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Sridevi to others, but to me she’ll always be Mayil: Director Bharatiraja

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.

Published: 26th February 2018 02:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th February 2018 05:41 AM   |  A+A-

Sridevi. (File | AFP)

Express News Service

P Bharathiraja

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 could 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... (Small girl with ghagra and half sari) 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 Bollywood, lea­r­n­ed th­e language, and did 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.” (Sir, I’ll put on a bit of make-up.) I insisted that she not. I wanted her to look natural. Eppovume medhuva dhaan pesuva. (Was always soft-spoken) 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 interviews, she said she le­arnt 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 is 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 hard working, patient and warm.Paaka thaan grand-a dress pannippaa (She may appear to have dressed up extravagantly), but not too many know that she was 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 Tamil films. 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.

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