Sridevi belonged to that rare breed of actors who had a fan following across our country, irrespective of languages and industries. The actor, often touted as India’s first woman superstar, delivered memorable performances in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film industries. She broke the glass ceiling, shattered stereotypes and gave all of us a film to remember her by. Sridevi died at the age of 54 on this day three years ago.
She belongs to an elite club of Indian actors, who started their career at a young age. Sridevi appeared in almost 300 films in the course of half a century, starting when she was just a toddler. She was just four when she first made her acting debut with the devotional film, Kandan Karuna (1967). (Kamal Haasan was about six months younger than Sridevi when he appeared in Kalathur Kannamma in 1959)
Sridevi was born in 1963 in Sivakasi, a town in Tamil Nadu that is touted as the country’s fireworks hub. The actor would grow up to be an immaculate entertainer, and showed her talent from a very young age. When you look at her career trajectory, it would be clear that her natural talent wasn’t the only reason for her magnificent success. It is vital to acknowledge her non-stop grind for nearly half a century.
The signs of Sridevi’s genius were visible at a very young age. Here are a few moments from her earlier films where she made a mark as a child prodigy. Sridevi had rubbed shoulders with titans of Indian cinema as a child. Here she is playing with cinema icon MG Ramachandran in the 1969 film Nam Naadu.
In the same movie, she also delivers an emotional performance by rendering a pathos version of Nalla Perai Vanga Vendum.
In the 1971 movie, Babu, she competes with acting great Sivaji Ganesan in performing emotionally heavy scenes.
Sridevi was the star of Poombatta (1971). Here she will make you sob by channelling the struggles and pain of an orphan girl, who’s clueless about what to do with her life.
Not just sadness, if she wanted she could turn into a bundle of joy. Her performance in Boochadamma Boochadu from the 1972 movie, Badi Panthulu, is so charming. The little girl explains the salient features of a telephone to her grandmother in a song.
As a child artist, Sridevi was also a top choice of filmmakers to play Lord Murugan. In this scene from Agathiyar, as Lord Murugan, she gives a tough time to an all-knowing sage.
In the 1969 Tamil-Malayalam bilingual Kumara Sambhavam she repeats her act as Lord Murugan. Notice her performance where she flawlessly lip-syncing to the Malayalam song.
The conviction in Sridevi’s performance in this scene from the mythological film Bhakta Kumbara makes us want to believe in miracles.
And by the time Sridevi turned 13, she landed her first leading adult role in legendary filmmaker K. Balachander’s Moondru Mudichu. The 1973 film also had then-budding actors like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. And, as they say, the rest is history.