The eagerness for a glimpse of the deceased superstar Sridevi’s cortège drowned out the shock of her sudden death as crowds gathered outside her home in Lokhandwala on Sunday refused to budge. All day, rumors swirled about the possible time of the arrival of the funeral cortège. At Green Acres, the luxury apartment complex that was Sridevi’s address, the few dozen spectators who had gathered until noon outside the fifteen closed iron gates were easily managed and caused no obstruction to passing traffic.
Among those who had rushed there as soon as the news broke was Nallasopara-based nurse Seema Chavan, who held three roses. “I don’t know if I will be allowed inside but I will try to give the flowers to one of the family members, if possible,” she said.
Chavan, who calls the 1983 film Sadma — starring Sridevi and Kamal Haasan — as her favourite and described herself as a “very big fan”, said she had initially dismissed the reports of the actor’s death. Fake news and quickly dismissed rumors dominated the conversation as the numbers of onlookers swelled to several hundreds as the day wore on.
The absence of visitors from the film fraternity had the selfie-seeking spectators on edge, with the arrival of every SUV into the complex being greeted by excited shouts of “Karan Johar aa gaya (Karan Johar has come)”.
When Johar did arrive in the evening, waves of cellphone wielding spectators threatened to turn over the metal barricades and had to be physically held back by dozens of police personnel.
With entry into the complex restricted only to residents and authorised visitors, those like former actress Mona Parekh, who claimed to have acted with Sridevi in a film several years ago, had little hope of being allowed to pay their respects.
Parekh, who brought a large laminated picture of her beaming next to Sridevi, choked when recounting the moment earlier in the day when she heard that her screen idol had died. “I am finding it hard to believe that she is no more,” she said.
By late afternoon, the first public announcements condoling Sridevi’s death became visible, with workers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena putting up posters on street light poles on road dividers. Across the road from Green Acres, residents of Lennie Co-operative Housing Society made a kind of makeshift shrine, offering flowers to a picture collage of the actress and lighting a candle.
Resident Jonathan Lee, who watched as building residents took turns to offer prayers, said that several of his neighbours had been crying since morning. A Chinese national, Lee, who works in Film City, said he spotted Sridevi in Lokhandwala a couple of times. The arrival of filmmaker Anurag Basu at 7 pm was briefly seen as an indication that the wait was over, especially for those who were braving the crush with young children.
Basu departed after offering customary condolences. Earlier in the day, former cricketer Mohinder Amarnath, who happened to be out on his morning stroll, found microphones thrust at him. “I like all her films,” said Amarnath, when asked to pick a favourite.
Every few minutes, a tired spectator would angrily say the funeral was already over inside Green Acres and would accuse the police of withholding information, holding up a video on his cellphone as proof. The annoyance was swiftly quelled after the police pointed out that a mashup of YouTube videos showing various members of the Kapoor family at a crematorium was inauthentic.