Monday, February 26, 2018

A Queen On Screen

At around nine or ten years of age, a popular question among friends was, among others, 'Sripriya or Sridevi?'. I don't remember what we did with the attendant answer. Chances are, we then followed it with a 'Rajini or Kamal?'. And even back then, I remember picking Sripriya because I seemed to think Sridevi was just too beautiful. She was nearly as tall as the men that she acted alongside (it was rumoured that Kamal would insist that she wore flat shoes on screen and that he would never be filmed standing too close to her) and very slim unlike her more matronly contemporaries that allowed her carry off dresses and sarees with equal ease. There was something about her near perfect looks that made her seem unattainable.

Sridevi couldn't be ours, she could not belong to us in the same way as we claimed other favourite actors, she was somehow beyond all rules of playground possession. She seemed to be floating in her own ecosystem, far removed from us normal people. 

Once she had moved to Hindi movies, that gap widened still and Sridevi would cease to be a part of our binary questions. Somehow her face had changed and she was speaking a different language. The last movie I saw of hers was English-Vinglish and I found myself continuously distracted by her very immobile face and a voice that seemed unlike the one I had heard coming out of her in her earlier movies (her voice had been dubbed over in Tamil and this was the first time I was listening to her actual voice, I later realised). 

It did not help that in English-Vinglish, Sridevi was playing a housewife who was preoccupied with domesticity and kitchen affairs. It was not a role for someone with the looks of a goddess. She could  have elves doing it for her, at the snap of her fingers. And yet, the movie portrayed her as a powerless, hapless woman because she spoke little English.

Sridevi has always seemed regal and even a touch aloof (who could blame her? One look at some of the men she had to romance on screen and you'll understand why she may have wanted to remain distant). This was not a woman who needed rescuing but someone who could hold sway independently. And she so often had, even while acting opposite alpha men.

Even in her death (How could she? When she had just the other day been seen on the pages of a fashion website and been called queenly? It makes no sense) she seems to have made a clean
exit. None of the ickiness of old age and impaired living but a swift, decisive end. Almost like the plot lines in the movies she played where all loose ends were neatly tied up and everyone exited the screen as the credits rolled. Only this is desperately sad and all too real. 

Today I watch some of the old songs from her movies and I realise that the question from all those years ago, really should have been this -  Sridevi and Rajini or Sridevi and Kamal? For this woman was a given. Her presence on screen is so strong, such a constant that she needs few embellishments to prop her up. She was one of the few women who could well and truly hold her own.

Goodbye, Sridevi and thank you.


B o o. said...

Sigh. I don’t know what to say. This loss feels very personal.

Long time no see.

ammani said...

Hello! Yes, been a long time, although I drop by yours and shared my thoughts on one of your recent posts.

About Sridevi, don't know what it is, perhaps it is our own realisation of mortality or perhaps the severing of link to our past that makes this particular loss rather more significant. Either way, very sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

The loss does seem so very personal:(


B o o. said...

Yes. I saw your comment and came here. And catching up with your posts. You are in Germany? Basel is not far. Tell me if you are coming this side anytime. I mean it!

ammani said...

Yes, moved to Germany 18 months ago. Thank you for your very kind invitation. I extend the same to you, as we are some five hours away from you. It would be good to meet. Will keep you posted.

ammani said...

Anonymous, the outpouring of grief seems genuine and heartfelt this time. Few stars manage to connect without polarising fans. Sridevi seems to have managed her effortlessly.