Sridevi was the ruling queen of Bollywood during the 1980s and 1990s along with Madhuri Dixit. Fans were divided regarding the superiority of the acting and dancing skills of the two successful actresses. Sridevi was equally skillful at her dancing moves as she was with her acting performances. There soon came a time when a film’s success rested on her slim and capable shoulders. Sridevi was one of the few actresses who refused to act opposite the then reigning superstar Amitabh Bachchan if she did not get an equally powerful role. She was unafraid to experiment with hair styles, styling as well as color of her eyes to portray her characters much before it became fashionable to do so.
The 1980s as well as the 90s were full of South Indian remakes that Hindi audiences lapped up happily. Most of these movies were social dramas; tear jerkers that kept the female movie goers happy and their voluptuous heroines pleased everyone.
In 1983, Sridevi acted in the Hindi remake of one her own successful Tamil films Moondram Pirai; the film was Sadma and was directed by Balu Mahendra. The story was a touchingly told tale of a girl who regresses to a child-like state due to an accident and her subsequent relationship with a teacher brilliantly played by Kamal Haasan. Sridevi’s acting was equally brilliant and convincing in this movie, which had some great music by the master music composer Ilayaraja.
The K. Raghavendra Rao directed film Tohfa that was released in 1984, was a typical South Indian film remake that became popular in the 1980s. Sridevi starred in this film with two more South staples, Jeetendra and Jaya Pradha. This melodramatic film was about two sisters and their love for the same man. The film was replete with sacrifices of love as well as child for the other sister. Sridevi and Jaya Pradha played their self sacrificing roles to great success at the box office along with some dance moves that are symbolic of those times.
Sridevi experimented successfully with the paranormal genre too, in the 1986 Harmesh Malhotra directed film, Nagina which starred Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor in the lead role. Sridevi played the title role of a woman who is actually a snake capable of shape shifting. This revenge saga of a snake was a big hit at the box office.
1987 saw the release of Shekhar Kapur’s Mr.India, which starred Anil Kapoor, Amrish Puri, along with Sridevi. This box office success was a high tech film, which had the lead actor invisible most of the time! Sridevi played her role of a journalist with great comic timing and her dance in the rain is still considered as one of the most erotic songs in Bollywood.
Yash Chopra films are often a subtle revelation of the top star of that time and his 1989 directed film Chandni is no exception. It had Sridevi in the main lead role as the film’s protagonist, with the men playing more secondary supporting parts. The film starred Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor,Juhi Chawla, Waheeda Rehman and Sridevi. Sridevi looked beautiful in this film and she even sang a song for the film. Her outfits in the film became a rage all over and so did the songs and dances.
In 1989, the sequel to the super successful film Nagina was released; this film Nigaahen (Nagina-II) had Sunny Deol and Sridevi as the lead pair and was directed by Harmesh Malhotra.
Sridevi finally received the prestigious Filmfare Best Actress Award for the 1989 superhit film Chaalbaaz that was directed by Pankaj Parashar and had Sridevi, Rajnikant and Sunny Deol in the cast. This remake of an earlier popular Hindi film Seeta aur Geeta was Sridevi’s film all the way through. She got a great opportunity to show an array of actions and parts; she did comedy, action, dance, even while playing twin roles of a docile sister as well as her fiery twin.
In 1991, the Yash Chopra directed film Lamhe was released. This film while not doing too well commercially at home is now considered as one of her more mature performances. The film had Sridevi, and Anil Kapoor as the main lead pair. Sridevi played the double role of a mother as well as her daughter. Her performances fetched her her second Filmfare Best Actress Award. Unfortunately, the movie was ahead of its times and Indian audiences couldn’t relate to the story of a girl falling in love with a man who had had a crush on her mother.
In 1992, the lavishly mounted film Khuda Gawah was released with Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi and Danny Denzongpa as its cast. This film was directed by Mukul Anand and shot beautifully in war-torn Afghanistan as well as Nepal and Bhutan. The film is present in the Indian ‘Limca Book of Records’ as the first Bollywood film to use surround sound technique. Sridevi had a double role in this movie too and got a chance to play an Afghan girl as well as a modern woman.
In 1993, Sridevi was a part of Mahesh Bhatt’s film Gumraah that also starred Sanjay Dutt, and Rahul Roy. The film was a remake of an Australian mini-series ‘Bangkok Hilton’. This action-crime thriller where Sridevi plays the helpless damsel in a foreign country, was a big success everywhere.
In 1994, after the mysterious death of actress Divya Bharati, Sridevi was roped in to play the role of a bitchy career woman in the Raj Kanwar directed film, Laadla. The film also had Anil Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Farida Jalal, Anupam Kher, and Aruna Irani. This modern retelling of an old story was a success at the box office.
The 1997 film Judaai was directed by Raj Kanwar and had Sridevi, , Anil Kapoor, and, Urmila Matondkar, playing the lead roles. The film told the improbable tale of a greedy woman who sells her husband to another woman to get the wherewithal for becoming a society woman. Despite the implausibility of the story, the film was a big hit.
Now, with Sridevi coming back to films after some time off for looking after her two daughters, we expect to see many more exciting movies from this lovely lady.