There were a number of ways in which I could have presented my take on Sridevi’s death. I could have spoken about the thoughtless way in which the media amplified all the “what ifs”. I could written about the outpouring of grief which found a physical manifestation in terms of the crowds thronging the streets of Mumbai to follow her funeral procession. I could have spoken about her daughters; about family values. But then, I decided Sridevi is much more than all that. Sridevi is an icon. I cannot speak of her in past tense. She always will be who she is. And here’s why.
We can never lose Sridevi because she is a legend who translated all her abilities beautifully on screen. More than that, the connect that she made with her audience is something that no one can do away with. Yes, the icon is physically no more. But her legend status is far greater than life and death. Her legend status will remain until the very end of time; moments of stardust captured on celluloid, trapped forever in words like “defining cult status.”
I remember the first Hindi movie I watched as a three year old – Mr India. Oh, the sheer joy of watching those children in a constant tug of war with a funny – and not to mention, gorgeous – journalist. The thing here is that as a child, I found an instant icon. My impressionable mind did not do away with her presence or her character as a grown up woman. My attention was courted in equal part by those kids and by her sheer screen presence – a feat that only Sridevi could have achieved. That is the thing about her – young, old, and everyone in between found something or the other to get hooked on to. My mother and aunts would look for her exact lipstick shades, instructing all those travelling abroad to come home with those exact accessories. You could not watch a Sridevi movie and not get affected by that comic timing, by those eyes, by that tremor in her voice when she was in the middle of an intense scene. And unknowingly, she became an integral part of my childhood.
The fruit hat! This is not just my favourite scene, from my favourite movie – it is a metaphor of my evolution and thinking as well. I grew up watching Mr India countless times (more than a 100, I can assure you). My siblings, cousins and even the grown ups would all huddle around the VCR to watch this movie again and again, howling the roof down with laughter, at the same thing – again and again. I would remain fixated with the fruit hat from the Hawa Hawai song. To me, in my three or four year old world, I would gape in wonder and say, “She has a snack with her all the time!” One look at her munching on those luscious fruits would guarantee hunger pangs instantly! As I grew up, I would look at the same scene and song from a more teenage perspective, wondering how she could pull off that look – and deciding that only she could do it. It stuck. I knew this look as one of the top ten things I would think about when asked about my take on “quirkiness”. As I watched the movie again with my daughter, niece and nephew last year, I realised my life had come full circle – I was enthralled by the fact that she had a snack with her at all times. If only I could find one for my daughter!
So Sridevi is not just a part of my childhood. She is a part of my evolution. She is a part of my thoughts on so many things from style to romance and so much more. She is with me when I wear my chiffon sarees; she is with me when I think of fun times; she is in my childhood memories as my sister and I would swish our hair about and jangle some bangles in a bid to recreate her Chandini song where she boasted of the bangles on her wrists; she is with me even when I watch a movie with my daughter. My little one’s favourite Hindi movie is English Vinglish. So Sridevi can never be lost – she has actually helped me forge a connection between my child and I as far as our cinematic tastes go. Yes, one does realise that had she been alive, she would have been a grandmom with a edge, crackling on screen to tickle my grandchild’s funny bones too!
So, yes it is an untimely demise for this beautiful and talented human being – but the legend does not die. Her icon status is a part of my everyday – and probably in the everyday lives of many Indians like myself. The circumstances under which she died and how her funeral was conducted, how many tears her daughters shed, and what the forensic report said, should be laid to rest in light of this very fact. The world got a Sridevi – a feat that is not likely to find a repeat performance. And we should celebrate that!