Salman Naseer Ahmad created the Facebook page for Sridevi nearly three years ago which currently boasts of over 128,000* fans - an ever-escalating number that's bound to see a sudden bump as Sridevi's film English Vinglish releases in 2011. After a hiatus of over 14 years, Sridevi returns to the silver screen but fans who have greatly missed her have kept her alive online. The facebook group proudly states it is made by fans for fans - despite the alarming number of international members who assume the actress Sridevi herself is online. Sadly, she's not!
But, hardcore Bollywood, film and Sridevi fans are definitely online. Born and brought up across the border, Ahmad voices, among a chorus of others, the effect of legendary Indian actress Sridevi on nation(s) around the world. In his own words:
"My fascination with Sridevi, the last of the uncontested reigning queens of Bollywood cinema, goes back many many years. Those were Zia years in Pakistan. We as a nation were being fed narrowest interpretations of religion, culture and visual arts as a state policy. Thank God for the small mercies that made VCR a household item and Indian film rental shops readily available around the block. The stilted environment would have broken the spirit of life forever if it wasn’t for the liberty to switch on our VCRs.
I can still recall the energy, glamour and warmth she exuded on the screen as I sat there, a young boy of 5 or 6 watching her master performance in Himmatwala in 1983. That was my first introduction to Sridevi and beginning of a lifelong fascination. Then were films such as Chaalbaaz where she played a double role and left me mesmerized. Mr. India opposite Anil Kapoor was declared Miss India as she outshone her co-star, an incredible actor in his own right; in every frame they shared.
She presented a picture perfect image of beauty and articulation. Her eyes had an unparalleled range of expression. She could speak with her eyes even when she was quiet. She conveyed a thousand meanings with one wink, one smile, and one frown. She laughed on the screen and we all laughed with her. She cried and everyone; young and old felt her pain in their hearts. Sadma should have won her the national award. Chandni became a cult film. Lamhe saw Sridevi taking the art of performance to new heights and Laadla was again rechristened by critics and fans alike as Laadli owing to yet another master performance by this legendry actress.
This was the medium of cinema at its strongest. She was holding the audience transfixed and spell bound. Sridevi was the icon, symbolizing the innocence, expression and love for life that we all were dearly trying to hold on to during those tough years. The pleasure of cinema and one wonderful performance from the Queen Bee after another kept the audience all over the Hindi/Urdu speaking world enthralled.
It was only a few years later that I; still an avid cinema watcher discovered what a master actor she was. The short sighted may blame her for being too commercial or mostly playing to the galleries but I would urge them to dig a bit deeper. She was the ultimate child woman; sharp enough to work out what will get attention, mastered the art of commercial success, made her audience fall in love with her and then at a very subliminal level started altering the perceptions. Beautiful women were not weak, thunder thighs were nothing to be ashamed about, chirpy was not bad after all, heroines were not a second fiddle to their male counterparts – roles were written with Sridevi in mind. She was demanding the astronomical amounts of fee that Indian industry had never imagined to dole out to a female actor before her and they happily consented. She was riding high on her success and fame. Fortune and critical acclaim were all eating out of her palm. She did the most heroine-centric films in the Indian film industry’s history - till date. She not only challenged every stereotype that had developed about Indian cinema’s heroine but actually did it with great ease, poise and without offense. She didn’t fight; she convinced and made it so palatable that people demanded it.
After the super-hit Judaai (1997), she left the industry in order to marry Boney Kapoor and raise her two daughters, Janhavi and Khushi.
After a six-year hiatus, an older but still incredibly beautiful Sridevi returned to the small screen, briefly, in the Sahara sitcom Malini Iyer (2004-2005). She performed an 80's medley; a decade that belonged to her without a doubt, at the 52nd Filmfare Awards on February 24th, 2007 to a grand reception from fans and colleagues and left them breathless. She walked the ramp recently for a designer friend. The world could not help but notice that Sridevi had grown more alluring, radiant and glamorous. Her appearance on Dus Ka Dum, the celebrity quiz show left everyone amazed at the aura and glow which left every other celebrity star that had appeared before her pale in comparison.
The magic of Sridevi is the magic of Bollywood and cinema. She still reigns supreme as the hardest working actress that Indian film industry ever discovered (she's done over 300 films!). She is still adored as the absolute beauty that ever graced the silver screen. Sridevi is still the strongest icon of the cinematic age that we are living in.
by Salman Naseer Ahmed.
Join the Sridevi facebook fan page here.