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Subhash K. Jha list his 10 favourite films of Sridevi on the occasion of her 50th birthday today…
Jaag Utha Insaan (1983) : Though it was Himmatwala that launched her into stardom in Bollywood it was this unsuccessful nugget of a film produced by Rakesh Roshan and directed by the inimitable K. Vishwanath where Sridevi shone as a temple dancer wooed by a Brahmin boy Rakesh Roshan and a socio-economically challenged underdog Mithun Chakraborty. Sri danced and emoted as though there was no tomorrow. And as long as she did, we didn’t care if there wasn’t a tomorrow.
Sadma (1983) : The true coming of age of one of India’s finest actresses. As a girl who after an accident regresses into childhood, Sridevi conveyed all the nuances of her character’s predicament without getting over-cute. The performance is so accomplished and complete that it never ceases to astonish. Sri’s formidable co-star Kamal Haasan thinks she did the character even better in the Tamil original Moondram Pirai. We could say the same about him.
Nagina (1985) : An awful film. But what an impact! Sridevi as a snake-woman slithering on the floor dancing to Amrish Puri’s ‘been’ music as Lata Mangeshkar sang the chartbuster ‘Main Teri Dushman Dushman Tu Mera‘. Does anyone remember anything else about this hideous Harmesh Malhotra creation?
Jaanbaaz (1986) : It is strange how Sridevi’s legendary reputation is built on songs and dances as much as her breathtaking performances. In Feroz Khan‘s Jaanbaaz, she had a brief role as Feroz’s beloved. But her presence in the glowing orange chiffon sari dancing to the sound of ‘Har Kisiki Nahin Milta‘, lingers.
Mr. India (1987) : A turning-point in Sri’s everlasting romance with the camera. Playing the perky Ms Journalist who hates kids Sri was just amazing. Shekhar Kapoor made her do everything we always wanted her to. If Sri’s comic timing in the Charlie Chaplin impersonation sequence was impeccable, she oozed sensuality in that iconic blue chiffon saree in the song ‘Kaate Nahin Kat Te‘.
Chandni (1989) : With this film Sridevi became what she was born to be. A Yash Chopra heroine. Thinned down to a chiseled charmer, and sharpening her subtle emotive skills, Sri delivered a knock-out performance which straightway propelled her to the no.1 position. The film was an extended show-reel of her talent as she danced, sang, giggled and wept for the love of a tragically wheelchair-bound Rishi Kapoor. Seldom has any Yash Chopra heroine made such sumptuous use of the camera space.
Chaalbaaz (1989) : The same year as Chandni, Sri wowed movie buffs with her double role as the docile Anju and the tomboyish Manju. Though Dilip Kumar and Hema Malini had done the same double-role before Sri brought an added zest to the role. Pankaj Parasher let the actress have all the fun that she wanted.
Lamhe (1991) : Sridevi, as we all know, is addictive. After Chandni, Yash Chopra needed to work with her again. He brought her back to the screen in this bold love story of a girl who dares to love a man old enough to be her father. Sri played both the mother and the daughter with such distinctive flair that we wondered, could the same actress do so many different spectrums of emotion in the same film?
Army (1996) : In this, the only film that brought Sridevi face to face with Shah Rukh Khan, there is a sequence where Shah Rukh playing an army jawaan is brought home dead. All through the film, Shah Rukh plays I-am-dead pranks on Sri, so she presumes this is also one of those sick jokes. The way she goes from giggling dismissal to shock and finally a breakdown in that sequence is a textbook of pitch-perfect acting. Sri played a gender-reversed Sanjeev Kumar role in Sholay of a woman who hires mercenaries to avenge the villain Danny Denzonga. As it often happened Sri was far superior to the material offered to her.
Judaai (1996) : Her last hurrah before she bowed out to play wife and mother Judaai is a melodrama directed by the late Raj Kanwar. It features Sridevi at her absolute best. The way she lifts some mundane scenes has to be seen to be believed.
English Vinglish (2012): Her comeback film. It proved once again there will never be another Sridevi.