It was a rainy Sunday evening in July, July 2 to be precise, last year when I got the fortune of meeting Sridevi at her royal residence at Green Acres, Lokhandwala, Mumbai. The actress was late and she apologized profusely for it. She also insisted that we have tea/coffee. Immediately, the image of the coy and not-so-articulate diva was broken. The actress then spoke at length about her then upcoming flick Mom, added some witty one-liners, and there was no attempt made by her to shorten the answer. Instead, she tried her best to speak at length. She was in her no-makeup-look and the PRs had warned us not to ask for pictures with her as she might have reservations. But to everyone’s surprise, she happily posed with us for snaps. She made everyone’s day, in short!
A few days later, the world saw her final film Mom wherein she once again delivered a towering performance. I too was quite impressed with her act and felt thankful for getting a chance to meet her. Mom had come 5 years after her previous film English Vinglish and it was expected that her next flick would not come anytime soon. I was however happy to wait and was already planning to interview her again maybe in 2020 or 2021.
Obviously, that’s not going to happen now. Last Sunday, the world woke up to the shocking news that Sridevi is no more. It was like a bolt from the blue. Who expected her to go away so soon? The delay in bringing back her mortal remains heightened the anticipation. It became evident that her final journey and funeral would be like a never-before-seen spectacle. After all, she ruled our hearts since almost 4-5 decades. She was the favourite of every generation.
The PR team handling the final journey of Sridevi announced yesterday that the general public along with the media would be given an opportunity to pay their last respects to the legendary actress. As far as I know, this is a first where not just aam junta, but even media persons would get a chance to do so. Usually, the latter are supposed to stand by the side and capture the visuals of the funeral procession or the celebrities walking inside the apartment where the mortal remains lay.
But in case of Sridevi, the norms were just not followed. A sprawling venue called Celebration Sports Club was booked and it was thrown open for everyone. As expected, long queues were formed in the morning itself. I, being from the media, got a chance to directly walk into the gate and stood at the temporary media pavilion. I was eager to go inside the club building where Sridevi was laid. But the PR team asked me and others to wait. I patiently did for almost 3 hours. Finally, we were allowed to go inside, in a batch of 10. I managed to make it inside in the second batch. We were in close proximity with prominent celebrities like Shahid Kapoor, Rekha, Raveena Tandon etc. But this was no time to get starry eyed. I walked inside the building which took us to a large hall. It was air conditioned and some devotional song was playing at a soft volume. The aam junta got a chance to pay their respects from a distance. I was fortunate to be there up close. Sridevi was lying in a glass casket and was wrapped in a red saree. She was lifeless but she seemed at peace. The shine that was always there on her face had still not gone away. I got in a different zone in those 30 seconds as I picked up the flowers kept at the entrance, put it near her feet, folded my hands and had to make a quick exit.
I doubt if I can ever forget this day ever. How many times do we get a chance to have such an experience after our favourite stars leave for heavenly abode? And not just this, even for the camera team and other people of the media, the arrangements were very nice. A pavilion was made with raised platforms so that the cameramen can get a clear view. We were given snacks and water. A big thank you to the organizers and the Kapoor family for managing this so smoothly and for giving us and the common man the chance to say their last goodbye to the actress who entertained us and made our lives better!