As they crowdfund a tribute book, two of Sridevi's mega fans tell us how she helped them leave reality for a dream world
I was six years old. Nagina had just released. Our joint family of nine, plus a few neighbours, went to watch the 6 pm show. I was too young to have known who Sridevi was then, but after that movie, boy, did she get imprinted not just into my memory, but into my very existence, my system, my way of being," says Inderjit Nagi, creative and artistic consultant, who then recalls walking home through the lanes of Nasik, already behaving like the shape-shifting, blue-eyed 'Nagin' Sridevi played on screen. "In fact, the next day, I organised a little 'show' for the family. I made my brother and few cousins stand in a line, asking them to pretend like they were 'saperas' (snake charmers) and I danced on Main Teri Dushman, passing through their legs, hissing in-between like an angry snake and hitting them on their head to 'kill' them."
It's this crazy fandom and love for the actress that has prompted Nagi and partner, contemporary and graphic artist Syed Ali Arif, to publish a tribute coffee table book, With Love To Sridevi. The book, which is made up of posters and magazine cuttings that Arif had been collecting since he was younger, and odes in form of poetry, sketches or essays by other hard-core fans, is now seeking crowdfunding of Rs 2,00,000 on Wishberry. "This book is a work of love, so we are not even sure if we want to put a price to it, when it does get published. But the aim is to keep her memory alive. For example, when I was younger, I knew of Dilip Kumar because of my father's fascination for him. I want millenials to know how great she was. If we don't do it, who will?" says 40-year-old Arif.
Syed Ali Arif and Inderjit Nagi
If 35-year-old Nagi was introduced to Sridevi with Nagin, Arif caught the bug from his mother who was a huge fan, and would take along her son to the theatres every Friday. And so he watched Himmatwala, and Mawaali (both 1983). But like Nagi, he, too, got bit by the Nagin in 1986, and was then a fan for life. "I think from Sadma to English Vinglish, she knew the pulse of the audience. Also, she became the character! She knew how to adapt, which is something I learnt from her. She also taught me to be aware and live my life completely," says the Hyderabad boy, who walked the lonely streets of the city at 4 am in the night last year when he heard that his favourite actress had died. "It was as though I had lost a family member."
Nagi, who was raised in a Sikh family in Nasik, took inspiration from Sridevi's fearless avatar, effortless dancing, nuanced acting and expressions. "At 17, I danced on Morni Baga Ma Bole, dressed up entirely as a girl, ghaghra-choli-dupatta et al, at a youth event organised by the Nasik Chapter of Lion's Club International to honour young achievers. Only when I was invited on stage towards the end for a token of appreciation, did the audience see my real avatar, that of a Sikh/Sardar boy wearing a 'dastaar' on my head. The applause was thunderous, louder than the first time, which was just after my performance," he says, adding, "Her characters were always strong, they broke norms, pushed limits and brought in an 'unseen-unheard-before' quality with them."
The coffee table book, With Love To Sridevi
Her courage and determination to be unabashedly herself—whether she was dancing in a sexy sari or making the audience laugh as Charlie Chaplin in Mr India (1987), or beating the goons in Chalbaaz (1989)—is what Arif says also made her an icon for the LGBTQi community. "In the '90s, if you were gay, you had to like Sridevi," says Arif, explaining why when he adds, "I think we were inspired by her persona, and also because her feminine side was so prominent. She was demure yet strong, oh-so glamorous, sensual and such a great dancer. So she had a very strong impact on all of us." He also says that he wasn't ever interested in her personal life, like most 'real fans'. "What matters is what she was like on screen."
In the end, as Nagi says, the youth today needs to see Sridevi as a beacon—to give them the will to fight their daily battles, marching ahead in life against all odds and conquering obstacles. "She is/was not just Jahnvi and Khushi's mum, as some youngsters today seem to think. She was an iconic personality, an alluring diva and the Czarina of our film industries... Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and more. She was the universe, manifested as Sridevi, to entertain us. She needs to be remembered, respected and revered... always!"
You can donate towards their book on www.wishberry.in/campaign/with-love-to-sridevi
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