'When Sridevi was called the unwed mother'
Excerpts from Sridevi's biography, authorised by husband Boney Kapoor, reveal how she negotiated her way to become the only actress to bag a double role in a Big B film
The media now anointed her with another sobriquet. Female Bachchan. The label soon acquired a whole new meaning when Sridevi now decided to stop working with Amitabh. Filmfare showcased the actress on its November cover with the tag line—'Out of Reach?' In the same interview, Sridevi gave her reason why: 'I never said I won't work with Amit-ji. But then what's there for any artiste to do in a film starring him? He does everything himself.' But when producer Manoj Desai and director Mukul Anand conceived a magnum opus set in Afghanistan, it begged the magnificence of Sridevi. Bachchan himself was in a fix on how to get the actress onboard, when an opportunity presented itself.
Those days it was customary for filmmakers to invite the industry and media and share rushes of their upcoming ventures. Boney Kapoor and Satish Kaushik held such an event where they screened Sridevi's outstanding performance in the number Dushman Dil Ka from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. Amitabh, present at this preview, was mesmerized. The next day, Bachchan sent a truckload of roses for Sridevi. Headlines exploded about how the biggest actor had paid tribute to the biggest actress. Filmfare brought out a cover story with the tagline—'How Amitabh Wooed Sridevi'. While Sridevi agreed in principle to star in the film, she laid down the condition that she would play both the roles of Amitabh's wife and daughter. This was unprecedented! Never had any heroine dared to demand a double role in a Bachchan film. But the actress knew her worth. The deal was struck.
As a child-artiste, Sridevi was witness to a co-child-actor's death: Sridevi was witnessing incidents now that were leaving a mark on her tiny mind. In several interviews, she recounts watching a fellow child star pinched hard by his mother because he was required to cry for a scene. However, the most traumatic incident remains the one that occurred by a lake on a different shoot. Sridevi was in the water with twelve other children for a scene. As soon as the shot got over, everyone returned to the shore and changed into dry garments. Suddenly, someone noticed that one pair of clothes was still lying unworn on the grass, flapping gently in the breeze. As everyone stared, a terrifying silence engulfed them all. Realization dawned that one child had not made it back to the shore alive. In her 1988 chat with Stardust, the actress recounted: 'Everyone was frightened . . . the director sent a man to call the boy's mother immediately, while we waited anxiously. The scene that followed was horrible. The director began by telling her how her son had met with an accident. . . She pulled her hair, flung the flowers away, tore her sari, banged her fists and rolled on the ground crying . . . I don't think I'd ever forget that sight. Somehow, it has helped me grow up.'
When Sridevi was called the unwed mother...: On 2 June 1996, Sridevi and Boney got quietly married at the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi. With Srilatha [sister] having reservations about their relationship and Boney already wedded to Mona Shourie, the couple kept their marriage under wraps. Consequently, for the longest time, the world remained oblivious to the fact that Boney and Sri had become man and wife. As a result, tabloids erupted in early 1997 with unfounded reports calling Sridevi an unwed mother, pregnant with Boney's child.
Excerpted with permission from Sridevi: The Eternal Screen Goddess, written by Satyarth Nayak, published by Penguin Random House India
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