After making a mark first as a child artiste in the South industry and then as one of its leading lights, she came to dominate the Hindi film world too. She’s famously the only heroine to have ever said no to a Bachchan film when his star was at its zenith. Controversy came easy to her, be it her rivalry with Jaya Prada, Madhuri Dixit or Rekha, her alleged relationship with Mithun Chakraborty or her sudden marriage with Boney Kapoor, who was already married with children. But her personal choices never stopped her fans for caring for her.
She made her mark in the Hindi film world with Solva Sawan (1979). She had shown glimpses of her prowess when she had played the younger sister in Julie (1975). Solva Sawan was a remake of her own hit 16 Vayathinile and she stole the show through her natural ease in front of the camera. The film, however, didn’t do at the box office front and she had to wait a few years more for that elusive hit. It was with Himmatwala (1983), where she was paired with Jeetendra, that she came to be known as a blockbuster heroine.
Sri-Jeetendra pair became one of the most successful pairs ever in Hindi films, what with hits like Jaani Dost (1983), Justice Chaudhury (1983), Balidaan (1985) to their credit. They went on to star in almost twenty films together in a six year period. Their films became known for their pots and pans choreography and overflowing melodrama but were a rage nevertheless. The other actor who she formed a fevicol bond was with Anil Kapoor. The duo appeared in around fourteen films together, most of them successful.
Their first mega hit together was Mr India (1987) and the chemistry they displayed in the song Kate nahin katte was truly out of this world and still manages to keep us riveted. Mention must also be made of Lamhe (1991). Anil was the bigger star but it was Sri’s film throughout. She played a young girl obsessed with a man twice her age. It was a challenging role but she pulled off its nuances like a pro. She was already Yash Chopra’s favourite, after shining as the woman in white in Chandni (1989) and here he gave her arguably one of the best roles of her career. It’s a pity they never worked again.
She only did limited films with Amitabh Bachchan as well. They first appeared together in Inquilaab (1984). The film began famous for her song, Saare badan mein zeher chadh gaya. Their big hit as a pair came with Aakhri Raasta (1986). He had a double role, playing both father and son in this revenge drama. She had a couple of scenes with her ‘father-in-law’ in the film, where she showcased her acting chops and held her own. Her voice was allegedly dubbed by Rekha in the film.
In their next outing, Khuda Gawah (1992), Bachchan’s star was on the wane and this time, it was she who played the double role, of both mother and daughter. The film, which was an epic love story, didn’t do well as expected but her role as the mother was appreciated. They were seen together more recently in English Vinglish (2012) as well, where he had a brief cameo.
She became known as this complete commercial entertainer but things could have been different if she continued the Sadma (1983). Playing a woman with retrograde amnesia in this remake of her own Moondram Pirai, she stole the show in the able company of Kamal Hassan.
But the lure of commercial cinema proved too strong and she turned away from the art and middle-of-the-road circuit. Her best known commercial hits include Nagina (1986),where she played an iqshadhari nagin, Chaalbaaz (1989), where her double act was much appreciated and Laadla (1994).
It was in the early nineties that Sridevi’s career started fluctuating between success and failure. With the dismal showing of Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993) Sridevi’s career suffered a big setback. That’s when she decided to pair with younger heroes like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan. Gumrah, a rehash of Bangkok Dangerous, where she acted as the damsel in distress rescued by handsome rake Sanjay Dutt was much talked about and did earn its money but Chandramukhi (1993) opposite Salman Khan was a commercial as well as a critical disaster. Subsequent films with younger heroes, like Army (1996) with Shah Rukh Khan and Meri Biwi Ka Jawab Nahi — released in 2004 but started in 1994, bombed as well.
She had allegedly come to rely emotionally on Boney Kapoor after her father’s death and her mother’s death due to medical incompetence brought them closer. Boney Kapoor had stood by her side throughout her mother’s illness and it was being rumoured that they were secretly married. They couple later came out with the truth in 1997 when she announced she was pregnant. The couple had married in 1996 and Jhanvi was born a year later. Her last blockbuster before she took a break from acting and became a homemaker was Judaai (1997), where she played a woman who kind of ‘sells’ her husband to another in lure of money. There were plans for her to return to the films in 2000 but the birth of Khushi prevented that.
She made a comeback of sorts on small screen with Hamari Bahu Malini Iyer in 2004 and the foray proved highly successful. Subsequently, her role of Shashi Godbole, the diminutive Marathi housewife who regains her self-worth through interaction with a language class in English Vinglish (2012) got her both critical and box office acclaim once more. Her role of a defiant mother out to get justice for her daughter in Mom (2017) was highly appreciated as well.
The actress was in the pink of health and was looking forward to daughter Janhvi’s much anticipated debut in Dhadak. She had apparently gone to Dubai to attend Mohit Marwah’s wedding and suffered a massive heart attack from which she never recovered. She’s survived by daughter Janhvi and Khushi and husband Boney Kapoor…