Those who have seen her on screen and in person described her as a consummate professional on screen, easygoing and friendly in person
Actor Sridevi Yanger Kapoor who died Feb. 24 at age 54, in Dubai, has been described by fans and experts as extraordinarily versatile and very friendly in person.
Popularly known by her first name, Sridevi, the veteran Bollywood personality and Padmashri winner the actor and producer starred in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, and Kannada films and has acted in everything from potboilers like Himmatwala to the more issue-oriented English Vinglish.
Prof Rochona Majumdar, associate professor, at the Departments of Cinema and Media Studies, South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, told indica described how she saw Himmatwala in 1983 when she was 11. Majumdar said Sridevi made a huge impression on her because, before that, the best known unconventional dancer around was Helen, who mainly played the less-than-virtuous seductress.
It was true that other actors danced well, too, Majumdar said, citing the examples of Hema Malini, Vyjayanthimala and Rekha, adding that Sridevi was different.
“The kind of physical force that she associated with in contemporary dancing, even Rekha doesn’t have that kind of physical force. The kind of sensuality in Helen’s dance was more about [being a] vamp. But to bring that to the domain of the heroine – that [is what] Sridevi began, [making] dance respectable, sensuous and sexual.”
Majumdar described a dance in Shekar Kapur’s Mr. India, which was primarily a children’s film in which she performed a seductive dance in a blue sari.
“It was such a breakaway from the Raj Kapoor and the Yash Chopra, style virginal heroine in white chiffon,” Majumdar said. “It was a complete break from the heroine appearing virginal and pure.”
Majumdar shifted to the matter of Sridevi’s comic qualities.
‘[With that] mobility of her face, the timing of her deliveries, even in melodramatic movies such as Chandini or Lamhe, she was so funny,” Majumdar said, going on to extol the many language films Sridevi acted in before going on to discuss her comeback, in English Vinglish (2012).
“Our actresses fade out in their thirties. Sridevi is the first person who came back in her fifties [and succeeded],” Majumdar said, “Had she lived she would have been someone like Helen Mirren, (a British actress)” and endure.
“India really needs that. Other actress had tried as well, like Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, but so far nobody has been successful but she [Sridevi] pulled it off.”
Majumdar talked of the dichotomy between Sridevi on and off screen.
“When you listen to her interview she is terrible. It’s painful to watch her give an interview. But if you see her in a movie, you think this can’t be the same person.
“She was born for the camera. She was not born to speak or be a politician, but to be an actor. Look at the range of roles she played, I am sure luck is a factor but I would not reduce her [success] to luck [alone].
“People don’t talk about her earlier films because was she was a pre-globalization actor. If you recall Himatwaala, Sadma (1983) and Tofha (1984), the acting is quite remarkable for a script that was actually quite weak… She single-handedly carried Mr. India and Chandini (1989),” Majumdar said, putting the actor’s success down to extremely hard work.
Meanwhile, fans of Sridevi, who met her during her Silicon Valley visit in 2013 described her as charismatic and charming.
Shubham Garg, told indica, “I found her to be a very poised, disciplined individual, a perfect mix of beauty with brains.”
Recalling her meeting with Sridevi, Pamila Sahu told indica that the actor may have looked glamorous, but was a friendly person and a normal loving mom.
She was a nice person to talk to and her simplicity was endearing. Sahu told indica.
Sahu described the small panic generated when the actor needed a sari ironed, and admitted that she did not know how to do that.
“I still remember when they helped her find someone who could iron her sari,” Sahu said.
Parmeet k Randhawa said she looked stunning.
Venu Nadella, founder of non-profit Janyaa, in the Bay Area who also met Sridevi, said her maternal uncle produced Trisulam, a Telugu film the actor was in. Nadella said her uncle always extolled her, describing the actor as quiet and generous offscreen but who could transform herself before the camera.
Nadella experienced this for herself when Sridevi visited the Bay Area.
“She was extremely beautiful and talented and someone who never commented about other people’s [foibles],” said Nadella, who met most recently her in 2013, their second meeting, adding that there was something very compelling about Sridevi.
“Apart from her being tall and beautiful, it’s her personality and smile [that was so attractive],” Nadella said. “I’ll always have respect for her.”