Sridevi dies of heart attack in Dubai at the age of 54

An acting powerhouse in the 1980s, language no bar, Sridevi leaves behind an unparalleled body of work, and husband Boney Kapoor and daughters Khushi and Jhanvi Kapoor.

In what was the highest compliment paid to a female actor in the late 1980s, film and trade industry members referred to Sridevi, then reigning box office queen, as the female Amitabh Bachchan. In simple terms, it meant she could pull audiences in on her own at a time when women were mere decorative pieces in films centred on an unapologetic sense of masculinity.

The 54-year old actor died on Saturday night after a massive cardiac arrest in Dubai where she was attending a family wedding, leaving behind a solid body of work to be cherished.

Starting her career as a child artist in M.A. Thirumugham’s devotional film Thunaivan at the age of four, Sridevi was a veteran in all four south Indian languages—Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada—even before she became a leading lady. She made her Hindi film debut as a child artist in Julie (1975), the musical blockbuster on unwed pregnancy starring Lakshmi.

Her first adult role came at the age 13 with the Tamil film Moondru Mudichu (1976). A string of films in Tamil and Telugu followed, including 16 Vayathinile (1977), Sigappu Rojakkal (1978), Varumayin Niram Sivappu (1980), Meendum Kokila (1981), Premabhishekam (1981), Moondram Pirai (1982), Aakhari Poratam (1988), Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari (1990) and Kshana Kshanam (1991).

Sridevi’s journey up north was far more chequered: she made her debut as a lead actress in Solva Sawan (1978) and remained known for a spate of South Indian style commercial potboilers in the 1980s, films like Himmatwala (1983), Mawaali (1983), Tohfa (1984), Naya Kadam (1984), Maqsad (1984), Masterji (1985), Nazrana (1987), Waqt Ki Awaz (1988).

To be sure, there was the occasional Sadma (1983) too, Balu Mahendru’s drama co-starring Kamal Haasan where she played a woman who regresses to childhood after a head injury.

And the box office viability was evident-Anil Kapoor-starrer Mr India (1987) is said to have been sold largely on her name, since Kapoor was relatively unknown then. But things only truly changed with Yash Chopra’s Chandni (1989), a hardcore picturesque romance that put Sridevi right on top.

Meanwhile, blockbusters like Chaalbaaz (1989) were complemented with performance-oriented roles like Lamhe(1991) and Khuda Gawah (1992) and even though, Sridevi had lost the magic touch by the late 1990s, there wasn’t anyone else to take the place.

Marriage in 1997 and a fifteen-year sabbatical later, she returned with Gauri Shinde’s comedy drama English Vinglish (2012) and was last seen in the drama thriller Mom last year. A recipient of the Padma Shri, she is survived by her husband, producer Boney Kapoor and daughters, Jhanvi and Khushi. The former is slated to make her movie debut this year in Karan Johar’s Dhadak, a remake of Marathi blockbuster Sairat.

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