I sacrificed many films, so I could be a good mother
... says actress Sridevi, whose film after four years, Mom, is gearing up for a wide release on July 7
Sridevi, who’s returning with Mom, after a four-year gap. opens up in this candid chat about her character, the film’s director, and what she is like as a mom:
Why did it take you such a long time to sign a film after English Vinglish?
I got busy with my daughters; they were growing up and needed me. I did English Vinglish when they were in school. R Balki and Gauri Shinde are Boney ji’s friends; so we planned the shoot to coincide with the school vacation of my daughters. And then, they left to America for their studies.
Boney ji asked me to listen to this story. We found the concept to be quite interesting and I, especially, liked it. I asked the writers to start working on the script and then narrate it to me. It took them about a year to develop it, and then they signed director Ravi Udyawar and we met again. So, in my head, it seems to me that I am coming back to films after two years; not after four.
As a mother yourself, it must have been easier to relate to your character in this film.
Playing this role was unnerving. Being a mother myself, it was quite disturbing to be in the situation of the protagonist. The quality I could most relate to is her strength--she gives her hundred per cent to everything she does.
Ravi and Manish Malhotra have worked on my look, and I have tried to put myself in the character’s shoes as much as possible. I simply followed Ravi’s vision.
Were your inputs as a mother useful for the story?
We were all together in it. I’d give inputs and suggestions whenever I felt like it. Jhanvi had suggested Adnan Siddiqui’s name for the role of the father. We were looking for someone who’d be fresh. She showed us his photos and we finalised him. Though we kept giving suggestions, Ravi was patient and listened to everyone. He is a smart filmmaker. He would hear out our inputs and then make his own decisions.
What was it like to work with him?
He is amazing. I can’t imagine anybody else directing this film. He is so involved in his work and made our work easier. This film is very dear to him as it is his first. But when you see it, you won’t believe it is his first. He is a rare combination of someone who knows modern technique and yet, is also well-versed in Indian cinema, with a wholesome understanding of its family values and sentiments. It has really come together well for this film.
You have also worked with two talented actors in Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna.
Nawaz is a great actor. His get-up was so good that on the first day of shoot, I didn’t even recognise him. I asked the director where he was as he was standing right next to me! He would spend four hours on his make-up and it was particularly hard on him. But he never complained, or left early.
As for Akshaye, he’s such a strong performer that when he is in the frame, it is impossible to notice the other actors.
In the period after English Vinglish, were you offered films that you had to turn down?
There were quite a few films. But other actors have now done those roles, and those films have now come out. So, I think it’s better not to talk about it. But I had quite a few reasons for not doing those films--mostly personal. My elder daughter was occupied with higher studies. There were many issues that she could’ve faced. As a mother, I wanted to be available for her during that period. Even if I liked a script, and wanted desperately to be part of it, I needed to sacrifice it to be a mother first.
Did it feel like a big decision?
My daughters are like my friends; they don’t really treat me like a mom. I don’t keep a check on them because I feel that there is then no trust in the relationship. I am lucky that they know what is right and what is wrong; they know their limits. Sometimes I’ll call them when they are out with friends, just to make sure they’re okay.
Does the general media glare on your daughters rankle you?
Yes, it does. Recently, she was very upset about some rumours, and confided in me. She was lying on her bed, sulking about it. I gently walked up to her and told her that the world isn’t an easy place. I told her, “Welcome to this world. Be ready for this if you have chosen this as a career.”