Dubai: It is unfortunate that I had to write my first piece about Sridevi, the heartthrob of the Tamil film industry during my growing up years, after her untimely demise.
Even though we lived only a few kilometres away in Chennai, then Madras, and we had seen the beauty queen from far a couple of times, it is only in Dubai that I had a chance to actually meet her.
It was at the Dubai World Trade Centre during the first Siima (South Indian International Movie Awards) awards in 2012 that I saw Sridevi and Boney Kapoor walking towards the exit. My wife, who is also a fan of Sridevi, wanted to take a snap with her.
When I approached them, I got a nod – the pair kept walking towards the exit with Kapoor holding Sridevi’s hands. I was a little perplexed. Only then I realised that Sridevi was walking slowly, may be with some issue in her foot, and they were approaching a flight of stairs.
Once after climbing the stairs, Kapoor called me with a question on his face what happened, why you are waiting there? My wife and son took some pictures. My wife was elated after a chat with the star.
I felt that may be since she had trouble walking they did not want to stop and wanted to maintain the momentum to climb the flight of stairs.
But little did I know that a few years later Sridevi would meet her end a couple of kilometres away.
Talking about his personal experience, Venkatesh Shankaranarayanan, an ardent fan of Sridevi and the father of Sadhana who acted in the National Award-winning Tamil movie Thanga Meengal (Gold Fish), said he has watched all of Sridevi’s movies, not just once but multiple times.
“Sridevi is my heartthrob. She is not just an actress, she is an era. Just the way we talk about before Shivaji Ganesan and after Shivaji Ganesan, it is before Sridevi and after Sridevi in Tamil movies.
“She was very versatile and produced her best in South Indian films rather than in Bollywood movies, like Gayathri, Meendum Kokila, Moondru Mudichu to name a few.”
Venkatesh, who lived in Mylapore and studied in Vivekananda College, used the close proximity to go through Sridevi’s house in CIT Colony.
“I have seen her numerous times on the balcony and she used to wave at us, this is in 88-89,” Venkatesh recollected. He feels she is the only heroine who ruled like a queen till the end.
He went on to bring out some numbers by saying that Sridevi stopped acting in 1995, which means she has done over 300 films in 27 years, around 11-12 films a year.
“That shows her commitment. She was a star even when she started and such was her status that for 16 Vayathinile she earned Rs. 30,000, which is more than her co-star Kamal Haasan (Rs. 27,000) and Rajinikanth (Rs. 3,000) got.
Venkatesh and his daughter Sadana had met Sridevi during the Siima awards in Malaysia in 2014. The star had some nice words for the young artist and drew parallels - like her, she was also a National Award winner as a child artist. Sridevi wished her success.
“Sridevi has given so much of happiness to her fans around the world. We will miss it,” he said.