Monday, February 24, 2014

'Nobody will become ‘The Next Sridevi''

The atmosphere was electric on the grounds of Sathyabama University, as   young college girls waited with bated breath for the arrival of one of the evergreen stars of Indian cinema, Padma Shri Sridevi. The actress was in the city to receive her ‘Inspiring Icon’ award presented  by the Sathyabama University, as part of their annual FEMFEST, where they honour women achievers. Clad in a simple, yet elegant royal blue blouse and white pants, the celebrated actress sashayed in to deafening applause from the audience, as Senthoora Poove from 16 Vayathinile aptly played in the background.  The astounding welcome accorded by the college students indicated that despite the absence of a Sridevi film in the theatres (until she came back with English Vinglish); the actress is still the bold Mayil of 16 Vayithinile and the child-like Viji of Moondram Pirai. Sridevi beamed her signature effervescent smile, as she enthusiastically waved to her young fans. After the audience was satiated, the unassuming actress sank into a plush davenport for an exclusive chat with DC. In a quick tête-à-tête, Sridevi spoke about her secret dreams for her children, still loving Chennai from the bottom of her heart and how nobody will ever become ‘The Next Sridevi’.

Sridevi was about four, when her first Tamil film Muruga hit the screens in 1967 and she almost didn’t cease to act till the late 1990’s, when she decided to become a ‘homemaker’ and give undivided attention to her children. Although, the actor began to act when her peers were busy attending kindergarten, Sridevi revealed that she had led a life like every other child, despite acting in films. “I have no regrets whatsoever about starting to act early. My parents ensured that they struck a balance and I lived like a normal school going kid. I still remember celebrating festivals with my family. I am happy about how my life has shaped up and I am glad about the films that I have done. I am grateful to God for the great career and family that I have,” said Sridevi. Quickly adding, “I must say that I missed my school and college days. But we must understand that we can’t get everything in our life.”

The doting mother, Sridevi spent about 15 years looking after her family before she made a commendable comeback with English Vinglish. However, the actress was constantly in touch with the film industry, thanks to her husband Boney Kapoor. “I didn’t miss films when I was on a sabbatical. I was helping my husband with his productions. So I wasn’t completely out of the industry,” she said.

Her kitty might not be full with films, but Sridevi is a busy homemaker, as she leaves no stone unturned to ensure that her daughters are well cared for. “I go to the market to buy vegetables and groceries. I order the right food for them. I am busy as a housewife,” said the mother of two. Her daughters Jahnavi and Khushi bask in Sridevi’s unconditional love and the actress too has some dreams for her children. With a huge grin on her face, she said, “My secret dreams for them are that they have to get married and settle well.  I want to see my grandchildren.”

Besides taking care of her family, Sridevi loves to paint.  She wields the brush like a pro and her artworks were recently auctioned. “I started painting when I was about eight or nine. I never took it seriously. But now I realize that it is one of my main hobbies and it makes me really happy. Painting is soothing for my mind,” she said.

When she isn’t too busy, she unwinds by watching Tamil comedies in TV. In addition to being a versatile actress, Sridevi is known to have pulled off comedy roles too with conviction. “I love doing comic scenes. It is more difficult than doing a serious scene. Fortunately, I am told that comedy scenes work out well for me. My family says that I am funny off screen too,” she laughed.

Bitten by the travel bug, Sridevi often visits virgin destination across the world. But the actress is incredibly loyal to her hometown. “Although I travel a lot, my favourite place is still Chennai. I was born and brought up here and my roots are here. I really enjoy myself in Chennai,” said Sridevi.

Considered one of the artistes, who has defied age, Sridevi avers  “I am very health conscious. I lead a systematic life. I don’t have junk food, at all. No pain, no gain. So I willingly go that extra mile.” When she is reckoned as one of the most beautiful actors of all time, what is ‘beauty’ in her opinion? “Beauty is certainly just not about how one looks outside. A person has to be good from within. One’s heart should be pure for the beauty to reflect in the face,” she quipped and switched to her mother tongue, “solluvaangalla, agathin azhagu mugathil theriyum!” (They say, “ Face is the index of mind”)

Almost every young actress looks up to Sridevi, whereas  she drew her  inspiration  from legendary actors like Sivaji Ganesan, MGR, Savithri and Bhanumathi. “I have a huge list. When I was a child, I used to watch them act. They made a great impact and I have admired them  a great deal. When you watch them quite often, their acting naturally stays in your mind and heart,” she said.

The actress catches up with Tamil films regularly. Is she particularly impressed with any actor from the young crop? Who else can rule the ultimate position that Sridevi managed with finesse? “Everybody has an individual identity. I have observed  the young stars a lot and I see that they are incredibly talented, dedicated and hardworking. They are making their own identities. But, nobody will become ‘The Next Sridevi',” she concluded.

The interview was originally published in Deccan Chronicle dated February 24, 2014.