When the text came last night about Sridevi's passing on, it was difficult to articulate all the varying emotions. From disbelief, to a philosophical take on the transience of life, to a deep, deep sadness. With her gone, an era was over.
The mention of Sridevi has always taken me back to school-days where one of my closest friends was a fan. Her devotion to the actor began quite innocuously in the fifth grade or so and built up intensity, bordering on preoccupation, by the time we were in the tenth grade.
At that time, when I was crushing on a boy and she was busy collecting clips of Sridevi, studies were not quite on the top of our minds. We spent idyllic, never-ending hours discussing Sridevi—the perfection of her beauty, the power of her craft.
My friend proclaimed she wouldn’t date or marry anyone who didn’t like Sridevi. In our 16-year-old minds, this was a suitable grand gesture of her devotion. Of course, much later, when she really began applying this theory into practice and interrogated prospective grooms on their devotion for the actor, her mother simply had to intervene.
The friend’s obsession gave me a first glimpse into the mind of a fan. Everything about Sridevi was personal to her. She collected clippings, watched every movie, kept a tab on the actor's personal life, fervently prayed for her success, and most amusing of all, nurtured a hatred for the actress’s competition.
We discussed Sridevi at length over lunch breaks—my friend describing and explaining to us the genius of her craft with incredible passion. ‘Did you see the twitch of her eyebrow in that scene?’ ‘Do you know she did so-and-so number of takes till she herself was satisfied it was the best?’ And so on. I agreed of course, being an admirer of the powerhouse performer myself and delighted in our in-depth analysis of her every performance.
This friend has children of her own today, but even now is reduced to that awestruck, devoted schoolgirl whenever Sridevi is mentioned. “There will be no one like her,” she always said with the authority of a consistent admirer. These words ring truer today.
My personal Sridevi tale is also quite something. It was her movie Nagina, watched together with neighbourhood kids, which first made me discover my profound love for the movies. It hit me like an epiphany. At that moment, as I sat mesmerized by her performance, I knew movies would be a part of my personal and professional journey.
We barely blinked as we watched her navigate both snake and human form in the film. She brought a special kind of magic to the movie. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the film. But then, that’s true of all of her films. No one could have played that feisty reporter quite like her in Mr. India, Chaalbaaz wouldn’t be so special without Sridevi, Sadma showed the depth of this incredible artist’s talent, and it’s a wonder how she folded vulnerability with steely strength in performances in both English Vinglish and Mom.
It’s impossible to express how important Sridevi is to our cinema. And to cinema-lovers. My family spent the afternoon swapping stories on the legendary actor—their favourite roles and what it meant to them. The beloved actor seems to have touched everyone’s hearts. Sridevi’s passing away is personal for everyone who loves cinema. And we all agreed that the only way of consoling ourselves was to realize that her magic lives on through her films.
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Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2
The Sridevi South India lost