Friday, 20 May 2011
She's ready for the kill. Will Ms India kayo the competition all over again?
Adjectives have been heaped on her aplenty. Descriptions like sensational, svelte and supple would seem like the handiwork of a publicist if they weren’t backed up by the public’s tacit approval of Sridevi.
Right now, she may be coping with cloudy weather. But who knows? Tomorrow could be a sun-splashed day. She can’t be written off. In fact, she sparks questions in the cine-buff’s mind…”When will we see Sri again?”… “Why is she keeping such a low profile?”… “Where…o where is she?”
Perhaps, the pressures of showbiz and her mother’s illness threw her off kilter for a while, as she comes into focus on a workday afternoon, I can sense that Ms India means business, she’s ra-ra-raring to go.
A floor at Mehboob studio resembles a sepulchral graveyard. And believe it or faint, a classical dance number is being canned. The irrepressible Saroj Khan explains complicated dance steps. And apni Sri is all ears. Once the camera is switched on, she’s on too. Like a slowly developing transparency in a photographer’s dark room, Ms Devi comes alive.
The shot over, I sit her down in her make-up van to trade all the news that’s doing the rounds (including her ‘friendship’ with Boney Kapoor). She plays a laser disc of an action flick. Every time a steamy scene pops up on the scene, she jabs the fast-forward button of the remote control. This bit of snafu over, we settle down and I fire my first poser:
That was quite a dance step.
Sridevi: Yes. The more difficult the step, the more charged I am. Working with Sarojji is quite exciting.
If my memory serves me right, you haven’t done any dances together after Chaand Kaa Tukdaa.
I don’t remember the film but yes we didn’t work together for a while. This year you’ll see a lot of our films together like Army, Kaun Sacha Kaun Jhoota and Judaai.
Will you too ever give us a Kaate nahin katte or a Naa jaane kahan se aayee hai?
(Laughs) We’ll have to try to better those songs…
What was the experience of working in the Malayalam film Deva Raagam with Arvind Swamy like?
Yeah, very enjoyable. I dubbed for the Tamil version. They are planning to release it in Telugu and Hindi as well. Actually the film was supposed to be completed in one schedule but my mother fell ill and the project was delayed. When (director) Bharatan approached my mother with the script, she was really excited about the film. She wouldn’t rest till I said yes.
I play a Brahmin girl. I’m thrilled that I have to wear simple ghagra-cholis. I don’t have to bother about my looks, I can concentrate on my acting.
Is another award around the corner?
Ha! Ha! Ha!
How do you react when you’re told that a newcomer is aping your acting and dancing style…
(Peals of tinkling laughter) First I say, “Nahin uska apna style hai.” But secretly, I do feel pleased. Hey! Why are you asking me all this? I’m beginning to sound like a show-off.
It amazes me that you haven’t done a film in Tamil after Moondram Pirai.
Umm… see the roles that I was offered weren’t exciting. Anyone else could have played the glamorous roles which were being offered to me. I still hope that someone will offer me something worthwhile in Tamil.
Know something? I have done quite a few of my Tamil films without any make-up. Oh! Those were the days.
You worked with two generations of actors from A. Nageshwar Rao to his son Nagarjuna and from the late N.T. Rama Rao to Venkatesh, from the late M.G. Ramachandran to Kamal Haasan.
That feels good. When I worked with the senior stars I had to be loud… I had to wear elaborate wigs and tons of make-up. At 13, I had to look 25. Whereas while working with my generation of stars, I could play myself… wear simple outfits.
What have been the turning points in your life?
As far as I can remember, there was only one turning point: When K. Balachander sir offered me a heroine’s role. From playing a child star, I became a heroine with Moondru Mudichu.
How come you haven’t worked with Kamal Haasan after Moondram Pirai? Haven’t you ever discussed new projects with him?
I don’t know why we’ve never worked together again. And on the occasions that we have met, we haven’t discussed films.
Were you thrilled to bits on seeing your first film as a child star?
I didn’t know what was happening. I was that small. But I do remember that I was travelling to the studio and my mother pointed out a 12-feet cut-out of mine outside one of the theatres. She asked me if I recognised myself. The film was Chinnappa Devar’s Tunaivan. I played God Murugan in the film. But it’s all such a blur… nothing really registered.
Did you miss the normal pleasures of childhood?
I didn’t miss anything because I wasn’t aware of what I was missing. Believe me, I never missed going out on picnics or studying for exams. I was too wrapped up in my make-believe world. I didn’t meet too many people, I led a very protected life…
One feels that you allow people liberty only up-to a certain point. Beyond that you don’t let anyone probe into your personality.
Kya Karen? I’m like that. I can’t be too friendly. Maybe I don’t trust people easily. But hey! I’ve often spoken a lot to you… you have laughed so many times.
Nothing upsets you while shooting?
Well, I try not to bring my moods to the studio. But I feel upset when I have to shoot with animals. The inhuman way in which an animal is made to perform upsets me very much. I try to put my foot down against this. Once we had to do an action sequence and scores of pigeons were required. Some of them even died. That memory gives me the shudders right to this day.
How severely do hits and flops affect you?
Believe me, neither hits nor flops affect me. I know people still want me to continue acting. They constantly tell me to do good work… I get so many offers. The response from my fans is overwhelming.
Would you approach a film-maker for a role?
Hey, what are you saying? You shouldn’t even ask me this question. I’d never ask for a role.
Are there performances of other actors that you wish you could have done?
I love Raj Kapoor in Awaara. I’m a great fan of Savitri and Sivaji Ganeshan. Dilip Kumar is an all-time favourite. Ooh! His acting is just too much, he’s too cool.
Recently, I was watching a film in which Dev Anand was singing a song on a terrace. There were no special effects or jazzy camera angles. It was just a clean and neat frame. I wish I could do a number like that some day.
You were telling me that no scene of yours has frazzled you. How come?
Because I have never got involved with my roles to the extent that I can’t tell the difference between the character and myself. (Laughs) I didn’t have to become crazy to do Sadma. I’ve heard that certain actors continue to wear the same clothes which they have worn for the character they’re portraying. Chhee, sounds strange to me.
I think of myself as a puppet who carries out the director’s instructions. At times, the role or the director lets you down. But you must do every role with the belief that it’ll be your best performance.
What else has been happening to you of late?
Though I don’t talk too much, of late I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, my roles. That might help me to get a clearer view about what I’m doing. I think I have matured as a person, I have become calmer. Whatever has happened to me in life – good or bad – has been for the best. I’ve understood that you can’t fight destiny.
Would you agree that comedy is your forte? You seem to imitate others effortlessly?
(Chuckles) I don’t know if it’s my forte but I like doing comedy scenes. I observe people, subconsciously some of their funny mannerisms linger in my mind. I may not be a very loud person but I can be quite funny.
Which fictional character would you love to play?
I’d like to play E.T. That would be fun. Then I won’t have to worry about my hairstyle.
If you were a journalist for a day, whom would you interview? What would you ask him?
Ha! I would interview Richard Gere and I‘d ask him if he was married.
He’s single now. You want to join the queue?
(Laughs) I will not have to wait in a queue.
Okay, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10.
What are you saying! I can’t do that.
Nooo, I can’t blow my own trumpet. Ask my directors…okay I’ll just say that I’m not a bad actress.
Now tell me, what are these news reports stating that you are suing the doctors in America who botched up your mother’s operation?
I know you won’t believe me but I don’t have a clue about what’s going on. My lawyers are handling the matter there. I’m only concerned about my mother.
How is she? Apparently, she’s still unwell…She can’t talk or recognise people.
All that’s in the past now. She’s much better. In fact, nowadays she talks non-stop. I get tired of answering all her questions. But jokes aside, I was very anxious about my mother. I’m so glad she’s okay. Touchwood.
What about the rumours linking you with Boney Kapoor? One report stated quite clearly that you have married him.
(Laughs) What rubbish! I can understand film magazines writing such gossip but I can’t fathom why a national newspaper carried such a lie. Once and for all, let me tell you that I’m not married to Boney Kapoor. He’s my friend and he’s my producer. So please don’t ask me such embarrassing questions.
So why did you opt out of Yugpurush?
There you go again. Let me just say I wasn’t too happy with my role. So I spoke to the producer and we decided to part.
But you did sign Yugpurush after being told about your role.
Yes, I did. But I wasn’t completely convinced about the role…it’s the role of a streetwalker. I have a mental block about playing a err… prostitute. I know, as an actress, one must try and do as many different roles as possible… phir bhi, I have a block about this. I know actresses have won National Awards by playing such a role…still I couldn’t get myself to do it.
Is it because Nana Patekar and Boney Kapoor don’t get along?
Why drag poor Boneyji into all this?
So are you still waiting for your mother to find the right guy?
No, she’s tired of telling me to go out and meet interesting men. Now I’ll find my guy myself. And I’m sure she will approve of him.
More from this feature here.