KOCHI: debut. The track that featured five-year-old Sridevi in six avatars, playing different musical instruments, became hugely popular. The superhit movie announced the arrival of Baby Sridevi, as she was called then, with a talent beyond her years.
Sridevi soon turned a busy child actor in Tamil, but it was in 1971 with Poompatta that she made a remarkable comeback to Malayalam. As Sarada, an orphan girl who wishes to pursue her school education, Sridevi carried the movie on her little shoulders with ease only a few veteran had managed until then. The memorable role won her the Kerala State Award for Best Child Actor.
SRIDEVI turned a leading lady in N Sankaran Nair’s Thulavarsham (1976) and I V Sasi’s Aalinganam (1976). Raghavan, her co-actor in Aalinganam, remembers Sridevi being the youngest co-star he ever had. “Sridevi was barely 12 or 13 when she played the lead in Aalinganam,” recalls Raghavan. “I remember her being a chirpy and smart girl. She knew well how to face the camera and would give the best shot. Though she was relatively very young compared to us, she was more experienced and this showed in her work.” Ironically, at the same time, she was playing a child artiste in Hindi movie Julie, which marked her Bollywood debut. Of the 26 movies that Sridevi acted in Malayalam, most were with director I V Sasi, including Abhinandanam (1976), Anthardaaham (1977) and Oonjal (1977).
During that time, she was paired with M G Soman, Vincent, Madhu and Prem Nazir and most of her characters were similar, that of a coy village belle. However, all this happened much before her heydays in Bollywood. Sridevi’s last Malayalam movie was Devaragam (1996), in which she was paired with Arvind Swamy. Despite soulful music and Bharathan’s direction, the movie didn’t exactly set the cash registers ringing. Theirs was a magical pairing that lit up the screens. Already a hit jodi in Tamil, it was only a matter of time before the duo came together for a Malayalam movie.
They were first seen together in M Masthan’s Kuttavum Sikshayum (1976), a remake of the Tamil movie Pennai Nambungal (1973). However, it was a box-office dud. Sridevi paired up with Kamal again for Satyavan Savithri (1977), where she played the devout wife. The movie, which had some great songs by Sreekumaran Thampi-Devarajan duo, also featured a great dance sequence of Sridevi. Then Nirakudam (1977), Ashirvadam (1977) and Aadyapdam (1977) happened.
The Sridevi- Kamal jodi was last seen in Malayalam in Premabhishekam (1982), a remake of a Telugu hit movie, the songs of which became very popular. However, critic C S Venkiteswaran says unlike in Tamil, the pairing didn’t recreate the fireworks in Malayalam. “One reason was that the themes that worked in Tamil didn’t really work in Malayalam,” says Venkiteswaran. “Our movies then were mostly socially realistic and about tragic romantic heroes. Somehow, their pairing didn’t work wonders in Malayalam.”