"There are two Sridevis. Two people as different from each other as you can imagine, leading quite separate lives, who never seem to meet even though they inhabit the same body.
I first met the off-screen Sridevi. She's shy unsure, awkward, an almost simple-looking girl who even talks in barely audible murmurs. Never mind. Her responses seem as pallid as her personality.
There there is the screen Sridevi who appears as if by magic the minute you switch on the arch lights. She's a sensuous seductress capable of unblocking your abused arteries with one look from her smouldering eyes! No matter how she saps my energy and spontaneity with her obsession for perfection, the adrenalin spurts back the moment she turns to face the camera.
Many years later later in Madras, I made the wonderful discovery that there is a secret door in the dividing wall that sometimes opens. The Sridevi that emerged as her two selves merged was a revelation. Relaxed and comfortable on her home turf, she was ebullient and playful, vivacious and childlike, gamin and gauche as I shot her frolicking on the beach with cousins, nieces and assorted children. But I never met her again.
To return to Sridevi, the star, she has a sharp, intuitive mind capable of sizing up a person or situation with a 99.99% accuracy. Several years ago when a storm called Madhuri was not even a speck on Sridevi's horizon, the star had sniffed out her rival. "In just two dance steps I could make out."
Once during an interview I asked her about her competitors who had earlier dismissed Sridevi, and her reply came back chilling as a whisper off an iceberg, "I have no competitors. When they can do everything I can and I can do everything they can, then we become competitors. Till then, we are contemporaries."
Excerpt from Faces by Gautam Rajadhyaksha