Sridevi will be missed by the Indo-Caribbean community

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to ‘Bollywood star Sridevi passes away’ (SS, Feb 25). I am in Mumbai. Bollywood, all of India, and the Indian diaspora are in mourning over the sudden death of popular actress Sridevi who dominated the cinema screen during the late 1970s, 1980s and part of the 1990s. She literally had tens, if not hundreds, of millions of fans in India and globally, including virtually the entire Indo-Caribbean diaspora. I pick up from media comments in India and conversations from Guyanese in America, and in my hotel and on the streets of Mumbai, fans are in disbelief and shock that the legendary actress is no more. She died while on a visit to Dubai to attend a wedding of her nephew at the young age of 54. If one looks at the latest video of her from an engagement on Saturday night, she looks as though she is in her 30s.

I was at Ahmedabad airport waiting to board a flight to Mumbai (city of Bollywood) when I received a phone call from my sister in New York querying whether it was true that legendary Bollywood actress Sridevi had passed away. She, like myself and Indo-Guyanese, is a fan of Sridevi. Many Indo-Guyanese mothers named their daughters (including one of my nieces and my friend’s daughters in NYC) after Sridevi. My sister and other Guyanese had gotten the news from a radio station in NYC that the actress had died in Dubai, but it was only when I landed in Mumbai early Sunday morning I received confirmation that the legendary actress was indeed no more. The Sunday print media had not as yet carried the news of her death as it happened late Saturday night, but every TV and radio channel interrupted regular broadcasts to focus on the life of the actress. Coverage of Sridevi’s legendary performances continued late into Sunday evening.

Bollywood personalities, politicians, and film fans paid tribute to the iconic actress on TV. Sridevi’s husband Boney Kapoor has a home in Juhu and Sridevi has two step children who are actors including the popular Arjun Kapoor. Her body was expected to arrive in the evening in Mumbai International airport from Dubai. Thousands gathered at the airport to catch a glimpse of her casket. Tens of thousands were expected to gather in front of her home in Bandra, another community of Bollywood personalities. There were live feeds on TV of the procession from the airport.  Her mortal remains will be consigned to the flames on Monday with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, expected to pay their final respects.

Sridevi is not just any actress. She had a most illustrious acting career with beauty incomparable. She was a staple on the screen for many of us who watched Bollywood films in the Indian diaspora.

She was known for her versatility and multilingual ability. She made her debut in Madrasi films before joining mainstream Bollywood. She became perhaps the most popular actress in Bollywood and in the southern film industries of Tollywood, Mollywood and Kollywood, all nicknamed after the Telugu, Malyalam, and Kerala languages respectively.

Anyone who watched Bollywood films from the late 1970s would have seen Sridevi. She was cast alongside the most popular male actors including Jeetendra, Amitabh, Dharmender, Mithun, Anil Kapoor, etc. Sridevi had a most commanding presence in her films and producers and directors said they loved working with her because they did not have to give her many instructions for a scene; she knew exactly what to do. Repeated filming of a scene was not necessary; she normally got it right very quickly. She started acting at age 4 and had no schooling. By age 13 she was a hit. She was the most sought after actress in the 1980s before her marriage to a Bollywood film producer, Boney Kapoor.

Tributes poured in. As one tribute noted, “Her beguiling eyes, scintillating screen presence and acting prowess made her one of the most sought-after artistes in the Hindi film industry”. She was also an excellent dancer of the classical and filmi types. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Sridevi. She was a veteran of the film industry, whose long career included diverse roles and memorable performances. May her soul rest in peace”. She had “grace, guts, and glory”, said one fellow actor. Another said she “was an inspiration for so many young women and men. Long live her legacy”.

“She was a superstar, much admired’, wrote another. There were also tributes from the President of India, Chief Ministers, Ministers, Mayors and other actors including the great Amitabh and Jeetendra. Mayor Sadiq Khan of London also paid tribute to her.

As one of the best actresses in the business she could make a film a commercial success.  For her acting talent, she was honoured by the Indian Government with a coveted Padma Shree award given to a select few.

Sridevi will be missed on the screen by her fans in the Indo-Caribbean diaspora.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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