Taking her name from Devi Sri, incarnation of Laksmi the goddess of fortune and prosperity Sridevi is one of the few true superstars of Indian popular cinema. During the 1970s and 80s she conquered and became the number one actress of Bollywood, Tamil, & Telugu cinema's. Born in 1963 Sridevi had acted and danced in over 250 movies before she retired from films in the 1990s. During a phenomenal three year period between 1980 and 1982 Sridevi appeared in 53 films.
Sridevi was the undisputed number one female actress In 'the south' (Tamil & Telugu cinema) before she made in 1982 the crossover as a top billing heroine in Bollywood. During the 80s Sridevi's electric dance numbers and star presence were only rivaled by Hema Malini, Rekha, then towards the end of the decade by the then rising Madhuri Dixit. Sridevi holds a special place in the hearts and minds of 100s of millions of movie fans. With radiant and earnest aplomb Sridevi carried off the high kitsch fashion trends of Bollywood in the 80s and early 90s better than any other actress. Sridevi was one of the major facets that defined the Bollywood style and look of the 1980s.
Childlike, spontaneous, comic, sensuous, beautiful...adjectives like these aren't enough to describe the lady who reigned at the top for ten years in Bollywood. Sridevi was the most popular actress between 83 and 93 and even today, when marriage and motherhood have claimed her, most directors would not think twice about casting her, if she even as much as says yes to films.
A child actress, Sri began acting at the age of four! Hindi film audiences might remember her as the short skirted kid sister of Lakshmi in the blockbuster 'Julie'. Bollywood beckoned as Sri grew up and 'Solva Sawan' was one of her earlier, rather unmentionable Hindi films. It was only when she teamed up with Jeetendra and became part of his famous "Madras brigade" (the other famous half was Jaya Prada and at times Bhanupriya) that Sri hit big time. 'Himmatwala', their first major film together was a superhit. That was 1983 and Sri had come to rule.
Dance had always been Sri's forte and the Jeetu-Sridevi starrers like 'Tohfa', 'Nagina', 'Laadle' cashed in on that. Artistically, these might not have been the best examples of choreography but the audience loved it when Sri was striking a pose and the lady happily obliged. Sri is one actress who's formed a successful pair with several heroes. She was a success with Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty as well. In fact, Mithun and she were even rumoured to be having an affair together! With Anil Kapoor, she had one of her biggest hits, 'Mr. India'.
Post her films with Jeetendra, Sri even earned the label of a sex symbol and was nicknamed Thunder Thighs! These films however did little to capture the talented actress in her. This actress was at her best in films like 'Sadma' with Kamal Hassan. In fact, Sri was best at doing roles that required her to display child-like wonder, something that she did to perfection. She was one actress who could squeak for hours in a kiddy voice without being irritating.
Slowly, Sri had gained enough ground in Bollywood to have films revolving around her. Harmesh Malhotra's 'Nagina', though ridiculously fantastic, at least showcased her dancing prowess. It was with films like 'Chaalbaaz', a film directed by Pankaj Parashar and Yash Chopra's mega mega hit 'Chandni' that she came really on her own. Her credentials as an "actress" and not just a showpiece had finally been established. She had a double role in 'Chalbaaz' and played the part of the docile sister as well as the fiery one with equal elan.
Yash Chopra gave her a gamut of emotions to play on in 'Chandni' and Sri excelled in the role. She even lent her voice to the title song of the film, Chandni O meri Chandni. Sri's other memorable film with Chopra has been 'Lamhe', a beautiful film that raised criticism and failed at the box office. Sridevi played the mother and the daughter, who falls in love with the man who loved her mother and gave the character, a touch of grace and class. Even in films that didn't really make her their centre of attraction, like 'Khudagawah' (with Amitabh Bachchan), she managed to attract the audience's attention not just by her looks but by some great histrionics.
By the late Nineties, Sri was already part of producer Boney Kapoor's brigade. Boney's massive project, 'Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja' with Anil and Sridevi was a big box office disaster. This coupled with the fact that new girls like Madhuri, Manisha and others were making their presence felt strongly did little to salvage her sagging career. The lady however made a comeback with Boney Kapoor's 'Judai', with Anil Kapoor and Urmila.
Her personal life went through a bitter mud slinging session with her marrying Boney Kapoor and earning the wrath of the industry because Boney was a married man. But Sri went through it all with silent dignity and today the same industry is eager to accept her back into the fold. She became a mother last year to a baby girl named Jhanavi and has launched a production company which her husband named J-A-S (Jahnavi, Achal and Sridevi). Bollywood's most famous child woman has finally grown up