadhari snake (a shapeshifter of sorts) in Nagina. While most actresses would think twice about taking up a part with grey shades, Sridevi was eager to grab such meaty roles. Her act as the mean, egoistic mill-owner Sheetal in Laadla was truly applause-worthy; as was her turn as  a greedy wife in Judaai

In 2012, Sridevi returned as the docile homemaker Shashi Godbole. One couldn’t help but applaud the script that she picked for her comeback vehicle. Most actors fall into the trap of attempting tricks that made them famous for their comeback ventures. But Sridevi knew how to be relevant. 

Once famous for her dancing skills, neither English Vinglish nor Mom had her breaking into a jig. “I don’t want to do a dance film,” she once said. I know it’s an exceptional space now, but I don’t think I will try it anymore. Why should I get up and start dancing? Woh toh kar liya, dance ho gaya! People appreciated it, but now, I have to move on from that.”