The many facets of Sridevi
The actor leaves behind a formidable body of work, out of which we list our favourites in Tamil.
A talented actor who knocked a wide variety of roles out of the park, Sridevi was nothing short of a phenomenon in the 80s and 90s. In an impressive career spanning five decades, and almost 300 films, the actor ruled the commercial cinema space with her unmatched sensuality and acting prowess. At a time when the industry was dominated by male superstars, her mere presence proved to be a minimum guarantee for many a film's success, making her in many ways Indian cinema's first female superstar. The actor leaves behind a formidable body of work, out of which we list our favourites in Tamil.
1. The KB heroine
Film: Moondru Mudichu
As a woman caught between two friends – one who believes that his wealth would do the trick and the other who loves her sincerely, Sridevi proves her mettle as the quintessential KB female lead in Moondru Mudichi. Featuring alongside heavyweights like Rajinikanth and Kamalahaasan, the talented actor managed to hold on to her own, in her debut, no less, giving a scorcher of a performance in the climax that is widely considered to be one of her best.
2. The village belle
Film: 16 Vayadhinile
Playing a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl from interior Tamil Nadu, who hopes to become a teacher and marry a sophisticated, educated man some day, Sridevi showcased yet another facet of her acting abilities in Bharathiraja's social drama 16 Vayadhinile. She portrayed the strengths and vulnerabilities of Mayil with such spontaneity and exuberance that it’s almost impossible to ignore her screen presence.
3. The celebrity singer
In a challenging role that required her to mimic the body language of a stage performer, Sridevi is simply terrific, be it her handling of the concerts or her moments of restrained romance. Walking the thin line between maintaining her distance and dignity and opening up on her long-bridled emotions, she aces the brilliantly written proposal sequence with Rajinikanth, with the ease of a veteran.
4. The small-time stage actor
Film: Varumaiyin Niram Sirappu
Sridevi proved her acting capabilities yet again in K Balachander's Varumaiyin Niram Sirappu, breathing fresh air into the often-hackneyed role of the protagonist's girlfriend. With her unique expressions and dialogue delivery, she managed to liven the proceedings in an otherwise dark film. Her chemistry with Kamal Haasan in the song "Sippi Irukudhu" is one for the ages.
5. The madisaar-clad maami
Film: Meendum Kokila
Mouthing the iconic lines ‘Aennaa sollungnaa’ in a stylised Tambrahm slang, Sridevi literally shouldered the plot, and walked away with all the laurels in the 1981 dramedy, Meendum Kokila. Her character of Kokila was proof of the things a talented artiste could do in a comedy, even if the central conflict is not entirely new. Teaming up with another master of the genre, Kamal Hassan, the actor keeps us in splits in many a sequence.
6. The movie-star
In this film by SP Muthuraman, Sridevi played an established actor, complete with all oomph and style. Portraying the titular character for the second time after Meendum Kokila, she was a complete natural as a star caught between her exploitative producer and the love of her life. Who can forget a sultry Sridevi taking the giant slide to the pool in "Darling Darling!"
7. The child-like amnesiac
Film: Moondram Pirai
Sridevi's magnum opus. Portraying a young woman with complete retrograde amnesia, who reverts to a childlike state, without coming across as obnoxious or affected, is no mean task. It was essentially a tight-rope walk, since one wrong step could have made the character seem annoyingly artificial. But, the actor hits it out of the park portraying Viji in her own signature style, proving that there was no character she couldn’t fit into.
8. The gypsy and the heiress
Film: Adutha Varisu
This SP Muthuraman film made way for the next logical step in the star's career - a double role. Sridevi appeared in two different avatars in Adutha Varisu, a nomad named Valli who is trained by the male lead to impersonate the lost heiress to the throne, Rani Amma Rajalakshmi. Acing the two conflicting demeanours, she almost steals the thunder from Rajinikanth in many a sequence.
9. The iron-willed homemaker
Film: English Vinglish
As a naive housewife, who is not so fluent in English, Sridevi is simply terrific in this comeback film after nearly 15 years. Delivering a superbly understated performance, which leaves you all warm and fuzzy, the actor demonstrates why it'll be hard, if not impossible, to find anyone who can take her place in the years to come. The film earned global acclaim at several international festivals and earned Sridevi the moniker "Meryl Streep of India."
Films: Thunaivan, Kumara Sambhavam, Aadiparasakthi
Not only did she ace all the varied roles mentioned so far, but as a sign of things to come, Sridevi began her career by playing a god! She debuted at the age of four in 1967 with the Tamil film, Thunaivan, in which she played Lord Muruga. Her subsequent portrayals of the deity in Kumara Sambhavam and Aadiparasakthi heralded the arrival of a great talent, one who will be sorely missed.