I'll always remember her as Mayil: Bharathirajaa
The director-actor expresses his grief on the shocking demise of veteran actor Sridevi
"When I was told that Sridevi is no more, I couldn't believe it. I asked the person who told me the news if he was sure. I asked and asked again. I went numb and didn't know how to react. I was shocked. I don't understand how she can have left so early.
I met Mayil around 1977 when she was barely into her teens. To others, she may have been Sridevi, but to me, she'll always be Mayil. Chinna ponnu, paavada thaavani-oda... that image of her will forever be etched in my mind. I instantly recognised she was beautiful, both inside and out. She was a remarkable person, on and off screen.
She didn't have a proper educational background, but gradually, her English-speaking skills became better and eventually, she sounded a lot like a Bollywood actor. Despite not knowing Hindi, she stepped into Hindi cinema, learned the language, and did so many successful films.
Even when she was so young, I noticed how she would easily grasp the dialogues and scenes. She had a knack for adapting her performance based on who her co-actors were. I knew even then that she would go on to become a superstar. She displayed her acting skills with no fear, despite starring opposite stalwarts like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. She had no fear.
The first day I met her on the sets of 16 Vayathinile, she requested, "Sir, konjam make-up pottukaren." I insisted that she not. I wanted her to look natural. Eppovume medhuva dhaan pesuva. (Smiles) By the time she wrapped up the shoot of the film, she felt emotional and cried. She had some really fond memories of shooting for the film. I was caring because I really liked her. I treated her on the sets, like I would my daughter.
It was I who introduced her to Hindi cinema with Solva Sawan, a remake of 16 Vayathinile. Initially, she was quite apprehensive about doing Hindi films. She was very sceptical about her chances. I gave her the confidence. Slowly, she shifted her base to Mumbai.
In one of her later interviews, I heard her say that she learned the art of cinema from me. Though there have been many actors from the South like Vyjayanthimala Bali, Hema Malini, Padmini and Rekha who've ventured into Bollywood, it is my belief that none of them are a match for Sridevi.
A year after we worked together, I got to direct her again in Sigappu Rojakkal. By then she had already become an established actor, but nothing in her had changed. She was still a hard working, patient and warm person.
Paaka thaan grand-a dress pannippaa, but not too many know that she's a simple person at heart. I remember visiting her ailing mother in New York. She was taking care of her in a single bedroom apartment. That was 20 years ago, when she wasn't married to Boney ji.
She left her stamp on every role she portrayed. I have one small regret. I wish she had done more films in Tamil. Many people watched her films for her. She has passed away too young, but I'd say she's achieved more than what most successful people do over a ripe long life.
(Sridevi suffered a cardiac arrrest and breathed her last on February 24 night in Dubai. Her funeral will take place in Mumbai today.)