by Preeti Thandi
Toronto: She looks enviable, dressed in figure hugging skinny jeans, a cream blouse, yellow jacket and high heels. An entourage surrounds her. It takes a while to take it all in – her orb like eyes, cascading hair, polished skin and her grand stature in Indian cinema. Enchanting, mesmerizing and celebrated Sridevi remains unrivalled in the way she captivated audiences. From her popular dance numbers to her verve, she lit up the screens with expressive performances. She’s enjoyed the mega-star status for years but remains unassuming. Sridevi exudes a relaxed finesse and speaks quietly. In Toronto for the Gala premiere of her comeback film, English Vinglish at TIFF 2012, Sridevi opts for a de-glamorized role and plays Shashi, a simple homemaker whose life revolves around her family and who struggles with her English.
You have been away from the screen for 15 years, did you enjoy your time off? What did you do?
Yeah, absolutely! This break has been wonderful for me being a mother I was busy taking care of my children and enjoying every minute of it. Growth is a beautiful experience.
What brought you back?
The script and of course I loved Balki’s previous films, Paa and Cheeni Kum and when I heard he’s producing it and then when I met Gauri for the first time we instantly clicked.
Is stardom or limelight an addiction that a star needs? Does it pull you back?
In that case I would have done it much earlier and not waited for almost 15 years! It’s nothing like that, you know, I never felt that I was away from this industry because being a producer’s wife I was always around and part of the industry and more than that I was enjoying being on the other side of the camera watching people performing, dancing.
What is it that attracted you most about the script of English Vinglish?
Well, Shashi’s character and her simplicity. I felt I could relate to it and I thought even the audience would relate to it as well. It’s a very vulnerable and relatable character.
You could have chosen any director, why Gauri Shinde?
Why not Gauri? It was her story and she created this character, Shashi’s character itched her mind so much. It made it tremendously easy for me to work on this character.
But it’s a very simple character that kind of de-glamorizes the screen goddess, was it easy for you to shed that?
Yes absolutely! It is not the first time I did something like this. I did it even in Sadma.
Was it tough going back the first day?
Not at all. When I faced the camera for the first time, I didn’t feel that there was a gap of 15 years or maybe it’s thanks to Gauri and the atmosphere on the set, which was very warm and made me feel so comfortable.
How did you prepare for the role? We did dress rehearsals, we worked on the look. It was totally Gauri’s vision, I totally surrendered to it.
You put a lot of love in rolling the ladoos in the film…
Which is not me, it is Shashi who enjoys it, I am glad you are saying that because that’s what she says when her husband asks her to stop making ladoos. She says that’s my only passion.
So I wanted to ask you, are you a good cook yourself?
Very bad, I can’t cook at all but my daughters are better cooks than me. It has to come from inside, the interest, it’s not a learning thing, you need to have a passion for certain things.
Your passion is painting, is that right? What attracts you towards it?
My passion is painting. I feel it is very soothing to your mind and it is very relaxing. The best part is that I am at home and not away from my children, my husband and my house.
There was an auction of your paintings? Is that right.
Yes in New York at Christie’s. I did “Thoughts.” They are figures of humans in different kind of moods.
You yourself faced challenges in speaking the language when you first came to the Hindi film industry.
Why only Hindi, other languages too like Malyalam, Kannada. Why only me, most of the people face this problem. When people watch the movie, they will relate it to their mother or aunt. When we were coming to Toronto, we saw a woman dressed up exactly like Shashi with one braid and a bag. I was just watching her, she came to the immigration counter and it was the wrong counter. They had to send her back and she was totally lost.
How was it like working with the international cast?
There were different actors from different places like West Indies, US, Mexico in the classroom in the film, we all had great fun as a group and they were all very pumped up.
Were they nervous working with you?
I don’t know. The first day we did a theatre scene, there was totally pin drop silence, from the second day onwards we were all freaking out and laughing.
Have you worked with women directors before?
It was a great experience working with Gauri. Gender didn’t matter to me, for me Gauri is a director, that is it.
A female Bollywood star getting married is bad new in the box office?
It is very sad. Definitely it happens the moment they are married they are just put in a different category. No more glamour or running around with the heroes and dancing. But it’s very good what’s happening with films like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani.
But they are all single women playing those parts, Rani and Vidya they are not married.
But these are the characters even the married women can do.
Are you looking for those kind of roles now?
No, I never planned this film, it just happened, so let’s see.
There was a trend from South India that a lot of actors were transitioning into Bollywood, do you think it is becoming more difficult, we are not seeing as many actors coming from the South like yourself.
It is both ways. From the north they are going to the south and from south they’ve been coming to the north.
Sridevi dies at 54 of cardiac arrest: India, Bollywood in shock
Sridevi no more, and a part of my childhood dies with her
Sridevi died on Saturday night after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 54. Called the first female superstar in India’s male-dominated film industry, she made over 260 films in a career spanning 45 years.
As a starry eyed schoolchild, I would spend hours trying to get the steps of Morni Baagan Maan right, in front of the mirror. As a girl, not even 7, I was too young to understand the complexity of the lyrics or the depth of the feeling that the Lamhe song held within it, but it was she, Sridevi, her fluid dance moves and the play of emotion in her face that had me entranced. I would try to turn just like Sridevi, get her hand mudras right. Again, it would take me years to understand there was nobody like Sridevi. The twinkle in her eye, the charm she could switch on as cameras turned towards her or the movie star charisma that was part of her personality — Sridevi lived what her Mr India song said, Bijli Girane Main Hoo Aayi.\
My experiments in front of the mirror were not extraordinary, nor were they one of a kind. Lakhs of children across India were trying to emulate Sridevi — for some (like me) it was her dance, for others it was the fact that she was a superstar when women rarely had the word super attached to them in any form in the industry. And for almost everybody, it was her ability to light up the frames she inhabited.
My romance with Sridevi began long before I understood how to tell good films from bad; at that age I either loved them or hated them. So, when, early on a Sunday morning, as I got up to incessant messages, tweets and Facebook posts full of grief, I went back to my childhood. It was a child again who was mourning the loss of her star.
Indeed, Sridevi’s death has taken away something crucial with it — a part of my childhood. Whether it was her act as a child-woman in Sadma, the luminous double role in Lamhe, the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine in Chandni or the bubbly Hawa Hawai of Mr India, Sridevi managed to bring a certain je na sais quoi to every role she played.
Among the yellowing photographs and fading memories is a photo of me with my friends with a fruit hat a la Sridevi in Hawa Hawai. Maybe it was a day during summer vacation when time hung heavy on our hands. But I remember how disastrous the first attempt with a straw hat and a bowl of fruit was. We were rescued when the friend’s mother emerged and gave us a tongue lashing that only mothers are capable of. Then, being a Sridevi fan (who isn’t?), she helped us fashion the hat.
Then came Madhuri Dixit, and the gaggle of girls divided into Team Madhuri and Team Sridevi. I was a staunch member of the latter and many a evening, we would spend in fraught debates on who was better. Sridevi had been around for decades. Starting as a child artiste at the age of 4, she had worked in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films before she decided to shift her focus to Bollywood. She was a star here as well. Madhuri, IMHO, was a novice.
There were chinks in her career but it was still 90s Bollywood and actresses — even the one called the first female superstar of Bollywood — had to take the good with the bad. The pulpy papers of those times were full of how the leading actors of those days would cower before her. They may or may not have been true but they fuelled my imagination as a fan.
She definitely left a stamp on my career. I believe that years of defending her against Madhuri fans (you know who you are) made me pick up the job of an entertainment reporter. I came across her on many occasions in my career and always found her a picture of grace and poise, standing out in the sea of beauty that is Hindi cinema.
And today, she is gone, in a moment that appears was written by an unfeeling screenwriter. Or maybe, it is the fan inside me who is not ready to say goodbye. Oh, what it would be to watch her once again in a dark theatre with the lights dimmed.
Sridevi made 264 films over 45 years, and while not all of them will stand the test of the time, her charisma will. I would remember her as the effervescent Chandni, the middle class mother in English Vinglish but mostly as Hawa Hawai — who wore fruit hats and solved crimes as an intrepid journalist.
The Great Sanjay Leela Does Disservice To Cinema With Propaganda And Dishonest Portrayal Of History In Padmavat
I saw the film more than a week back and I was flabbergasted and disgusted by what I had seen.
It wasn’t until my mentor and friend Promod Puri, the founder an former publisher-editor of Canada’s oldest South Asian English language newspaper The LINK, wrote his review online that I felt compelled to add to the debate about one of the worst forms of propaganda in a Bollywood film I’d ever seen.
The great Bollywood writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has basically put himself in the gutter with this outrageous Rajput Hindu propaganda that glorified the individual suicide the Sati (mass suicide as in Padmavat called Jauhar).
Looking back at the Hooliganism and blockade of the film by extremist Hindu and Rajput groups – it seems like a conspiracy given that the film actually shows the Muslims as evil blood thirsty monsters and I’m not even talking about the actually monstrous Khilji played by Ranveer Singh.
It should be the Muslims who should be appalled and disgusted at the polar opposite portrayals of Muslims and Hindus. It’s the Muslims who should be protesting and saying the film should be banned!
Given that the film is produce by Viacom India which is now 51 percent owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, I think the “Show” if extremism might have been planned ahead so that Muslims in India don’t actually think the film is anti-Muslim which it clearly is.
Writer-Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a good if not great filmmaker but here he comes across as Hitler Propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who made pro-German propaganda films during Adolf Hitler’s reign.
Films like Padmavat are extremely irresponsible at a time in India where there continues to be a divide among Hindus and Muslims in Modi’s India.
And the film is really laughable as it tries to reconstruct history from a Hindu perspective when in reality the great but blood thirsty madman Khilji defeated the Rajputs. And no matter how much the film may try to sugarcoat it, the Rajputs were no match for the brutal strength of Khilji at a time in human history when brutal and maniacal strength was the Warrior’s code.
Take the brutal rulers of Europe and Asia – they were no different than Khilji!
I lost a lot of respect for director Bhansali as it seemed like he was just a puppet pulling someone else’s strings with much dishonesty and disgrace!
Aamir Khan say there is no Intolerance in India, urges Modi to reign in people spreading hatred
Days after his intolerance remarks, Bollywood star Aamir Khan today said India is “very tolerant” but there are people who spread hatred and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein them in.
The actor also believes that he still continues to be country’s brand ambassador even though the government may have discontinued his services, saying India is his mother and not a brand.
“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will…Those who speak of breaking up this vast country, such people are present in all religions, only Modiji can stop them. After all, Modiji is our PM, we have to tell him,” he told Rajat Sharma in his ‘Aap ki Adalat’ show on India TV, according to a press release issued by the channel.
Aamir said a sense of security comes from the justice system, which should ensure speedy justice, and from elected representatives who should raise their voice when something goes wrong.
“After all, law is equal for all, and nobody is above law. Unfortunately, there are some people who spread negativity and hatred. If I am not wrong, our Prime Minister has also expressed concern. His slogan is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said.
The actor, who hit headlines with his remarks that his wife was thinking of leaving India over growing intolerance, also replied to megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s remark that he damaged India’s brand identity by his statement, saying there was a feeling of insecurity due to growing intolerance.
“I had said in my interview that there was a sense of depression, a sense of despondency, a feeling of insecurity and intolerance was growing. But these are entirely two different things,” he said.
He added that he was “wongly quoted” and said, “I never said India was intolerant, I was wrongly quoted…To say about rising intolerance and to say India is intolerant are two different things.”
Claiming to continue serving as India’s brand ambassador even after government discontinued him, the superstar said, “For me, my motherland is my mother, it cannot be a brand. I can never view my mother as a brand. It could be a brand for other people, but not for me. Till this date, I continue to be India’s brand ambassador, even the government may have discontinued me.”
He said for 10 years he was brand ambassador for ‘Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavo campaign’ and never charged a penny for all his public service campaigns for the country and nor will he charge in future.
Aamir also asked media and news channels not to air news about violence on TV as it creates an atmosphere of fear.
“Every Indian is infected with fear. I would also appeal to media not to highlight such violence, as it creates a sense of insecurity and fear among common people,” he said.
On his wife Kiran Rao expressing her intent to leave India due to insecurity, Aamir said he and his wife were not going anywhere and have been born here and will die in India, but said, “After all, Kiran is a mother, a mother always worries about her children.”
“Often we speak so many things among ourselves, but that does not mean, we take 100 per cent action on them. Now was that our intention. Kiran has actually expressed a feeling, an emotion, and we were born here, and we will die here. We are not going to leave our country, let me make it clear,”he said.
The superstar went on to say that whenever people try to divide, “we should become alert, and should beware as to why we are being reminded that we are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. After all, we are all Indians. We have to be on our quard.”
Seeking to clarify that there was intent on his or his director’s part on purportedly denigrating Hindu religion in his film ‘PK’, he said, “It was only a character playing the role of Shiva in a play, who was made fun of, in a particular situation. After all, Lord Shankar is Almighty, how can we dare to make fun of him?.”
The actor said he fully empathised with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. “My heart cries even today for them. It is shameful, and I appeal to people living in the Valley to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back.”
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