10 of the best performances of Sridevi as a Bollywood actress
A brief introduction about the lady superstar of Indian film industry
Sridevi; One and Only Sridevi – The actress from Indian film industry who owns the designation of the only female superstar of 100 years of cinema. Many heroines have come and gone. A few stayed for a while and stole our hearts before they left. Some of them gained popularity in Bollywood while the rest few ruled south Indian cinema. But in true sense only Sridevi remains the only Indian actor irrespective of gender, who gained such a huge mass of admirers from both the industries. No other Indian actor has managed to gain such a huge popularity in both Bollywood and south Indian cinema, and Sridevi perfectly nailed it through her natural acting talents, expressive eyes, amazing dancing skills, comedy timing and as a style icon and true representative of Indian beauty.
Yes, our own Sridevi with beautiful and expressive eyes, and innocent looks. Even while she returned to silver screen after a long break of 14 years, she surprised everyone through her acting skills. Yes, she showed everyone why she deserves to be called as the only female superstar of Indian cinema. Sridevi acted in 300 movies, in a career spanning to 5 decades and her works belong to all south Indian languages and Hindi.
She was already a huge star in south Indian film industry dominating all the 4 south languages, before she set foot in Bollywood in the early 1980s. Her screen pairing with Kamal Hassan was immensely popular, and she played some amazing roles aside Rajinikanth too. It can be said that these three stars started off their careers apparently at the same time, co-operated with one another, work together and rose to career heights, creating new bench marks in south Indian cinema, especially in Tamil. It’s not so surprising, but a strange co-incidence that this trio fully dominated south Indian cinema in the later years, and tagged as the best/popular three stars of new generation.
She marked her Bollywood debut with Solva Sawan in 1979, and took a break for 4 years to fully concentrate in south Indian cinema. Her decision proved to be right, and she learnt more about acting during those formative years, working with the likes of some of the iconic directors of Indian cinema. It can be said that, her association with some of the best directors of the time well-polished her acting skills, plus her super command over acting and expressive eyes, it took only a short time for Sridevi in her comeback innings to establish herself as the leading actress of Bollywood. No other actress in Bollywood has stayed as no: 1 for more than a decade, and she created a niche of her one through the roles she played onscreen since late 1980s.
In a male-dominated Indian film industry, while most of the hit films are later remembered in the name of its lead hero, it’s quite surprising that despite she worked with some of the extremely popular actors of the time like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt etc, films like Chandni, Mr. India, Lamhe, Gumrah, Ladla, Chaalbaaz etc are remembered by a heroine’s name.
Here is the list of 10 of the best Bollywood performances of Sridevi as an actress, and hope you like it. I should add, she had equally number of commercially successful films in Tamil and Telugu industry too, apart from a few in Malayalam and Kannada. Regarded as one of the finest actresses in India, and known for her pan appeal, it’s my humble tribute to Bollywood’s Chandni. I have sorted her films based on the year of release, so that the list of films itself completes a fairy tale of her Bollywood journey.
Sadma (1983) co-starring Kamal Hassan
Sridevi marked her Bollywood debut as a teenager for the movie, Julie, and marked her adult through Solva Sawan in 1979, which sank without any trace. Similar to her debut Bollywood flick, Sadma too was a south Indian remake, and in both these films she reprised her original roles. Kamal Hassan who earned his first National award for best actor through Moonam Pirai, released one year earlier, and a few more from supporting cast reprised their roles in Hindi remake, music composer Illayaraja too marked his Bollywood debut with this film. The movie is widely regarded as a landmark movie of actress’ career and made Rs 2 crore at the box office.
The remake was not a commercial hit, but earned critical acclaim and a cult classic status in the following years. Illayaraja’s compositions, particularly Surmayi Ankhiyon and Ee Zindagi got noticed. Her challenging role as an amnesiac woman, who travels back to childhood in Sadma, and also its original, earned her applause, and her first Filmfare nomination in best actress (Hindi) category. It also helped the young actress to place a foot in the industry, and it was only a beginning. Both the lead actors received wide praise for their performances, and Kamal Hassan too had some of the commercial hits in Bollywood around that time, Sagar, Ek Duje Ke Liya etc to mention a few.
The film’s climax scene is one of the best tragic scenes ever filmed in Indian cinema, and in the new era of sequels of many evergreen hits of yesterdays, I often imagine, years later, Nehalata returns back as Reshmi to get her Somu back. That’s the huge impact (Sadma) left by Sadma among Indian audience three and a half decade back. If so, Indian screen would have witnessed the screen pairing of a wonderful pair once again after 2 decades, who ruled the roost in the 1980s. Kash Aisa Hota…….!!!!
Himmatwala (1983) co-starring Jeetendra
Year 1983 witnessed a few Bollywood releases of Sridevi and also a turning point of her career too. After her challenging childish role in Sadma, she made a complete makeover and played a romantic role in a masala entertainer, Himmatwala co-starring Jeetendra the same year. Himmatwala emerged as the highest grosser of 1984, and also her first hit Hindi film. The movie earned close to 12 crore at box office, which was a huge amount that time. It also began the successful association of Jeetendra and Sridevi in a series of masala entertainers, and most of them turned to be box office hits too. It’s quite irony that Sridevi passed away just one day before the 35th anniversary of the film.
Most of the movies helmed by south Indian directors were shot at south Indian locations, with the help from local technicians. But they together spelled a crackling chemistry and guaranteed box office success. The huge age gap between the two was not noticed, and they looked a fresh pair together. Films featuring both were solemnly aimed to entertain masses, and the attempt succeeded too. Actors were benefitted too, who worked together in 18 movies. They were instrumental to launch a mini industry in Bollywood into itself which churned out films in succession within short time. Quality was not a major concern, and that’s the reason why most of those films have been flashed out of the memory of audience. The movie Maqsad was completed in record 16 days and the movie hit bull’s eye too. Justice Chaudhary and Tohfa are other two major hits of the duo. Kalakaar (with Neele Neele Ambar song), Justice Chaudhary and Jaani Dost too were released in 1983. Also read: Top 30 songs featuring Sridevi.
Nagina (1986) co-staring Rishi Kapoor
She shared amazing screen chemistry with Rishi Kapoor in the 1980s, and Nagina was their first major hit. Many heroines have played snake woman on screen before. Yet Nagina still remains one among the best fantasy tales. The snake dance of ‘Mein Tere Dushman’ catapulted her to fame, and gave her the distinction of an amazing dancer too. The movie also helped Amrish Puri to establish himself as a leading villain of 1980s. It’s quite co-incidence that Amrish Puri played villain’s role in two of the biggest hits of Sridevi’s career – Nagina and Mr. India.
Mr. India (1987) co-starring Anil Kapoor
Many film critics and movie buffs believe that the movie’s title was to be named as Ms. India. She could steal away the limelight from male protagonists with her stellar performances, and Mr. India was one among the first movies belonging to this genre. She completely dominated the screen through her role as a newspaper reporter. The songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and mostly sung by Kavita Krishnamurty, also played a magnificent role in the huge success of the film, and the huge impact among Indian audience made by the lead pair on screen. Either it’s mischievous dancer in Hawa Hawaii or extremely romantic lover in the sizzling, I love You, Sridevi showed different shades in the movie throughout.
Her iconic performance in ‘Charlie Chaplin scene’ made her a huge comedy star of her times, and she played almost all shades in a single film role as Seema. The movie also played a magnificent role to place Sridevi as the undisputed queen of Indian cinema. Since then she enjoyed some incredible success in movies of Bollywood. In fact she turned choosy over the roles she portrayed later. Filmfare awards were not organized in 1987. Otherwise she would have definitely won it. The movie was the last completed film of Shekhar Kapoor before he moved to Hollywood, and last work of Salim-Javed together as screenwriters. Though they had split earlier, they came together for the last time for Mr. India.
Chaalbaaz (1989) co-starring Rajinikanth and Sunny Deol
Her screen pairing with Rajinikanth was already a huge hit in Tamil. But in Hindi, it’s best remembered for Chaalbaaz, the movie which earned her second Filmfare award of best actress. Remake of Seeta Aur Geeta, she reprised the dual role played by Hema Malini in the original. It’s quite interesting that the movie established Hema Malini as the lead actress of Bollywood a decade back. Also read: Actors who turned superstars playing dual roles.
Chaalbaaz is widely regarded as one among the finest and best 5 films of Sridevi as an actress, where she showcased her talent as a good actress, comedian and dancer. Her screen presence is just amazing to watch, and she fully dominated over the lead heroes and also the supporting cast played by Anupam Kher and others. She played the role of twin sisters, who got separated as infants. Sridevi lived as entirely two different characters throughout the film, one as a shy and traditional girl, while the second one as a street girl who is extremely courageous. Sridevi’s ability to emote through her eyes, her graceful dancing prowess, realistic acting skills and perfect comedy timing in the film throughout made a huge impact on Indian audience, and made her the undisputed queen of Indian cinema. She ride on the success of two blockbusters same year – Chandni and Chalbaaz, and she fully dominated over the lead heroes in both these works. She showed entirely different shades in both these works, and it was not an easy task to find, which one is better.
Chandni (1989) co-starring Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna
With the announcement of Filmfare awards this year, there were a few controversies too. Sridevi was nominated for Filmfare best actress award for two of her career best roles – Chandni and Chalbaaz, and when award was given for Chaalbaaz, a few felt that it was not a right decision. As told above, it’s not possible to find which film stands out in terms of Sridevi’s performance. But it’s true that Chandni is widely regarded as her career best film. Sridevi transformed herself into a true diva with Chandni, and created new benchmark for Bollywood heroines in Indian cinema.
Once the movie got released, she turned choosy and decided not to repeat similar kind of roles again. Chandni proved to be a landmark movie of her career, where Chopra captured her beauty in camera frames along with her dancing and acting skills, and she became widely regarded as ‘Chandni of Bollywood’ or epitome of beauty. White chiffon sarees became a huge rage across the nation, since the movie got released. Also, Yash Chopra filmed most of its songs in foreign locations, a trend to follow by Bollywood since then. The songs composed by Shiv-Hari and sung by Lata Mangeshkar too became extremely popular. Sridevi dubbed for herself for the first time in Chandni. She also rendered her voice for its title track aside Jolly Mukherjee, which became immensely popular.
Lamhe (1991) co-starring Anil Kapoor
In a career spanning to 4 decades in Hindi cinema, Sridevi earned two Filmfare awards in Hindi in best actress category from 10 nominations, and she played dual roles in both – Chalbaaz and Lamhe. She received a Filmfare nomination for the third one too – Khuda Gawah, where she essayed mom-daughter duo. A performance oriented film, Sridevi played mother and daughter’s roles in really an unconventional coming-of-age romantic film, where daughter falls in love with the man, who loved her mother at youth, though at different points of time. It was a very bold film in the era when it got released, a strange tale never told before.
Gumrah (1993) co-starring Sanjay Dutt
After the huge impact of Yash Chopra-Sridevi movies in Bollywood, she mostly starred in performance oriented films, and all those films she fully dominated her male co-star. Gumrah which tells about a girl, who is falsely accused of transporting drugs, also belong to this list. Gumrah is hailed as one among the finest movies of Sridevi in terms of performance.
Laadla (1994) co-starring Anil Kapoor
“U Understand…. You Better Understand” – no female star can deliver such a powerful dialogue convincingly while standing with the lead hero of the film, essayed by one of the leading stars of Bollywood. Laadla is one among those kinds of roles, where she experimented with negative shades as well, and her performance as arrogant mill owner Sheetal Jaitley well pleased audience. Raveena Tandon played second lead in this film.
English Vinglish (2012) co-starring Mehdi Nebbou
A star of all seasons, through her stunning performance in English Vinglish, she showed to millions, what a true performer means. Through this single film, youngsters got the opportunity to see the glimpses of acting skills of yesterday star, and they anonymously agreed – Yes, she is an actor across generations and age is not a factor, only performance counts. She returned to silver screen in a bang after a hiatus of 14 years and enjoyed the feat of the only actress in Bollywood to make a successful comeback as a leading lady after marriage and a long hiatus. She also earned a Filmfare nomination for her performance. Her character Shashi Godbole can be easily related to the life many Indian housewives who are humiliated for not having good English speaking skills or other abilities, despite serving the whole family as a ‘true servant’.
In my opinion, Chandini and Chalbaaz got released in 1989 and make it a remarkable year of her Bollywood journey. It’s not easy to list best 5 among her performances, I would say, Mr. India, Chandini, Lamhe, Sadma and English Vinglish will be marked in Indian cinema among the most stunning performances by any Bollywood actress, and Chalbaaz just follows.
A few more stunning performances of Sridevi
The movie which narrowly missed the list is Judaai (1997), co-staring Urmila and Anil Kapoor. She played a mean wife in the film, willing to share her husband with another woman solely for money. She has never acted this kind of role before, and definitely one of the best choices she made before took hiatus.
Nigahen: Nagina Part II (1989) is also one among her best roles, though the film failed to repeat the success of prequel. But I loved this film when I watched back in Doordarshan. If online sources are to be believed, it’s the first sequel made in Indian cinema. Sridevi played the daughter of Rajni played by herself in Nagina, and Sunny Deol played her husband’s role.
Her extra glamorous role of a singer in Jaanbaaz (1986) was short but sweet, and definitely deserves mention. She played only a guest appearance in the film. Yet during those days when she was slowly gaining momentum, she overshadowed lead heroine Dimple Kapadia completely. It belongs to rare list of movies, where she was not paired with Anil Kapoor. It was for the first and last time she worked with Feroz Khan.
Kalakaar (1983) and Tohfa (1984) are her noted works in the first phase of her Bollywood journey, and her final work, Mom (2017) also witnessed her stellar performance where she played the role of a rape victim’s mother. Karma, Justice Chowdhary, Suhagan, Mawaali, Masterji, Naya Kadam, Nazrana etc are a few more commercial hits.
A last word to say. When she leaves the world so expected without uttering any words, it’s something like a part of our childhood days gets buried with some old memories. She has just begun her second innings and she was so much to give to her fans. She would have given life to some of the powerful screen women if she has lived a bit more. But what to do! We, fans are really unfortunate.
The only Indian superstar who can claim a pan appeal across India, Sridevi would have give so much to Indian Cinema if she lived a little more. Also read a few more articles of the gorgeous actress whose untimely demise shocked the whole nation beyond all limits.