Cover Story

Issue: March 2014

Mrs. Superstar

  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi
  • sridevi

Not only has Sridevi made the greatest comeback of all times with English Vinglish but she’s also a coveted fashion icon with her svelte figure and stunning looks. One of the most admired women in Bollywood, she talks to Farhad J Dadyburjor about what the years away from the spotlight taught her, her buddy-like relationship with her daughters and the kind of film she’d like to do next.

In this age of 140 characters, it is Sridevi’s Twitter bio that succinctly sums up her journey so far: Actor-Mother-Housewife-Actor Again! An iconic superstar in the ’80s and ’90s, Sridevi moved away from the spotlight at the top of her game to concentrate on her family life with husband Boney Kapoor; then 15 years later made the mother of all comebacks with English Vinglish. For those who’d easily written her off, it was a thunderous bolt of a reminder that when it came to comic timing and emotional resonance onscreen, Sridevi still had what it took.

Ask her what those years away from the limelight taught her, and Sridevi says, “Growing up, I was always protected—my parents would accompany me to the sets and someone would always be there throughout the filming, and then after pack-up I would just rush home as if a school bell had rung,” says the actress who started her career at the age of four in a Tamil film. “I never got a chance to really go out and meet people. So these 15 years, I got a chance to do things, like go to my daughters’ school and meet the teachers, meet other parents, go for their Sports Day...lead a very different life which I am grateful for.”

At the back of her mind, was she always waiting for a comeback? “I never thought I’d left films. It felt like only 15 days ago I took a break and I’ve come back,” says Sridevi candidly. “At the time, my priority was being a mother. My children were so small that I could never imagine myself leaving them at home or with a nanny. On Sports Day or at the swimming carnival, I would see some children whose mothers could not come and you can see it on the child’s face where she keeps hoping and hoping... I never wanted that. It’s so funny, my elder daughter is a very good swimmer, but during swimming instead of looking ahead she would always look back at me for encouragement.”

Married to producer Boney Kapoor with two daughters Janhvi and Khushi, Sridevi says her own mom was very hands-on with her. “My mom was a very active woman in her own way; I don’t remember a single day when I called for her and she was not there,” she says. “I’m very lucky that my daughters enjoy my company. They like to go out to the malls and all, and sometimes I accompany them. We are like friends.”

Do they ever discuss their boyfriends with her? “They do, but my younger daughter is still too young for that. But with Janhvi, she knows her limits and where to draw the line and how much is allowed. And she definitely shares everything with me. She treats me like a confidant and I give her advice as a mother. I have to guide her. But she’s a very sensible child.”

Have either of them shown an interest in acting or wanting to join Bollywood? “My younger one is too involved in sports and Janhvi is still in the 11th standard and has just turned 16. But to be honest, which child doesn’t want to get into this industry?! It’s very tempting. You know, Boneyji or me have never asked her what she wants to become—we’ve always felt that she should finish studying. But recently I have noticed that she seems more and more interested, from the way she’s taken an interest in learning dance... If she wants to join the industry, I won’t say no. But I definitely want to see her get married and have babies. Whenever I say that, she screams at me,” happily laughs the recent Padma Shri awardee.

Now that she’s back in the game, what difference has she found in the industry? “I was really impressed and shocked at how well organised it is. Every department has a different person taking care of it, whether it’s costumes or anything else... And the vanity vans!” Sridevi exclaims, “They are really like a lifesaver. Years ago, I remember going through major problems with not having a proper room to change, especially when shooting outdoors. But this is really superb. Plus, for the first time I’ve got a script with dialogues which I’ve never experienced before. We would always have to ask the assistant director, ‘what’s the next scene?’ and he’d say, ‘madam, they are just writing it in the next room, you’ll get it in some time’. But now you know exactly what is to be said and what is to be done. So it’s much smoother in terms of functioning and there’s no wasting of the actor’s time.”

Did she find any personal changes within herself as an actor? “I have no clue. I’ve never noticed it, I just follow my director. I’ve always been a director’s artiste—I totally surrender myself.”

Having essayed strong female characters in several of her films, many of which are fondly remembered even today, what does she think female actors can bring to the table that male actors can’t? “Honestly, I feel we are equal. It’s just that women are known to be stronger emotionally. They can deal with a lot more emotions than men can. That’s why even if a woman sometimes has a small role in a film, she tends to stand out.”

Ask her if she’d like to team up with any of her former co-stars, and Sridevi says diplomatically, “It all depends on the script. The script is the hero. If that is good, then half your battle is won.”

So, is it true that she’s going to be doing a Hollywood film opposite Meryl Streep tentatively titled Cowboys and Indians? “I’ve read the script...but it’s too early to say anything. I personally haven’t spoken to them but my people have asked them to get the confirmation from Meryl Streep first,” says Sridevi, who is yet to sign on the dotted line for her next Bollywood film. “I’m looking at two-three scripts... Yes, I would love to do a comedy or a thriller, but at the same time there must be some message that the film gives the audience. It should not be a meaningless film. I want to do a film that all generations can watch—from kids to grandparents.”

If you look at the photographs on the accompanying pages, not for a second would you think she’s 50 years old. Sridevi credits her svelte figure and youthful good looks to religiously working out at the gym and maintaining a strict diet. “No pain, no gain. I’m very health conscious. It’s a part of our life. It’s like a good vitamin.”

With top designers clamouring to dress her, how is she enjoying her newfound status as a fashion icon? “Sometimes you go out not thinking about what you’re wearing, but the media today looks at what shoes, what bag, what dress...oh god, it becomes too much sometimes! But it’s fun otherwise. My daughter Janhvi is very clued into fashion, so she updates me all the time.”

Something she deeply enjoys is painting. “I used to paint a lot earlier and now I want to start doing it again. I really miss it...painting is like my yoga,” says Sridevi, whose artwork ‘Thoughts’ was auctioned at Christie’s with the proceeds going towards charity.

Like some of her co-actors, does she have any plans to enter politics? “No way! It’s not my cup of tea,” she states emphatically. What about directing? “No way,” she says again. “Apart from acting, I know nothing. And even with acting, it’s such a long journey. You’re always learning something new.”

So, what are her dreams, professionally? “To be honest, nothing. Because whatever happened just happened. I never planned my career. Even English Vinglish, it just fell into my lap after 15 years. So I don’t believe in planning, I just let it happen... On the personal front, I want to see my children get married and I want to see my grandchildren. That is my only dream,” she says with a warm wide smile.

Read more in the March 2014 issue of Hi! BLITZ – the no.1 Lifestyle magazine.

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This article first appeared in March 2014 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine

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