By Ravi valluri
“I am missing you Papa,” whispered the legendary Sridevi over the phone on 24 February 2018 to her husband. This was how Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan affectionately addressed her husband Boney Kapoor, a prominent producer / distributor of Bollywood.
Meanwhile, “Papa” had arrived at Jumeriah Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai in the evening of that fateful day and the couple spent close to an hour in the privacy of their opulent room number 2201.
The actress and wife went to bathe and freshen up before the glitterati couple stepped out for dinner. Those were the ultimate private moments the couple were to spend together.
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Sanjay Kapoor, youngest brother of Boney Kapoor was to break the news to media, the film fraternity and the news starved electronic and print media that his sister-in-law, the talismanic actress had succumbed to a cardiac arrest.
The Dubai Police and local doctors were not in agreement with the assessment of the Indian actor as the toxicological and autopsy reports revealed suspected drowning with traces of alcohol and water in her body and lungs respectively. This activated the churn-mills of social media and trolling began incessantly; imputing various theories to the tragic demise of the first female superstar of Indian cinema.
She was supposed to be a fitness freak, with a regimented schedule. How could this happen, was the general refrain among the legions of her followers. Humans are after all mortals and perhaps nemesis is written on our epitaph the very day one arrives on this planet.
Madhuri Dixit, her compatriot and a competitor wept inconsolably as the entire dazed nation joined in unison to maintain solemnity of the tragedy. Serpentine queues had formed to bid her adieu as she was cremated with full state honours at the Ville Parle crematorium in Mumbai and her ashes subsequently merged with the ocean at the scenic Rameswaram Coast of Tamil Nadu.
The monarch of Indian cinema arrived on planet earth on 13 August, 1963 in the temple town of Sivakasi (also known for the fireworks manufactured for the festival of Deepavali) in Tamil Nadu.
Sridevi, during her career spanning over four decades produced an array of fireworks and electrified the silver screen with stellar performances for which she was feted with the Padma Shri in the year 2013.
The actress known for loads of talent, and a taste for gyrations and immaculate dancing skills was decorated with the “Order of Afghanistan” for her portrayal in the movie Khudha Gawah, where she played the heartthrob to on screen hero played by Amitabh Bachchan.
Rewinding to past as it happens in the movies, it is noteworthy to mention that the estimable Sridevi began her career as a child artiste at the tender age of four in the Tamil movie Kandan Karunai aeons ago in 1967.
“I lost out on going to school and on college life but I got into the film industry and worked without a gap - from child actor I went straight to heroine. There was no time to think and I was grateful for it,” said the enigmatic enchantress, Sridevi.
She essayed the role of Lord Muruga in Thunaivan a Tamil movie and soon made her debut in Tollywood as a child artist with the 1970 Telugu film Maa Nanna Nirdoshi.
The year 1979 signified political turmoil, at the national level when the first non- Congress government lead by Morarji Desai (who headed the Janata Party Government) at the centre collapsed on account of machinations and political intrigues.
Meanwhile, Chaudary Charan Singh was anointed suzerain of the country but could never face political vote in the Parliament. This was also the year that the first woman superstar and the highest paid female artiste of Indian cinema migrated from the safe confines south of the Vindhyas to make her maiden presence felt in Bollywood, in the blockbuster Solvan Sal. However, she was accepted by the film industry with the epoch making Himmatwala, co-starring the fabled Jeetendra.
For her unforgettable roles and impeccable performances, Sridevi won several accolades. She was to triumphantly win the National Award for the best female lead, apart from bagging two Film Fare awards in Bollywood and three Film Fare awards down South. The gifted actress was also voted 'India's Greatest Actress in 100 Years' in a CNN-IBN national poll conducted in 2013 on the occasion of the centenary of Indian cinema.
The iconic actress was widely recognised by various media publications as a fashion statesman. Her taste in clothes was varied and ranged from stylishly casual to opulently majestic.
In fact she made her debut as a fashion model in the year 2008. The actress modelled clothes for designers Priya and Chintan at the Lakme Fashion Week. The superstar received the 'Ultimate Diva' award at the Ciroc Filmfare Glamour & Style Awards in the year 2015.
Though she acted in around 300 movies, some of her notable films which won her both popular and critical acclaim included Shekar Kapur’s Mr. India in 1987, followed by Chandni and Chalbaaz in the year 1989 and the sensitive portrayal of mother and daughter in the Anil Kapoor starrer Lamhe 1991.
The actress was to win critical acclaim for the poignant role of an adult who never grows up but remains at the age of six and is rescued from a brothel while her predators are on the prowl, in Sadma along with Kamalahasan in the year 1983. Another role was that of a demure and petrified Marathi woman in English Vinglish, where she discovers her inherent strength by attempting to learn a foreign language, English, much to the consternation of her uppity husband.
She was to enact in varied roles with élan and panache and her final film was Mom for which she won the National award. Sridevi and the late actor Vinod Khanna were posthumously remembered by a grateful nation with Dada Saheb Phalke award for their contribution to Indian cinema.
“Where are the rivals? There can be rivalry only between two equals. My only rival at the moment is Sridevi. I’m constantly trying to upstage her….I’m constantly trying to upstage her…I’m doing it to the point of obsession,” remarked the artiste who was perennially in pursuit of perfection.