It’s a few days short of a month when Sridevi’s embalmed body was flown back from Dubai, and yet the eeriness (for want of a better word) of it all, what with daughter Jhanvi celebrating her birthday after her mother’s funeral, refuses to recede. I had no intention to touch on the Sridevi Death, and what followed days after, but as this pen was put to paper it is, as if this quill acquired a mind of its own and started its own scribbling leaving me quite out in the cold! Now for me to take hold of it and move forward the `subject matter’. (Now that, definitely does not sound pretty to the ears!) No road-map here, so this trip shall ricochet from one corner to the other, caroming to not a helter-skeltered thesis but hopefully, a reasonably comprehensible ending.
This no kitchen-sink drama—one would need reams of paper to talk about Sridevi and as I say so, am quite sure a gaggle of pen-pushers are already half-way done with writing her unofficial biography and thus, are in over-zealous talks with publishers on advanced payment, royalty percentage and pre-launch road-show events besides the whole circus that comes with marketing a book for it to fly off the shelves barely after landing. So shall we? Sridevi started her career in 1967 as a four year old toddler and continued to make it on the big screen for the next 30 years till 1997 when she, one would imagine, embraced motherhood and marriage with hitherto unknown joyful abandon. Finally to be away from the lights, action and camera show; with face painted day in and day out, even while sleeping to be readied for the first ray’s morning shot. It’s doubtful if the actress had any formal schooling—being chaperoned by her ambitious mother from what were supposed to be her nursery school days from one set to the other till her passing away in 1996. (Makes even the most hard-wired brain ragged at the edges that doctors in America operated on the wrong side of Sridevi’s mum’s brain leading to, but of course, her death.)
Fortunately Boney was at her side to hold her hand, and now instead of saying, “Ask Mummy’’ to interviewers thrusting their mikes in her face to know what she ‘thought’ Mummy was replaced with Boney, so reflexively it was, “Ask Boney-ji’’. A dumb blonde response? A sheltering mechanism? An unschooled girl’s running for cover while still remaining under the unmoving arc lights gaze? Tutored to be thought-free so she wouldn’t put her foot in her mouth by giving out untinselly answers? So Mummy/Boneyji knows best and they do th cerebral dodging to the blood-hound queries thus leaving her to come hypnotically alive on the silver screen providing the audience the pyrotechnic thrill afforded by fireworks. Post marriage she—as it would appear—seamlessly settled down to matrimony and became Sreedevi Boney Kapoor Ayyappan.
That is how her name read on her passport aired by the Telly post her ‘accidental drowning’. This long- drawn out name does not require one to be a Jungian scholar or seek Freudian theories. Sree instead of Sri was visually modern. Taking on one’s husband’s surname the built-in sequel after tying the knot. Boney after Sree, revealing the ultimate merging of her identity into her brand new husbands’. Her cine character would have been washed away had she eliminated the name she was christened with. (Though one would suspect that she readily would have scrubbed away, with a loofah at that, the title Amma dear gave her to make Boney further empowered.)
Ayyappan—her born-with-surname incongruously trailing behind Kapoor? Now, this is a second thought’s moment…where Jung’s assistance might be brought in for the good Doc to shine a torch enlightening us the reason for the retention of her South Indian signature, while with the piling on years, morphing into a North Indian appearance? An enviously chiselled nose? Contact lenses throwing out shades of burgundy, brandy, honey and almond from those large expressive eyes? Shades of Persia? Espousing her new-found identity brought on by her marriage by doing away with her own drop-dead, beautiful Southern looks, while clinging, partially to selfhood. In the passing reels that would over the years be framed by on TV, Sridevi seemed to be holding on tight to Boney, afraid to what a naked eye would perceive as, letting go. Super-gluing himself to him. For him to enshrine her youth and so one can only guess the endless hours clocked in for exercise, yoga and surya namaskars and what not, to own a sculpted and svelte body for the husband to adore and therefore, no roving eye. (Would it be far-fetched to say that she had to die young to be mummified in our collective consciousness?) A few years ago thoroughly enjoyed English Vinglish—her first film after 15 years of playing the contented homemaker—and asked my non-moviegoer Mum to give me the privilege of her company: she was so impressed that needed no cajoling when last August I asked her to come with me to see Mom which was, out and out, the celebutante’s show.
On 28th February the Leading Lady, a Padma Shri awardee, wrapped in the Tricolour was accorded a State Funeral. On 6th March, Jhanvi, her daughter, alongside giggly cousins crooning, “Happy Birthday’’ celebrated her 21st birthday-bash with proud Papa Boney sitting beside her. A Movie in the Making, don’t you think?!
Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all