My journey to the real Sridevi from being just an obsessively die-hard fan of hers started when I was preparing for my debut film Shiva. I used to walk from Nagarjuna’s office in Chennai to a neighboring street where Sridevi used to live and I used to just stand and watch Sridevi’s house from outside her gate. I just couldn’t believe that the goddess of beauty lived in that stupid looking house. I say stupid because I believed that no manmade house deserves to house that beauty called SRIDEVI.
And then after Shiva became a big hit, to my utter disbelief a producer took me to meet her at that very same house where I used to stand outside the gate. It was at night and as luck would have it, there was a power cut in her house. I was sitting in her living room in candlelight waiting for the angel to appear and my heart was thumping like mad. Her mother told us she was busy packing, as she was about to catch a flight to go to Mumbai.
As I waited, every once in a while Sridevi was rapidly crossing the living room as she was moving from one room to another room in a rush to finish her packing, even as she apologetically smiled at me for the delay. Finally she came and said a matter-of-fact few lines that she would very much like to work with me, and then she left for Mumbai.
I wrote Kshana Kshanam, my Telugu film, as a love letter written to her by me with my camera. In the making of the film, I started discovering her as a person and I realised that she has an invisible wall around her and she does not let anyone cross that. Also during the course of working with her I began to understand more and more as a director about the nuances of performances and characterizations. Also through her style I realised that cinematic acting is many times more complex than the so-called method acting.
Her popularity had to be seen to be believed. When we were shooting in a Nandyal, there used to be a crowd of more than 20,000 people the whole night around the bungalow where she was staying. The crowd just stared at it while she was sleeping in the morning. We used to know that she is coming to the location because of the huge column of dust coming towards us that was caused by the thousands of people running behind her car.
I finished Kshana Kshanam and in due course I have seen her going through a lot of personal tragedies like her father’s death and her mother’s mental illness. Suddenly the woman whose company everyone desired was left all alone in the world, till Boney Kapoor stepped into her life and married her. I was one of the few million men in the country who wanted to kill Boney out of sheer jealousy.
Straight from her super stardom and magazine covers, I saw her in Boney’s house, serving tea like an ordinary housewife. I hated Boney Kapoor for bringing that angel from heaven down to being just an ordinary housewife. I stopped going to their house because I couldn’t bear to see Sridevi in a realistic setting.
So what if Boney has the real Sri in his house? I have her captured in the form of a cinematic goddess in the temple of my mind camera and also as a divine angel in the heart of my celluloid dreams. I thank God for creating Sridevi and I thank Louis Lumiere for creating the movie camera to capture and contain her beauty forever. I thank Balki and Gauri for bringing her back in such a befitting and wonderful film.