Late Saturday night when I learnt that Sridevi is no more, at the back of my mind, I could only hear the songs of this superstar, who had impacted all 90s kids with her magical presence on screen. Personally, I remember her films, not for her characters but for her songs and dance performances. These made a special place in my life. The memories remain fresh as lilies in my mind.
Last week, Karan Johar while complimenting some contestants on India’s Next Superstars shared how choreographers in the industry have time and again shared that dance was not only about technicalities but how much you enjoy it. He interestingly brought up Sridevi’s name and shared how the world loves seeing her dance, though few knew that she wasn’t trained and did not have a strong footwork expertise. It was her expressions, joy and fun while dancing that made her performances so lively. Ironically, on Saturday’s episode, he again brought her up when he saw a contestant perform a Charlie Chaplin act, and said that it was only Sridevi, till now, who had dared to do it on screen. And we couldn’t agree more with Karan on this.
As kids growing up in the 90s, you would know how you were presented in front of relatives to put up an act like a monkey-madaari show. While many would cringe and shy away, I would happily dance around a circle of women in my hall. I just had one condition – make me wear a bright salwar-suit and exactly nine bangles on my wrist. The innocent me felt that it was a criterion to dance on “Mere haathon mein nau nau choodiyan”. I would peek out from behind my forearms, exactly like she would, while clinking my choodis. If not that song, it was always “Morni baaga”. And how can I forget “Naino mein sapna” and “Ek aankh maaru”. I tried to do the hook steps on school corridors and cousin get-togethers, these dance numbers were our introduction to the Bollywood masala. Play the song at any party again, I guarantee, you would find many moving around, doing the same thumkas.
Another fond memory that I have of Sridevi’s magnificent effect is my elder sister slithering on the “Nagina” tune whenever it played on TV. No, she wouldn’t dance, it was her way of trying to convince me and my twin that she herself is a shape-shifting snake. Not even teens, we actually believed her and, in our heart, would feel proud to have an icchadari naagin in our family. “Main teri dushman” will always hold a special place in my heart for it reminds me of the innocence of our childhood and the sweet times I spent with my sisters. We would watch the movie together almost every Sunday, and yes, Mr. India was also another favourite.
While growing up, every time I wore a raincoat or carried an umbrella, I wanted people around me to sing, “Naa jaane kaha se aayi hai yeh ladki”. And if you believed in sweet romance than the sexy ones, accept that you have found yourself moving on “Kabhi main kahoon”, “Tu mujhe kabool” in your dreams with your crushes. And if you hadn’t expected your boyfriend to shower flowers on you from a helicopter singing “Rang bhare badal”, then you shouldn’t call him “Mere shona” ever.
During a college event, when we had to perform on “Hawa hawai”, we chose the version from “Shaitaan” for its contemporary feel, but my co-performers were adamant that we only take steps of Sridevi. Such were her songs and dance moves that you wished to do the same thing. She has inspired a generation to take up acting, and will always remain an inspiration. Even when she made her comeback after 15 years, she has given us “Navrai Majhi” for that next sangeet you have to attend.
The first woman superstar of India would be remembered forever. For some it would be her characters, for me, I would always keep the cherished memories of Sridevi’s song and dance routine close to my heart. Unfortunately, I never even got a chance to meet her but I want to thank her for giving me some of my best childhood memories. And I think today, I will just put on nine bangles in her memory.