Sridevi

My inner 5-year-old is devastated, and I didn't even grow up with her. I don't really know enough to talk about Sridevi's gargantuan careers and stardoms—remarkable plurals—nor about the era in Hindi cinema in which she was the most famous, but some heartbreaks are not silent. I have so much of her filmography left to see, and I'm thrilled by that. When Sal mentioned she has a film as an alien princess (Chandramukhi), I felt no surprise that such a wonder exists. She is a firework, a cupcake, a spring, a serpent, a bomb. She contains multitudes unlike anyone else I've seen.

There's something uncomfortable to me in the outpouring of statements of love when measured against the actual content of some of her filmography. We say we love her, but look at what the industry offered her and how fans partook of her. It feels so hypocritical. Look at the absolute crap her talents were met with—and with what we were happy, or at least willing, to consume and thus create a market for. This is not unique to Sridevi, or even to women, but the volume of her professional career highlights it profoundly. Her luminosity was answered even in the best-loved films with scripts that reward her stalker (Chandni) or her physical abuser in a problematic power dynamic (Lamhe). That Moondram Pirai/Padma is in the shared memory as a romance is staggering: again, she is an object under the control of an older, more powerful man, bewitching while a child.

She also falls into that category, as does her inseparable comparison Madhuri Dixit, of people whom in theory audiences want to see return yet do not, really, at levels that recreate demand. What actually happened for their careers after English Vinglish and Aaja Nachle? Was that what these women hoped for?

What would Sridevi have said—or held back—in the #MeToo reckoning in Indian cinema, when it finally occurs? We will probably never know the untold mistreatment and abuse she may have suffered offscreen, a female child probably consistently exhausted from the huge volume of work she produced.

Her life should make us think hard about what kind of life she was allowed, or allowed herself (and how separate can that possibly be, given context), to have.

Nevertheless, she persisted. 
She shone. She was as much dangerous spark as cheerful sparkle.
Only someone who knows exactly what they're doing can do nonsense so brilliantly. 


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Comments

batulm said…
Affectionate silliness. Sridevi. RIP.