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Sridevi – The Last Empress of Bollywood

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A Tribute to the Legend – Sridevi

Bollywood is no doubt a male dominated industry. The journey is not easy for actresses who want to make it big in the industry. Most of the times, they have to be content with the insignificant or trivial roles they are given. There are many female-leads who have even performed item-numbers for the fear of losing grounds to those ever-increasing starlets.

One more challenge that many women in film industry have faced in India is the 30-year age mark. Once an actress hits this mark, there will be an automatic reduction in the number of movies that come her way. Many have just plainly succumbed to this discriminatory treatment of the film industry.

In such a male domineering industry, one actress that still made her mark as the First ever Female Superstar of Bollywood is Sridevi. Apart from Hindi, she has worked in films of many other languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam & Kannada. She is probably the only actress whose career spanned over four long decades.

Sridevi started her film career as a child actor ever since the age of four. Thunaivan (1969) was her very first movie, where she played the role of Young Muruga. Almost instantly, the industry started recognizing and appreciating this extraordinary talent.

As a child artist Sridevi worked in many movies of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. A Tamilian by birth, the first ever award that Sridevi won was from the State of Kerala – for her extraordinary performance as the child artist in Poombatta (1971). She made her very first appearance in Bollywood through the movie Julie, where she played the younger sister of Lakshmi, the lead actress in Julie.

The first movie that Sridevi played as the lead role was Moondru Mudichu (1976) and she was only 13. Directed by K. Balachander, the film starred both Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan. The film proved to be a huge success and made the lives of all three leads.

After this, Sridevi did many movies with Kamal Hassan as well as Rajnikanth. Her movie 16 Vayathinile (1977) went on to become a cult classic. The movie was also remade in Telugu as Padaharella Vayasu (1978) with Mohan Babu and Chandra Mohan in the lead. It was a huge blockbuster and ran for more than 100 days. Very soon Sridevi became the number 1 actress of the South.

1978 was a great year for Sridevi with a few more blockbusters like Sigappu Rojakkal, Priya and Vanakkatukuriya Kathaliye (in which Sridevi played a double role).

In 1979, Sridevi made her first appearance with N.T.Rama Rao in Vetagadu, after which the pair become a sensation. They did 12 films together in Telugu.

Her entry to Bollywood

Her debut in Bollwood as a lead actress was in the movie Solva Sawan (1979), which had Amol Palekar as the hero. Although the movie didn’t do well, it gave the actress a break in Bollywood.

Her biggest hit was Moondram Pirai (1982) with Kamal Hassan, which ran for more than 200 days. Sadma, the Hindi remake of this movie, was released in the following year with the same cast. Sridevi won the best actress award for the movie. Her first blockbuster in Bollywood was Himmatwala (1983) which she played opposite Jeetendra. Her dance number “Naino Mein Sapna” created a rage in the film industry almost instantly.

It was not just Sridevi’s looks but her performances too, that helped her earn that No.1 tag that she deserved. She proved with Tohfa (1984) that she was indeed the leading actress of Bollywood. Along with her performances, audiences had started appreciating her dances too, although she did not really have any formal training in dance.

Sridevi’s Journey to the Top

She became the queen of the film industry in the year 1985 and the highest paid actress of the era. Although Tamil and Telugu films kept coming her way, the actress decided to establish herself in Bollywood.

After acting a couple of movies with Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachhan, Sridevi made a bold move in her career by signing up films with the heroes of the next generation. Her movie Nagina (1986), in which she played the “Ichhadhaari Nagin” opposite Rishi Kapoor became the biggest blockbuster of the year.

With Nagina, she had made her mark in the Bollywood, a totally male dominated industry. She was only second to Amitabh Bachhan who was then the highest paid Bollywood Star.

After Nagina Sridevi did Mr. India in 1987, in which she surprised everyone by her Charlie Chaplin imitation. Till then she was only known for her dances and performances; but Mr. India highlighted her excellent comic timing too.

Chandni was another blockbuster of Sridevi that got released in 1989. Her dances in the movie created history and so did her beauty. She had to reduce a lot of weight for the role and she managed.

With ChaalBazz (1989), where she played the double-role, she proved to the film industry that she was the supreme queen of Bollywood. It was obvious that she would win the best actress award in that year. The general consensus was that there was not much scope for heroes in films that cast Sridevi in the female lead role.

From Female Superstar to the Empress of Bollywood

One after the other blockbuster performances in a variety of roles, Sridevi soon went on to become the Empress of Bollywood from the Female Superstar. First time ever in the history of Bollywood, a heroine stood in comparison to the heroes of Bollywood.

In the 1990s Sridevi decided to sign only those films that helped in showcasing her acting talent. Her Telugu film opposite Chiranjeevi, Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari (1990) became the biggest blockbuster the Telugu film industry had ever seen. Till date, Sridevi is known as Atiloka Sundari in the South.

Her next best Hindi movie was Lamhe that she acted opposite Anil Kapoor. The best movie of Yash Chopra, it still counts among the most romantic movies of Bollywood. Sridevi won the FilmFare Best Actress award for her performance in Lamhe. In 1991 she won another FilmFare Best Actress Award for her Telugu movie Kshana Kshanam.

With her differentiated roles in English Vinglish and Mom, Sridevi has proved that age is no bar, when it comes to talent.

Sridevi’s performances – her attitude – her dancing – her looks – everything has set the bar so high that it is quite unlikely for any other actress to reach there. Very aptly she was indeed the Last Empress of Bollywood.

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