A term often used for performers and entertainers is “star power”. Most of the time, it is a heady mix of talent, charisma, and the most important component, relatability. This last element is what truly binds an audience to a performer through the years. The star must be accessible to their adoring public, but only up to a point — the rest must be shrouded in a mystique of their choosing. Sridevi, who died on Sunday, possessed such star power, that in the Seventies in Bollywood, it mattered to nobody that she did not speak a word of Hindi. They were in her thrall
In her 35-year-long career in Indian cinema, Sridevi acted in 300 films — an astounding body of work. She was known to be a consummate professional from her very first film at the age of four, and by the time she was 19, she was already a star in the south, where she acted in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films — she made them her own, belonged to them all. After her first Bollywood hit, Himmatwala (1983), the tabloids cruelly nicknamed her “Thunder Thighs”, but that did not make Sridevi and her body type any less desirable to her Hindi-speaking audience.
There is a Sridevi-sized hole in the industry because there does not exist another actor, male or female, who can combine innocence with comedy, grace with fire, romance and dance, the way she could. She was the “hero” in every film, she got the best lines; and so, she demanded a fair price, firmly making cracks in the glass ceiling in a way nobody else before her had done. In her second innings, Sridevi was showing us that she still had more tricks in her bag. Gone was the chirpy girl-woman of the Nineties, and in her two most recent outings, English Vinglish (2012) and last year’s Mom, Sridevi made the most of silence in her portrayal of women her age; she played them with tenderness and steel in equal measure.