Repertoire of Sridevi Kapoor’s Greatest Performances
Newspaper Avenue Mail
Date: 13th August 2021
Sridevi Kapoor was the greatest Indian actress who strode like a colossal when she ruled the Tamil, Hindi, and Telugu film industries concurrently, a feat which has been unachieved by any actor or actress in Indian cinema. On her 58th birth anniversary, here is a list of her greatest acts over the decades, a shortlist from her exceptional filmography of 300 films in 5 languages over 5 decades.
Film: Thunaivan (1969)
One of the earliest films of Sridevi, Thunaivan is a mythological film that depicts the eminence of Lord Murugan through his divine miracles. Sridevi plays the child version of Lord Murugan who comes to a rescue of a distressed couple whose child is unwell since birth. A six-year-old Sridevi makes a short appearance as the divine Lord to revive the sick child speaking innocent dialogues given to her. At that tender age, she commanded the climax of the film. Sridevi was exceptional from the very beginning.
Film: Maa Nana Nirdoshi (1970)
Playing a child detective, Sridevi teams up with another child actor to play her earliest role in Telugu cinema. A murder mystery is unraveled by Sridevi who becomes a baby Sherlock Holmes to find the killer and rescue an innocent victim.
Film: Poompatta (1971)
Genre: Social Drama
Sridevi won her first state award from the Kerala Government for her outstanding performance in the Malayalam film Poompatta. Sridevi plays Sarada who undertakes hardships as an orphan after her mother’s sudden demise. The scene in which Sridevi begs for the attention of her mother at her grave is a glimpse of her exceptional talent at that young age.
Film: Babu (1972)
Genre: Social Drama
Acting opposite Tamil matinee idol Shivaji Ganesan, Sridevi presents two sides of the coin as a rich and poor girl. When life takes a sudden turn and her affluent family encounters abject poverty, Sridevi enacts each end of the spectrum with aplomb.
Film: Yashoda Krishna (1975)
Sridevi’s last film as a child artist before she became the numero uno actress was her portrayal as child Lord Krishna. At the cusp of teenage, Sridevi as Lord Krishna triumphs good over evil as she clashes with the tyrant ruler and uncle Kansa in a powerful climax.
Film: Moondru Mudichu (1976)
One of her earliest films as a heroine, Sridevi is an absolute marvel in the film acting opposite Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth. At the threshold of teenage, Sridevi’s performance as college girl Selvi who takes sweet revenge (of aiding the death of her love interest Kamal Hassan) on Rajinikanth by marrying his widowed aged father thereby becoming his stepmother! Films like these honed her skills and talents in Tamil cinema.
Film: 16 Vayathinile (1977)
Garnering commercial success in Tamil and later Telugu (Padaharella Vayasu), Sridevi is a heart and soul as Mayil in this film and presents the triumphs and tribulations of a 16-year-old girl who undergoes puberty, crush, love, betrayal, and adoption to the varied situations that she faces. She was only 14 years when she played a character titled 16 years old.
Film: Vetagadu (1979)
Genre: Action Thriller
A gigantic success in Telugu cinema, this was the first test of Sridevi to establish herself as a commercial heroine and strike chemistry with senior actors like N.T. Rama Rao. Not only did she shine in the film, but also carved her own path while working with senior actors in Tamil and Telugu cinema. Sridevi was famous for molding her partnership and customizing her appearance with each actor opposite her.
Film: Karthika Deepam (1979)
Playing the role of a pregnant woman, Sridevi etched her name in the annals of Telugu cinema in her portrayal as Radha. Acting opposite stalwarts like Shobhan Babu and Sharda, she stood her cinematic ground and gave a towering performance as a woman whose husband was already married. Torn between right and wrong, Radha’s fate hangs in equilibrium.
Film: Premabhishekam (1981)
Acting as a child artist with Telugu icon, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Sridevi now becomes his heroine a decade later in this romantic drama film. With shades inspired from the novel Devdas, Sridevi embodies the role of Parvati from the novel in her character as Devi who is unaware of her fiancée's illness and is too late by the time, she discovers the truth.
Film: Moondram Pirai (1982)
Etched forever in the minds of the Tamil audience, Moondram Pirai was the original version of the more famous Sadma (1983). Sridevi's portrayal as a 6-year-old amnesiac became the reference point in Indian cinema for any actor or actress playing differently-abled roles. Sridevi and Kamal Hassan deliver the gold standard in Tamil cinema. As a woman is rescued as a mentally ill patient by a school teacher and she becomes the world for him until her memory returns. Littered with sensitive moments, Moondram Pirai is a heartbreaker with its magnificent climax.
Film: Devatha (1982)
Playing the titular role, Sridevi becomes a Devata for the Telugu audience with the stupendous success of the film. The original version of Tohfa (1984), Devatha is a love triangle in which Lalitha, played by Sridevi has to sacrifice her love interest for her elder sister who is in love with the same man. Lalitha marries a ruffian and lives a life of anonymity until life takes another turn.
Film: Jaag Utha Insaan (1984)
Genre: Social Drama
Playing a rural girl from the upper caste who falls in love with a village Dalit, Sridevi changed gears to work in socially relevant films concurrently churning blockbuster commercial potboilers. Sacrificing her love, she marries a village priest who views her as a goddess rather than his wife!
Film: Nagina (1986)
Sridevi performs a bravura act as a shape-shifting snake in this film and extended her cinematic kingdom to the far reaches of North India with her popularity. Nagina remains the greatest snake film of all time in Indian cinema, even after decades no actress has been able to hold a candle to her performance.
Film: Mr. India (1987)
One of Sridevi’s greatest acts in Hindi was her role as a crime reporter Seema in Mr. India. Seema dives into the villain’s den to extract her due playing ‘Charlie Chaplin’ and a ‘Hawa Hawai’ in one of the best children’s films in Indian cinema. Her seductive act in ‘I Love You’ song is one of the most elegant songs in celluloid history. Sridevi was the heart and soul of the film.
Film: Aakhari Poratam (1988)
Playing a CBI officer, Sridevi is tasked to unravel the crime kingdom of the villain. She teams up with newcomer Telugu actor Nagarjuna as they navigate through a superlative script to save the country from evil manifestations. She sacrifices her life at the end after exposing and killing the notorious criminal.
Film: Chandni (1989)
Yash Chopra cast her as the ethereal Chandni who is a girl from a small town and falls in love with a boy from an affluent family in Delhi. Fate intervenes and their engagement breaks following an accident in which the injured hero abandons her with a noble intention to push her to move on in life. Sridevi singularly charms the country with her performance as Chandni who has to choose between two lovers.
Film: Chaalbaaz (1989)
Watching a twin sister saga was never that fun, till Sridevi played Anju Manju in Chaalbaaz. She redefined the lost and found genre in Hindi cinema with an act that has not been replicated by another actress to date. The docile Anju and the feisty Manju continue to charm viewers in this rib-tickling comedy.
Film: Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990)
Sridevi personifies the splendor of an angel who lands to the earth from heaven in this socio-fantasy film in search of a lost ring which is her passport to heaven. Looking every inch, a celestial being, Sridevi magnified her screen presence with her shimmering beauty and exceptional talent to make a fantasy look believable.
Film: Lamhe (1991)
A classic love story set in Rajasthan and England sets Pooja and Pallavi to present themselves as two women characters decades apart involved in different relationships with the same man. Yash Chopra’s most personal favorite film is a cult film that redefined the barriers and boundaries of love. Sridevi in a double role serves an incredible performance with astonishing class.
Film: Khuda Gawah (1992)
The frame of Sridevi and Amitabh Bachchan coming together for a magnum opus could not get bigger. Set in Afghanistan, Sridevi plays Benazir who awaits a lifetime for a husband to return from India, and also plays her daughter Mehendi who travels to India to find her lost father and helps to unite her parents.
Film: Gumrah (1993)
Locked up in a prison in Hong Kong for alleged drug trafficking, Sridevi plays a terrific role as Roshni in this Mahesh Bhatt directorial. Aided by her admirer and her lost father, Roshni struggles with injustice and the lioness fights back to bring the preparator to justice.
Film: English Vinglish (2012)
Genre: Social Drama
A towering act showcased at a global stage, Sridevi in English Vinglish is pure genius. Her performance as Shashi made the film a masterpiece. Struggling with her knowledge of English and mocked by her family, Shashi secretly learns English in a crash course in New York much to the shock and surprise of her rude daughter and insensitive husband.
Film: Mom (2017)
An incredible performance which finally won her the National Award for Best Actress, Sridevi in her last film, plays a mother who avenges her daughter’s gang rape by unleashing her rage on the five culprits by killing them one by one with the help of a spy.