The multi-talented, super versatile, and one of the finest and first female superstars of Indian cinema, Sridevi turns 49 today and on this special occasion, the team at BizAsia had the impossible task of picking out five of her best films. Unfortunately, this proved to be extremely tough so we went for 10 of her best films instead!
Sridevi has been in the business for over forty years (she made her debut as a child artist in 1975), and her performances have almost always been pitch perfect irrespective of the outcome of the film.
So read on and find out which of her films made the cut (listed in order of release rather than ranking).
This classic was one of the first films that tapped Sridevi�۪s acting prowess, gaining her several nominations and firmly establishing her as an actress to watch out for. In the film, Sridevi plays the role of Nehalata ��� a young woman with amnesia who ends up in a brothel after a fatal car crash. She is rescued by a lonely professor Somu (Kamal Hassan) who ends up falling for her and she reciprocates, only to abandon him once she regains her memory. The film is till date, still regarded as one of her finest performances even if it was a bit somber in nature.
A remake of a Telugu film, this K. Raghavendra Rao directed feature starring Jeetendra in the lead was one of the biggest hits of its time and also firmly established a then struggling Sridevi as a bankable star. Given that it was the early 80s it was extremely loud and melodramatic, but it worked for both Jeetendra and Sridevi and they went on to star in films like ��Mawaali�۪ (1983), ‘Justice Chaudhary’ (1983) and ��Tohfa�۪ (1984) making them the SRK-Kajol of their time with a series of undisputed successes at the box office. Its chartbusting song ��Nainon Mein Sapna�۪ is still replayed in many newer films (specifically in ‘antakshari’ songs), and Sajid Khan has also bought the rights to re-use it for his ‘Himmatwala’ remake which hits the marquee next year.
‘Nagina’ started off a trend at the movies where women could shape shift into venomous snakes (with a disaster called ��Hisss�۪ (2010) starring a has been Malika Sherawat being the most recent example), but it was Sridevi�۪s ‘Nagina’ that still remains the best film of its genre. Her confrontations with Bhairo Nath (Amrish Puri) were impactful and dramatic, and her imitation of a snake was something that has never been witnessed since in Bollywood – not successfully anyway. Even though the story was a little far fetched, Sridevi once again lifted the film to new heights based on her talent alone. Interestingly, it was one of the few films of that time that was followed up with a sequel ��Nigahen�۪ (1989). Unfortunately, the follow up was unable to come close to the original and tanked at the box office.
‘Mr India’ (1987)
There was a running joke in the industry that ‘Mr India’ should have in fact been rechristened ��Ms India�۪ because it apparently worked on Sridevi and Amrish Puri’s clout alone relegating the film�۪s lead Anil Kapoor completely to the sidelines. It was a time that Sridevi made thunder thighs look cool in ��Hawa Hawai�۪ and the saree sexy. In ��Kaanten Nahi Kat Te�۪, Sridevi managed to raise oomph levels to the stratosphere without showing even an inch of cleavage or leg. Now that’s what you call a lethal combo of talent and star power.
Believe it or not, one of the most successful production houses in Bollywood, Yash Raj Films, partly owes its success to this Rishi Kapoor-Vinod Khanna-Sridevi starrer. ��Chandni�۪ came at a time when Kapoor�۪s career was on the decline, and Yash Chopra hadn�۪t had a commercial success in a while. The success of the film is almost entirely attributed to Sridevi�۪s livewire performance as Chandni – a woman torn between two men. Her costumes from the film are still a rage, and it is said that Chopra never quite got over his Sridevi hangover and almost always chose to present his lead heroines in similar outfits (Juhi Chawla in ��Darr�۪ (1993), Madhuri Dixit in ��Dil To Pagal Hai�۪ (1997)), but none of them became half as iconic as Sridevi did after ��Chandni�۪. The film was also responsible for making Switzerland a top tourist destination, and the film’s lilting melodies (particularly ��Mitwa�۪ and ��Mere Haathon Mein Nau Chudiya’) are played at weddings and festivals even today.
In ��Chaalbaaz�۪ Sridevi managed to do the unthinkable by reducing superstars Rajnikant and Sunny Deol to supporting extras. Her double turn as twin sisters Anju and Manju won her a Filmfare award adding yet another feather in her already overcrowded cap. The film was also one of the biggest successes of 1989 along with ‘Chandni’ making Sridevi the undisputed empress at the box office and the only female star who could carry a film on her slender shoulders. It was also around this time though, that her descent started when younger, fresher faces (Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla) entered the scene and started churning out hits, but Sridevi was lucky in that she still had filmmakers that had full faith in her capabilities.
Post the success of ��Chandni�۪, Yash Chopra repeated Sridevi in what remains undoubtedly one of his finest and most poignant films till date. The film crashed at the box office purely because its relatively bold theme was a bit too much for conservative Indian audiences to digest, but it still won Sridevi several awards and her dual turn as both mother/daughter Pallavi and Pooja, her graceful dances and a stunning Rajasthan as a backdrop will always make ‘Lamhe’ one of both Sridevi�۪s and Chopra�۪s topmost films.
‘Khuda Gawah’ (1992)
This lavishly mounted cross border romance brought together stalwarts Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi for together for the first time since ��Inquilaab�۪ (1984) and ��Aakhree Raasta�۪ (1986). Even though the Mukul Anand directed venture tanked at the box office, Sridevi�۪s double role as Benazir and daughter Mehndi won her hosanas from both critics and audiences alike. Her portrayals of the two characters were so diametrically different it was easy to be fooled into thinking that two separate actresses had played the parts. If it hadn�۪t been for its length, perhaps this film could have done wonders for both Bachchan and Sridevi who�۪s careers were fast on the decline at that point in time.
Sridevi replaced the late Divya Bharti in Raj Kanwar�۪s loud, regressive but thoroughly enjoyable love triangle in which both Anil Kapoor and Raveena Tandon were reduced to mere wallpaper by Sridevi�۪s towering performance as an arrogant industrialist. Her ��cetee’ inducing lines like ��Understand, you better understand�۪ and ��I hate number two�۪ had audiences clapping in the aisles and after a tepid start the film sailed through at the box office purely because of Sridevi’s bravura act.
��Judaai�۪ was one of Sridevi�۪s last films before she settled down with producer Boney Kapoor for marital bliss and motherhood. It was the remake of a Telugu film ��Subah Lagnam�۪ and projected Sridevi as a greedy, materialistic housewife who accepts an ��indecent proposal�۪ from a poor little rich girl Jhanvi (Urmila Matondkar) and trades in her husband Raj (Anil Kapoor), only to woefully regret it later. Matondkar�۪s role was a part that no actress was willing to touch purely due to the fear that it would pale in comparison to Sridevi�۪s. But with due credit Matondkar gave it her best shot even though she couldn’t quite match Sridevi’s histrionics. The film worked again purely because Sridevi gave a winning performance and still looked as fresh as ever despite her age.
So there we have it. The top films of of the most talented and versatile actresses that Indian cinema has ever seen. Whilst we keenly anticipate and gear up for her comeback venture ��English Vinglish’ which hits theatres this October, we would like to wish the amazing Sridevi Kapoor an extremely happy birthday. Here�۪s one lady without whom Indian cinema would have never been quite the same. Cheers!