Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Superstar to Supermom: Sridevi

Child star Sridevi went on to set afire the screens of the south and then Bollywood, before taking a backseat for marriage, writes Afsana Ahmed.

Child stars in Bollywood who go on to become successful actors and actresses of the silver screen, are many. But Sridevi Ayyapan of the South is a different story altogether. At four in 1969, she starred in her first Tamil film Thunaivan then went on to play the main lead at 11 in a Telugu film.

"I enjoyed going to work, putting on makeup, because that was a different life altogether," she recalls. "Of course, there's a price one always pays for success. And unlike regular kids, films became my best friend in my teens. It was more films, more attention and more adulation. I was basking in a new wave. I didn't have time to stop and ponder about the years I missed out in school or college. For most stars, films come in the way of life. I would rather believe that work took charge of my life."

Today, of course, Sridevi lives in an ivory tower with her husband and daughters. Occasionally, she favours the world with a swift darshan by stepping out in style for some social do. Bollywood's original Queen Bee isn't like Hollywood's reclusive Greta Garbo, yet Sridevi's maintained a distance from the world. This is the same talented actress who stormed and captured Bollywood in the eighties after first making her mark down south. She acted in Telegu films, capturing the No 1 position and acted with the likes of legendary N T Rama Rao, before going on to script a name for herself in Malayalam cinema.

"It looks as if all this was only yesterday," Sridevi recalls, saying she didn't realise how her teen years passed by. "Today, when I look at my kids Jahnavi and Khushi enjoying their childhood, I don't miss my younger days. That's because I didn't get to enjoy that phase. You miss something when you have and lose it. For me, I was too busy working. But I cherish every moment life gave me when I was growing up. Today roles are being written with actors in mind, and the actors are not young ones. In my time, roles were written keeping me in mind, even though I was just a teenager. Life can't be more generous," says Sri humbly.

She made her debut in Hindi movies with Solva Saawan which didn't do well at the box office. And then came her master-blaster in the form of Himmatwala, which went on to be a super-duper success and set many trends, including the famous latka-jhatkas of the eighties. Sridevi's next masterpiece Sadma with Kamal Hasan is hailed as a classic and remains the most definitive child-woman performance of her career. Throughout the 1980s, she starred in a string of superhits including Tohfa, Nagina, Mr India, Chandni, and Chaalbaaz, in which her delightfully crazy performance earned her many awards and a much bigger fan following. Sridevi became the No 1 star and the highest paid actor during this time. She ruled the marquee for several years before finding true love in film producer and the much married Boney Kapoor, and the duo got married on June 2, 1996.

Success, power, money, and a rocking career, Sri has seen it all. What if her daughters wish to join films at a young age like her?

"I want them to complete their education first. Other things can follow. When I come to the bridge I will cross it," she says and adds, "However, I am genuinely happy that they are academically very good. I can't interpret their enthusiasm to dress up, or ape an actor, or love films as an inclination towards getting into the film industry. All kids, today influenced by television and internet, talk, walk and breathe films. That doesn't mean they want to become stars. For them it's all fun," she says.

Busy as she was, Sri had no time for love, but the profession ensured that the actress had her share of link-ups too. But she went on with life. Like every growing girl, she too wanted to get married and settle down with a home, husband and children.

"When I was approaching marriageable age, there were parental concerns like every girl goes through. Even I was willing to settle down then. My mother used to show me pictures of 'good' Tamilian boys. I would look at them, but where was the time to think about marriage? I was caught deeply in the whirlwind of work. Or maybe, deep down I wanted to marry for love," she reveals.

And as fate would have it, she did fall head-over-heels in love with the married Boney Kapoor while filming Judaai. Even today, the couple are very much in love. They travel together, mostly to her Chennai house, where their love blossomed. She calls him Boneyji.

"Yes, he is a very devoted husband, a great father and wonderful human being. We ensure that we do everything together, right from travelling to working in his production company," she says, adding, "He listens to me. These days I am behind him to lose weight. Weight makes you look older than your age. I make his diet plan. He sticks to it for a month and then goes back to his Punjabi khana," laughs Sridevi sharing details of her everyday life.

What is amazing is that Sridevi managed to turn her back on her own life and career after marriage, declining even an offers from Karan Johar to appear on his show. "I am grateful to my fans for keeping me alive in their minds and hearts," she says. "It's been 15 long years that I have been out. But I am not missing the limelight. I wanted to be with my kids when they were growing up. I am glad I did that. Jhanavi is like my best friend today. But yes, to come back again, I need something that will throw me off my gear. I should be like, 'Wow, This is it!'," says Sri.

For somebody who has literally conquered the world, is there anything more to achieve? "Lots in the creative world. But most importantly, I love to become a good painter someday," she says.

From the super sexy siren to supermom, today Sridevi says cinema is going through its best phase. "Look at the actors and actress. They are so good, be it at dance, acting or any aspect of films... they excel. When I look at them, I feel I have to learn so much from them," she says.

The Times of India
TNN, Oct 31, 2007

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