Sridevi, The Eternal Screen Goddess
The enigma that was Sridevi is explored in a biography, an eminently readable fanboy account...
One needs to brace oneself to read a fanboy biography. There is only so much of saccharine that one can take. Cloying descriptions, books written out of a thesaurus tend to be tedious, because, frankly, nothing works better than a critical look at the life and works of a star.
Sridevi, The Eternal Screen Goddess is an unabashed fanboy account, but rescues itself from tedium by being eminently readable, and sometimes, one even struggles to put down the book.
In her death, as in life, there is no doubt that Sridevi was a sensation, and yet always a little distant, a bit out of reach. Two years ago, when the shocking news of her sudden death in a faraway Dubai hotel came in, it was clad in as much mystery as her life was lived.
Explaining this enigma is probably done best through tinted lenses. While Sathyarth Nayak does wear a heavy shade of stars-in-the-eyes, he painstakingly goes after the minutiae - the pirouette of the dancer, the pout of the star, the turn of a wrist, the single tear coursing down a fair cheek. And how does he do this? By watching nearly all, or is it all, the films that Sridevi was ever a part of; every single film, in every language, chronologically narrated. That's due diligence. That is also a book saver.
There is appreciably, a sense of proportion, more pages for the superhits, or significant films, and then, a casual mention, mouth still wide open in wonderment. A 16 Vayathinile, or a Mr. India, the iconic Moondram Pirai (Sadma in Hindi) by master craftsman Balu Mahendra, the runaway hit Chandni, Khuda Gawah with Amitabh Bachchan, or RGV's muse in the Telugu box office hit Kshana Kshanam, or the subtle but stunning housewife in English Vinglish, get more play, as they help establish the rise of the first female superstar of Bollywood, a preserve until then, and even later, of heroes.
That helps him tide over the huge disadvantage of writing a posthumous note on a person he has only idolised on the big screen. It could not have been an easy book to write, in that sense.
In these set of circumstances, the author is forced to rely on others' judgement of her, their experiences recounted after years, newspaper accounts, but the effect need not be in the least awkward, as Nayak demonstrates by weaving together various accounts cogently, in a well-told story.
He slips easily in and out of passionate observances about the tilt of her chin or her ability to transform during a scene, to tiny titbits of trivia effortlessly. But it is indeed rapture that guides the author along, as he traces the rise of the prima donna from a talented child.
Nayak also manages to get a foot into parts of her personal life, going by reportage, or accounts of friends of her relationships - with her parents, siblings, husband, and daughters; the loneliness, the light and the darkness, the shyness, a metered account of her last day, also how kind and considerate or fun loving she could be.
That's not a Sridevi the people know; and that elevates the book from remaining mere filmo-graphy. It is disappointing though that a behemoth publisher has allowed editing errors in the book.
They mess with the flow of what is otherwise a certainly well-written hagiography of a talented actor who, if anyone does, deserves the highest commendation for what she achieved, and what she still inspires in the hearts of the movie-crazy people of this country.
Courtesy: THE HINDU