Sridevi Kapoor, 1963–2018

“Sridevi Kapoor, best known by her mononym Sridevi and a major Bollywood star, died Saturday night in UAE of cardiac arrest,” reports Erin Nyren for Variety. “Sridevi worked in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films before debuting in Hindi films. Her success led to other regional actresses like Jaya Prada to follow her to Bollywood.”

From Reuters: “Through the 1980s and 1990s she charmed audiences in female-centric films such as Chandni (Moonlight) and Lamhe (Moments), drawing praise for her comic timing in Chaalbaaz (Trickster) and Shekhar Kapur’s Mr. India, playing feisty characters in contrast to the traditionally coy Bollywood heroine.”

“She embodied feminine mystique and that classic screen-goddess combination of beauty glazed with mystery and intrigue,” writes Sudha G. Tilak for the BBC. “She lit up the screen with her vivacity and charm, while off it she remained fiercely private. Film directors repeatedly spoke in awe of her acting prowess, which followed no method but sheer intuition and instinct.”

“Fantasy and fun were the solvents for her sexiness,” writes the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “In the 1986 film Nagina, or Female Snake, she had an uproarious snake dance. Audiences loved it when she did an outrageously broad Charlie Chaplin impression, while playing the goofy journalist in the 1987 film Mr. India. She also broke out wacky Jackie-Chan-style fight moves, such as those in the 1989 comedy Chaalbaaz, or Trickster, where she played twins, separated at birth. . . . Last year, she released Mom, a gritty thriller in which she plays a vigilante-avenger out for payback when her daughter is raped. But perhaps her most sensational film, and the one which lodged her ineradicably in the public’s mind is the potent melodrama from 1983, Sadma, or Trauma . . . Sadma is a movie to compare with the work of Hollywood’s great emotional master Douglas Sirk.”

Sridevi was only fifty-four.

Update, 2/27: “In the loud, colorful movies that she made in her heyday, Sridevi was neither studied nor much concerned with nuance,” writes Shahnaz Habib for the Guardian. “When she was on the screen, it was clear that she was having a good time. But when she returned to the cinema in 2012 as the shy housewife in English Vinglish who sets out to teach herself English for a trip to see her sister in New York, it was clear that her craft was much more sophisticated. She had reached a point in her career where she was able to balance her comic playfulness with subtlety and good judgment.”

Updates, 3/1: “She was my childhood, and one of the big reasons I became an actor,” writes Priyanka Chopra for Time. “To refer to all of us as mere fans would be a disservice to her. When the news first broke of her passing, I was immobilized. All I could do then was listen to songs from her films, revisit her interviews and watch her iconic scenes over and over again. I knew I was not alone; millions were feeling that exact emotion of shock and loss. Her connection with the audience was so strong that that each one of us has special memories linked to her.”

“India was in thrall to Sridevi during her five decades on screen, which is why it’s no hyperbole to state that her death represents a genuine national tragedy,” writes Mayukh Sen for the TIFF Review. “Perhaps more than anything Sridevi was a study in contrasts: a dynamo on screen who, in interviews, seemed almost embarrassed to be a star, as if she were both keenly aware of her importance and in a constant state of denial about it.”

“In a country with twenty-two official languages, several film industries, and diverse regional cultures, Sridevi was popular not just in Hindi-speaking Bollywood, but also throughout India—a rare feat.” Deepanjana Pal for the Atlantic: “Over the course of her career, Sridevi made eighty-one films in Telugu, seventy-two films in Hindi, at least seventy-one films in Tamil, twenty-three films in Malayalam, and six films in Kannada. . . . She disrupted Bollywood’s status quo, but did so politely. . . . Directors put her in situations that were designed to titillate male viewers and she complied with their every directive. But then, somewhere along the way, with a twinkle in her eye and a little wobble of those glossy lips, Sridevi subtly turned the tables. She became the queen of escapism, and the audiences loved her for it.”

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