BENGALURU: “This is the worst tragedy in my life, half my life has gone,’’ says Sundeep Malani (46) and breaks down crying. Sundeep returned to his house in Banaswadi from a film shoot on Saturday and woke up in the wee hours on Sunday to the shocking news of actress Sridevi’s death. “My relationship with Sridevi is like Meera and Krishna. I am her devotee Meera and she is my Lord Krishna,’’ he says while rushing to Kempegowda International Airport to board the next available flight to Mumbai and catch a last glimpse of Sridevi.
By his own account, Sundeep is a ‘die-hard and ardent fan’ of Sridevi. Born in Mumbai with roots in Mangaluru, writer and director Sundeep says it is because of Sridevi he is into movies. “I was eight years old when I first saw her on the big screen in the Tamil film ‘Kalyana Raman’ in Mangaluru in 1979. Since then, I have been collecting her pictures and watching all her films,” says Sundeep who has a collection of Sridevi’s 300 films.
In a film career spread over 27 years, Sundeep, under his banner Malani Talkies, had directed or co-directed six feature, short films and two documentaries. In the Kannada film, ‘Jo Jo Laali’, Sundeep had his heroine Kalpana Pandit do a ‘tandav’ in a costume similar to Sridevi’s costume in ‘Chandni’. Another Hindi film, ‘Janleva 555’, was dedicated to Sridevi. In his recent Hindi film, ‘Yeh Cinemaa Hai’, he got his wife to make facial expressions just like Sridevi.
Sundeep has also met the diva umpteen times since 2010. On Sridevi’s 50th birthday on August 13, 2014, Sundeep’s presents had moved her to tears. He had gifted a poster collage of her entire Hindi filmography and a rare photograph of her as a child with her parents Ayappan and Rajeshwari. “My family met her, had coffee and lunch with her,” he said as he waited to catch a flight from Kempegowda International Airport.
He was present at the premieres of ‘English Vinglish’ and ‘Mom’ and work for her production. “Boney Kapoor once said only two persons — myself and Rajeshwari (Sridevi’s mother) — had accurate knowledge about Sridevi and her films,” he said. “Not a single day has gone by without remembering her. “She will always remain my Chandni,” he said.
I produced two films Adutha Varisu (1983) and Naan Adimai Illai(1986). Both starred Rajinikanth and Sridevi. She came across as a sincere artiste. She was an actress who looked out for good roles and never accepted random characters. In Naan Adimai Illai — which was a remake of Kannada film — Nee Bareda Kadambari, she played the mother. It was not easy to approach Sridevi. Her call sheet was similar to that of a superstar. She was the only heroine, who had a good market Dwarakish, producer
As a child artiste, Sridevi worked with me in Bhaktha Kumbara. She should have lived longer at least for her children. While shooting, she once requested me to bless her, and I said ‘I hope you rise as a big actress’Leelavathi, actress
Malashree, actress (As told to The New Indian Express)
“My first meeting with Sridevi was as a child artiste in a Tamil film, Neela Malargal, in which she was paired opposite Kamal Haasan. I played a boy’s role. I was in Class 3. She used to take care of me, and we would play,” actress Malashree said. Long after that movie’s release, Malashree’s movies Nanjundi Kalyana and Prema Khaidi released in Kannada, Sridevi had called her to wish her. “I have never come across a legend like her,” she added.