Saturday, 28 May 2011

I was about to Quit

Why Sridevi nearly quit!

"After my father's death I contemplated leaving films and sitting by my mother's side..." Sridevi reveals all.

May 1991 issue of Filmfare magazine.

One, they say, is a lonely number. Never lonelier than when you've fought your way through a maze of well-entrenched sophisticates. And made it big. Real big. It's a dizzy drop from where Sridevi stands.

Her careers is at the most crucial stage. Much like Amitabh Bachchan's. She's the most exciting performer around. The audience's expectations have reached palpable proportions, but her directors seem to be running out of ideas. Films like Pathar Ke Insan and Farishtay have done little justice to her abundant talent.

On the personal front, the sudden death of her father and her mother's protracted illness have left her shattered. Her sister's marriage has made her sense of isolation more excruciating. Ever since Sri hit the big time in Bombay it had been her sister Srilata who was her constant companion, friend and confidante. Srilata had played a crucial role in her professional rise too. There was a time when she shadowed Sri with a video camera in hand shooting her dances, her expressions, in fact her every move. At night they watched the results, worked on a better image, and unobtrusively, Sri transformed herself. That's why, after Srilata's marriage, Sridevi seemed withdrawn, unsure. "Without my sister, I feel so incomplete," she confided to a friend. Here was life careening up a dizzy incline. And there was no one to help her get a hold on it.

That's when she is said to have let Boney Kapoor take charge. But that only added to her problems. The news got around that ever ever since she sacked her secretary Hari Singh and moved into Boney Kapoor's house in Versova, the Kapoors, specially Boney, had begun manipulating her career to suit their needs. That other producers found it embarrassing to approach her in a fellow producer's house. "Boney has begun functioning as her friend, philosopher, secretary," a young director acidly remarked. They attributed the shelving of Pankuj (Chaalbaaz) Parashar's Hindi version of Pretty Woman, starring Sri opposite Jackie Shroff, to Boney's interference. Says an industry source. "Boney apparently suggested to Pankuj that it would be more convenient if he were to make the film with Sri and Anil because they were already doing quite a few films together (Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, Lmahe, Gurudev, Maharaja, and Heer Ranjha) and it would be easier to adjust dates. But Pankuj was reluctant."

It was Boney, they say, who instigated her to sack Hari Singh so that he gained control over her career moves.

With the Kapoor-Bachchan cold war at its height, rumours have it that Sri is giving Manoj Desia (who's making Khuda Gawah with her and Amitabh) a tough time. During the film's last schedule in Jaipur, it was said that Sri had walked out in a huff and the whole project was doomed yet again. And now the grapevine is abuzz that Banjaran, made by one of her favourite directors Harmesh (Nagina) Malhotra, was being inordinately delayed because of Boney's machinations, which eventually compelled Malhotra to launch Heer Ranjha with Sri opposite Boney's favourite actor, Anil Kapoor.

Dogged by controversies, Sri's career has reached a critical phase, it is imperative that she reassess her strategy and attitude to work.

Dressed as a Chinese, Sri danced away on the sets of Roop Ki Rani... She showed no signs of the so-called tension afflicting her.

Instead, she looked calm. Suddenly breaking into a flurry of expressions when the camera started whirring. After every take, choreographer Chinni Prakash would yell 'Fantastic!' and director Satish Kaushik would plonk into his chair and rave, "This woman is increidble, yaar. I have never seen an actress like her."

Sridevi herself quipped: "It's not funny how I manage those crazy expressions on my face, with my eyes aching. I have to wear these lenses (she points to her eyes) all day and they're awfully uncomfortable."

"I saw her in the Cema ad on television and the Chinese look stayed with me," explained Satish. "I thought it would be a good idea to use it in this song sequence where Sri and Anil are in disguise."

Though the tough dream sequence and her aching eyes did not allow for a long chat. Sri did answer a few questions.

Filmfare: Your moving into Boney Kapoor's house has let to a speculation. It is said that Boney is interfering too much in your career.

Sridevi: It's totally baseless. Too much is being read into a simple human gesture and my grateful response. A few months ago, when my father died, I was totally shattered. It was the biggest emotional shock I have experienced. My father had been the closest to me. it was he who encouraged me, guided me. Though from a distance, he kept a watch on my work. he was my source of strength. When he died I felt totally lost. And then my mother took ill. She was bedridden for a long time. I had to be by her side all the time. It was a phase in my life which totally unsettled me. I was so low that I even considered quitting films to be with my mother. It was then that Boney's father suggested I stay with them for a while, instead of living alone in a hotel room. I thought it was a very kind gesture. And I felt so much better being in the midst of a family.

To my utter disbelief it led to this uncalled-for controversy. It's plain rubbish! Boneyji is not controlling my career. Nobody can. Even when I was staying with Boneyji's family, producers were free to meet me, and I made my own decisions. I signed Mahesh Bhatt's film when I was there.

But they say you refused Pankuj Parashar's film because Boney asked you to.
It's not true. Pankuj's film was based on Pretty Woman. I didn't want to do the film because it was the role of a prostitute. It required a lot of exposure, which I'd rather avoid at this stage in my career. (Pause) In any case, I have no shifted back to the hotel I had been staying in earlier.

Some time ago, your producers had offered to buy a flat for you in Bombay. Why did you turn down the offer?
Since I have no long-term plans to settle in Bombay, why maintain a flat here? I don't want the additional hassle.

Hasn't Roop Ki Rani... monopolised your time?
Yes, I've spent a lot of time shooting for it. But it couldn't be helped. Schedules got canceled for various reasons - and I too had to cancel shooting because of my father's death and my mother's illness. Sometimes you have to give more to a certain film than you'd normally do, because you like your role and the way the film is shaping up. Roop Ki Rani... has a lot of promise. Such films do make a difference to your career. Like Mr India and Nagina. I put a lot of effort into Chaalbaaz. And also Chandni and I am very happy that I did. At the same time, you can also lose interest in a film if you feel it's dragging without purpose, and has very little to offer you.

What about Banjaran?
It was also delayed by upset schedules, which were inevitable.

Did you consider walking out of Khuda Gawah?
How could I do something so unprofessional at this late stage? It would be absurd. (As if to prove her right, Manoj Desai, the producer of Khuda Gawah, is chalking out details of the outdoor shooting of the film in Afghanistan).

What's going to be your career-strategy in the wake of the failures of some of your recent films?
The audience seems to be expecting more and more from me after Chaalbaaz. That's the problem. But I have no definite plans. I want to first complete the films on hand. In the meantime I have decided to be very choosy about the films I sign, wait for good roles, I am looking forward to Mahesh Bhatt's film. And there are a couple of other interesting films. Ideally, I'd like to work in films that are good in totality, instead of opting for a good role in a mediocre script.

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