As a teen, I spent much of my pocket money buying postcards of Sridevi (similar to the ones above and below!) from markets in Delhi. From Rs2 to Rs10, they were sold by makeshift vendors and I'd haggle with them to buy a bunch for Rs20! More often than not, it was a yelling match between the street-smart vendors to get the best price and there was no greater joy than finding a rare portrait of Sridevi shot by Gautam Rajadhyaksha, Rakesh Shreshta or any of the ace lens-men of the 1980s and '90s. With my miniscule pocket-money, 90% of it went on buying posters, pics, tapes of Sridevi.
If only Sriji knew how much fans would sacrifice, just for a glimpse of her - and I know I'm not alone in this so I don't grandstand on being the biggest or best Sridevi fan. There are many online who proclaim to be the biggest hardcore fans of Sridevi but for me, Savi* [*name changed for personal reasons] beats the lot;
Years ago, I met this lady Savi who is by far, the most genuine, true-blue Sridevi fan I've ever met. She worked in an office for just above minimum wage and spent a disproportionate amount of money renting VHS tapes of Hindi films from the local video-cassette library, Esquire. She was a die-hard fan of Bollywood, in particular, any movie that had Sridevi in it. And we're talking about the mulch from the 1980s where in many films, Sridevi was the chiffon-sari clad comic relief or dancing diva, with limited scope to showcase her vast acting prowess.
With her un-plucked eyebrows, heavy-set girth, her inexpensive, mismatched salwaars, the only daughter in a Punjabi family, Savi worked really hard in an office that treated her poorly. Correction, they ignored her almost completely. She was shy, hardworking, but an unseen, unacknowledged, unheard woman who did her job from 10 to 5, left as quietly as she came.
Her great joy in life was a Sridevi film and when movies were released, rarely, in a Hong Kong cinema, she saved up and went to watch with whoever she could tag along with. What many didn't know was, she wouldn't buy lunch or a soft-drink for days on end to save up for the expensive tickets. As Hindi films had limited release in Hong Kong, screenings were held just twice or thrice before the corrosive, pirated tapes took over and made screenings of a film, a guaranteed money-losing enterprise. The distributors showed them on opening weekend for limited release and hoped to recover costs within the first three days, otherwise, the camera-print tapes would land from (often) Dubai, and families would rather spend HK$10 to rent, no matter how awful the print, than spend HK$150 per head to watch a movie on the big screen.
Savi was an only, unmarried lady in her mid-to-late 30s and the admiration she had for Sridevi was palpable. She would narrate scenes with such passion, she'd laugh along with Sri's comedy, she'd weep when narrating her on-screen tragedies. Say the word Sadma and her eyes would start welling up.
I was a student at the time and if school ended early, had to go to the office to wait for my dad to come out and take me home. Savi was left in charge to ensure I wouldn't get up to mischief. In all honesty, I wasn't a Sridevi fan at the time and wondered why she was.
Savi simply said [and I'm paraphrasing here as this was about 18 years ago], "I don't have much going for me in my life. Day after day, its pretty much the same. But when I see a Sridevi film, I can share my joys with her. She came from nowhere and became the biggest actress in India. She wears an ordinary sari, and looks the most beautiful. She doesn't speak Hindi, but gets the message across. When she laughs, I laugh, when she cries, I cry. She doesn't just entertain me, she gives me hope, she gives me something to look forward to, she gives me reason to get up and get out of bed - what more do I want from a screen Diva I've never met nor will I probably ever meet. But my love for his unconditional."
Like I said, the devotion as clear as can be, Savi's the biggest Sridevi fan I've ever met. God bless her - wherever she is today. And God bless Sridevi - eternal sunshine she emanates from wherever she is to people far, far away.
Click on any of the pics above or below to see much larger image!
Other fan messages: Salman Naseer Ahmed on discovering Sridevi in Pakistan.
Plus other fan Encounters here, as they send us images of themselves with Sridevi
Sridevi's Famous fans here - all the celebrities who profess their love for Sridevi and her performances. .