The first time I saw her was…
In 1979, when I was a little boy of 8 years old, at Ramakanthi Talkies, Mangalore, when my dad Ramesh Malani who was a film distributor had released the Tamil film Kalyana Raman (starring Kamal Hassan and Sridevi). That film ran for quite some time and all I remember it was I saw it umpteen times and was mesmerized with the performance, beauty and the personality of the actress – Sridevi, who in the film wore half sarees, with lot of flowers on her long hair and sang and danced happily and as also she becomes insane in the second half. Well, that character of hers stuck me forever. And since then from that tender age of 8 years old, I have been a Sridevi fan.
The Journey through the growth….
Just adjacent to my house in Attavar Mangalore, I had a neighbor girl by the name Vanila who was of my age in childhood, and she being a Tamilian she was a diehard Rajnikanth Fan. She had magazines of Tamil films and Sridevi had worked with Kamal and Rajni those days, so most of her photos used to be in the magazine. Vanila and her family was my source to get known of her films. As childhood, we used to be teased by our neighbor friends – Rajni Sridevi pair. Those were those innocent days of my childhood.
There was a book library close to my house, and I used to go there and somehow tear all those Sridevi pics that used to be in the papers (Screen Film Paper) and magazines and with other sources collect it all and make a scrap book dedicated to her.
I also remember that during my school days (I studied at Milagres, Mangalore, a boys school) because of my fascination for Sridevi, I used to be bullied all the time as during the school fancy dress competitions I used to be dressing up like a girl and calling Sridevi and dancing to her songs. As also, one day, my school teacher caught me writing in the note book Sridevi Sridevi Sridevi umpteen times and complained to the Head Master Fr. Vas. My mother was called upon. And on her arrival, she was told that I am at that age, behind some girl from the opposite St Marys Girls School and her name is Sridevi. My mother laughed and told that I’m crazy about the actress and not of any other girl.
One more incident to remember during my schooling is that – Sridevi was endorsing Vimal Sarees. And I was again fooled by my classmates who told me that for an occasion that particular day Sridevi is been invited by the organizers, and I had bunked school and was waiting for her to come, as the shop was all decorated and to go with those talks of my friends, I saw all Sridevi calendars and posters on the wall as she was endorsing the outfits. Later, to my surprise, Sri never came, but actor Deepak Parashar had come. I was very sad.
Celebrating Sridevi’s Birthdays and Films…
When at college and after college days, when a Sridevi film was released, I was so excited that I used to celebrate it, by playing those songs continuously in college and at home, singing, dancing, those posters on my wall – as if it’s a cinema wall (and that’s why Malani Talkies later came into being); write about the cast and crew and make small booklets and give it forcibly to my friends and family members – advertising the film. During those days, my dad used to have an Audio and Video shop, and before that LPG records. So we had collection of it all. When the film was released in a theatre (this I am talking about 80s), the next day dad used to get the video cassette of the film. And when films like Chandni, Chalbaaz, Nagina released I have cut cake, distributed it to all – celebrating her films.
Also while I was in my Ist year PUC at Milagres College, I was the incharge of the Entertainment department (Cultural Programs) and that time the college had got Video and every Friday at 3 pm, video films used to be shown to the students. It was supposed to be educative films, but I ended up getting video cassettes from my dad’s shop and had almost Sridevi films to be showing to the students, I still remember those films (Masterji, Mr India, Nagina, Suhaagan, Bhagwan Dada, Guru, Karma etc). It was the beginning of the Sridevi Film Festival in my college itself.
And coming to her birthday (Aug 13th) that day is almost celebrated as my birthday too. For I still remember that 4 years ago on facebook I had put her birthday date into my account and I got wishes for her and I was realizing why was nobody wishing me on my birthday, that’s when I later realized that the date is shown there of her birthday and didn’t reflect my birthdate…
Some Memorable Moments of her Films…
When Maqsad (in early 80s) was released, I was in Bombay and we were staying in Strand House in Colaba and opposite my house is the famous (now closed down) Strand Cinema, wherein the film premiere was held. I was very excited for the show. And one of my uncle Thadani had got us the invitation. And I was eagerly waiting to meet her and was irritating my cousin sister Bina Didi all the time, when is Sridevi coming; so as to even she was excited like me to meet Sri; but she didn’t turn up. She was way back in Madras then. And only Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Shakti Kapoor and others were at the premiere.
And when Mr India was released too, I was in Bombay and had seen the film on the first day on the lavish big screen. And was all excited, so I was made to see the film again the same day night show. And the next day my uncle Maxie gifted me something, when I opened it – it was Mr India video cassette, a red glass and a watch – to play. Those memories are so fresh.
Almost all her films have watched on single theatres then, and have its own memorable experience of watching it alone and or with family and friends, class mates. While Lamhe was released, I was again in Bombay and was excited to see the premiere. I waited outside the Metro Cinemas, but couldn’t manage to get inside and have a glance. But the next day happened to see the film and that touched me so much that continuously watched the film daily for the next 5 days.
My reason to be in films….
is undoubtedly THE SRIDEVI. Yes, right from childhood I had this talent and excitement of being in front of camera, to act, to dance, to sing and to do all sort of things…. And that’s only because I used to watch a lot of Sridevi films. She was my idol, she was my teacher and she became the reason for me to be part of films. As I started from being a Junior Artiste to play character roles in regional and then Hindi films, I slowly moved on to play some important roles and continued to be part of Tulu, Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and later Hindi films.. (like how Sridevi is also an multilingual actress). And when I turned director, I always had this vision that one day for certain being in the same film industry, it would be an easy access for me to meet her in my lifetime.
She became an inspiration and my characters in films…
The films that I directed all had the Sridevi fixation and most of the characters in my films had something or the other related to Sridevi. Like, I had made my actress wear some outfits that reminds of her films, the dance, the walk, the talk, the comic timing. Right from Jyotika in One Two Three, for a song had requested her to wear blue saree and swing on it, she also wore half saree for a shot, in Miss California, the actress Sowmya too had the same outfit to be referred to as Sridevi by Janu, and in one of her song, she was given the Chandni chiffon saree look. In Manasella Neene, Gayatri had to giggle and give those expressions that usually Sri does. So much that I also got a chance to be part of the Kannada film Julie (I didn’t direct it) but only because Sridevi was the part of the Hindi Julie and to keep that connection. And my film SMS 6260, my little son Silver talks about Sridevi and Mr India, the songs in the title cards are Sridevi songs to the background score reminds of Sri numbers; in Jo Jo Laali and Sulige Sikkidaaga, actress Kalpana Pandit has had Chandni Tandav outfit and Sridevi’s classical dance outfits; to almost having an entire film Janleva 555 dedicated to her and reminds of her performances from Nagina, Chandni, Chaalbaaz, Nigahen and many other films. And in the latest Yeh Cinemaa Hai, while every other character has a Sridevi connection, it’s my wife Reshma who became part of a song Heeriye and her expressions and posture was totally dedicated to the Diva.
The first time I met her….
While I was in Mumbai in 2011, I used to stay at Amboli, just one kilometer from Sridevi’s house at Lokhandwala. I knew the bungalow. And I was staying with director K Subaash (who also left for heavenly abode 2 years ago). And Subaash sir used to work for Rajkumar Santoshi, so through him I also became part of some of Rajkumar Santoshi’s script work translation. Prabhu Deva had already worked for Boney Kapoor for Wanted, and I was friendly with him as well. So, in a way I had all sources to get in touch with Sridevi. But I never tried anyone’s sources or influence. I wanted to meet her on my own terms and my own wish. So, on her birthday on Aug 13th in 2011, I made up my mind and taking a big bouquet along and a greeting card along with 2 page pull out of a complete newspaper article on Sridevi that I had done (I was a Journalist for The Canara Times), and lots of her pics in an collective album – this package, I was all excited to gift to her. So I was disappointed when the watchman told me that Sridevi isn’t at home. But I was adamant and I forced myself to make him understand that I would not leave the place until I meet her. Poor fellow was actually telling the truth, Sridevi wasn’t at home, but for my surprise her daughter Jhanvi came in front of me and she accepted the gifts. I was still on cloud nine. I happened to see, meet, greet Sridevi’s daughter. I clicked a pic with her and that was a happier moment for me. And I got back assuming that may be next time, I would meet Sridevi.
Rewind to few years ago…
In the year 1999, I was in Madras for a Tamil film shoot ‘Vallarasu’ with actress Charulatha. This was when we (Charu, her mother and me) had come for lunch at Hotel Connemara (now Taj Vivanta). And somehow I got to know that Sridevi was staying in the same hotel. I enquired the reception and got to know that she is in her suite room. Very excited and full on blushing, the 3 of us (Charulatha also was excited to meet Sridevi) we landed up at the door of her room in the hotel and we were greeted inside by one of her staff. And as we sat in the living room of her suite, Boney Kapoor came to meet us (He was in his homely attire with the mixture of Punjabi Madrasi look – He wore a blue kurtha and a south Indian silky Lungi). We introduced ourselves. He offered us tea; and we asked for Sridevi. He told that she isn’t in the room and she had moved out. And at that time, I happened to see the little girl of 2 years who came running from the room to the hall and ran back inside. That was Little Jhanvi. And we knew that Sridevi was inside, but we couldn’t force more to request Boneyji. We understood and left the place. Meeting the little child (Sri’s baby) was in itself a memorable moment for me. Those days we didn’t have mobile phones and not used to carry cameras along; so missed out in clicking pics.
Back to 2011 – After 4 days of meeting Jhanvi on Sridevi’s birthday, I got a call from – I couldn’t believe my ears. SRIDEVI. I had to blink my eyes and re-ask on the phone and was all fumbling with my talk in excitement as I didn’t know how to react, what to say… Sridevi thanked me for the gifts and wishes. And then she told me I could come and see her. Imagine my moment that time, from that particular moment itself the song – Sapna Mera Sach Ho Gaya (from Lamhe) started playing my mind and I felt the song is in the background. I along with my friend, editor Santosh Chawla went to Sridevi’s bungalow and with so many songs of her playing in my background (particularly Thatayya Thatayya – Naino Main Sapna) I was feeling the music. We were welcomed by Boney Kapoor who since then till day has been like my friend and I have almost become his fan too. So, with all excitement as I was showing my work of the facebook page and other collections to Boneyji on my laptop, I suddenly saw the first Darshan of the Goddess of our Cinema, my idol, my inspiration and infact everyone’s Roop Ki Rani – Sridevi. I again was all nervous and excited at the same time. She greeted me, I greeted her. And I went on and on talking about her like the character of ‘Manju’ from Chaalbaaz. Sridevi saw that excitement in me and was smiling throughout. And then, as I requested, got some pics clicked (thanks to mobile phones) with her and Boney Kapoor, she too saw my work on the laptop and then I requested her to talk to my wife Reshma. Sridevi agreed and she was praising about me to my wife. I was very very happy and that moment lasted in my mind for a long time. Since then, I had this wish and eager and I’m very lucky to say that I got umpteen chances to meet the actress at different occasions, at her place and at the studio and at the multiplex for her birthdays, for her film premieres and for my film screening and for Mom’s promotions.
The Big Celebrations – Her 49th Birthday
My excitement continued and I had been in contact with Boney Kapoor since then. They got to know my fascination. I kept on chasing Boneyji for many a times to make me meet Deviji at different occasions. I used to go to his office and meet him. But all said and done Boney Sir was so good to me that he never ignored me and always welcomed me. It was her 49th Birthday in 2012 when I visited her with two gifts. And I was waiting for her since morning, visited her place umpteen times as she wasn’t at home and was in Chennai. That evening was the launch of the Trailer of English Vinglish. So, that evening somehow I got to know she has arrived and I rushed to her place. That was the moment when they were actually cutting the cake and I entered the house at that right moment. Sridevi welcomed me; I greeted her and gave her the gift. She opened it and she had tears in her eyes. It was her childhood photo with her parents. She never had it; I had laminated it for her. And also the collage of her Hindi film posters. Boneyji and Sridevi was very happy and that moment of we three posing for the camera – the beautiful moment was captured by Jhanvi, who I requested to click the pic – This pic went viral in all media and is still being used till date for all my articles related to Sridevi. Later that evening, Sridevi tweeted this pic and mentioned about me. My dreams were overwhelming and beautiful. All I believed in this again and again – Live your dreams, dreams certainly come true!
My dear family and Sridevi, My film and Sridevi
I had completed my film Janleva 555 starring Kalpana Pandit and the film was a total dedication and a tribute to Sridevi and her films. The film had Kalpana playing the female serpent and that was a takeoff of Sridevi’s performances from Nagina and Nigahen. So as also we got the same tailor who had stitched Sridevi’s costumes earlier (Shekar Master) to design Kalpana outfits. The songs were choreographed by Longinus and Rozita who gave her the same type of moments and expressions. So as the film was ready, first thing I wanted to show the film to Sridevi. What next? Again I called up Boney Kapoor and informed him about it. He welcomed me and this time, I told Sridevi that I would have my wife and son accompanying me to meet and greet her. She agreed. And so, I with Reshma and Silver flew to Mumbai from Bangalore and met Sridevi. Imagine that moment for me – Oh my goodness! While we have many pics of us together, Silver greeted Sri with bouquet and then Reshma and Sridevi spoke for couple of minutes, we had coffee together. Boneyji also was there. That’s when Reshma told her about my fascination for her and Sridevi was all smiling and she acknowledged it.
The next day, on an appointment time, I and Silver were at her place again as she was to be watching my film and this moment was another memorable one. All through the years I had watched her films on the big screen and in VCR – TV with crowd and people around. This was the time, when my film was been watched at her place. She was watching it quietly and somehow we stopped it at interval as she had other works to do. So being very gracious and dedicated as she is, she requested that we see the second half on some other day (and that too we decided on a time) and yes… I took a break and after 3 days once again sat and saw the second half. That’s when after watching the film, she spoke to Kalpana (who was in USA) and congratulated her for the performance. And my conversations with Sridevi suddenly continued to be in Tamil from then on. And while you speak the language that is close to you, you get easily connected. Let me also tell you, that she understands Kannada and could speak a few words too, as we exchanged a few lines only once in Kannada, but the rest of our conversations were in Tamil and English.
The English Vinglish Premiere
One more moment to cherish was the grand premiere of English Vinglish. Boney Kapoor had given me the Invitation, and I had also got one more from some other source. The premiere was at PVR in Goregoan and I had my cast of Janleva 555 – Kalpana Pandit, Ranjeet Jha, Anant Joshi, Santosh Chawla and Kamal Lokhandwala accompany me for the most beautiful premiere of Sridevi’s grand comeback film. Right from the main entrance to the three storeys of the mall/multiplex inside was crowded, welcoming her grand come back. Name the actors and actresses; they were present to witness her comeback film. It was undoubtedly one more feather on my cap to have been part of that event. Everyone in the team were super happy too as I was Happy Vappy throughout having the Shashi Laddoos that we all got to taste. The next day in a row was the special screening arranged by fans. And that day also was special as I got to meet other Sridevi fans – Rajan Naidu, Deepa Bhatia and many many more. It was again a jam packed houseful show.
Her 50th Birthday – The Golden Years of Roop Ki Rani Sridevi
This birthday in 2013 had to be made Something Special. So, in the process of making it beautiful a few days before the day itself, I sat along with Santosh Chawla, the editor at his studio in Bangalore and made a musical documentary on her entire Hindi film career – with a small introduction in the beginning of her journey as a child artist to films in regional languages and then moving to each and every Hindi song of her career for 15 seconds each – the collage right from Julie to English Vinglish; and this was my Special Birthday Gift that I presented her on her 50th Birthday with also a big poster collage laminated and along with it, on behalf of all the fans that I knew – had their names written on a large sized Birthday Greeting Card and gifted to her. A few days later, after watching the Hindi musical on request I also made a Tamil and Telugu song collections and titled it as ‘Senthoora Poove Sridevi’ and ‘Athiloka Sundari Sridevi’. Later that year, on an occasion to my family visit to Vailankanni, on my return I visited Sridevi’s house and gifted her, a small statue of the Lady along with the candles and told that I prayed for her health and success as well. She was touched.
My Facebook posts, Film Festivals and Daily Dosages
It’s been now long years since I have been in Facebook and since the inception itself I have had a facebook page dedicated to Sridevi and since then to date and it will continue forever, I have been posting pics, videos, photographs of her presence, events, posters, songs and keeping the fans updated. Not even a single day is incomplete of mine without a single post on Sridevi on facebook on my wall and her page. So as to, from last year 2017 February onward I have started #SrideviFilmFestival celebrating her 300 films and her 50 years of career in Indian Cinema right from her first film as a child Thunaivan to her last release Puli and welcoming her grand comeback to MOM. So, every day there were photos, videos, posters, trivia and article on each and every film that she did. Started from her childhood films and then continued the Malayalam and Kananda to Tamil and Telugu and later to Hindi, and even to this day its being continued. The longest film festival that goes on beyond 365 years. End of the festival whenever it’s done, I am planning to bring the entire collection in the format of a printed book so that this is a collection to all the fans.
Sridevi’s No 1 fan/devotee in this universe
Right from my childhood memories in 1979 (when I was 8 years old) to this day (I am 47 now), everyone from my school to college to my colleagues, my family to neighbors, my native to other places, my contacts to my connections, my friends, fans to followers in social media, the film industry, to radio stations to televisions, from print media to digital media – to Boney Kapoor and SRIDEVI herself know the fact that I am her fan. And I say that I am more than a fan – a devotee who worships Sridevi, the Goddess of Cinema. I am like a Meera and she is my Krishna. There have been umpteen articles about me in print and digital media, radio interviews, television shows and my own films and my shows that I do for television – that is been a Sridevi Special.
And then, MOM happened
Sridevi completed her 50 years of career in Indian Films. And with 299 films behind, Mom was her 300th film and Boney Kapoor made it special by gifting this film to her and her fans worldwide. Having the complete knowledge and details of her films, I made the list of her 300 films, and posters and as Sridevi Film Festival continued I was also part of Mom’s promotions before its release – stationed at Boney Kapoor productions for those 22 days. That was the moment when I used to meet Sridevi very often as she was all here there everywhere participating in promotional activities, print and media galore. And I got to witness the film on its special screening before the release, infact first of the audience on a Monday night before the film hit the theatres on Friday. And from what I saw, I got goose bumps and that night itself I got the vision that – SRIDEVI WINS A NATIONAL AWARD. I expressed this happiness and vision to her as well, and saluted her for her realistic performance. That was the last day; I had seen her in person at her house after that I left to Bangalore.
Some more occasions followed
Meeting Sridevi every time is something that I have cherished, be it for a short while or even a glimpse of her as I used to visit her house, at office and at screenings. Like, for the Lakshmi Pooja (during Diwali) Sridevi used to do the pooja at the office and following all the customs and traditions associated with it, in pure South Indian attire with Jhanvi and Khushi also in attendance; I was part of the rituals. Also during some other pooja at home. Besides, when the Tamil film PULI was released, I took the responsibility of promoting it on social media and the Hindi promotions of the film, that time I had done some special videos and Boneyji and Sridevi loved it. I just needed a reason to meet them, and I was at their doorstep. This way, during many occasions and umpteen times – I have met the entire family – Boneyji, Sridevi, Jhanvi and Khushi; to even Arjun and Anshula – this is all because of the connection that I have with the Goddess.
The last and Final Journey
When I got the news about her demise early in the morning on 25th Feb; I seriously thought someone is making fake and hoax news, again I got umpteen calls, I never reacted, when I switched on the TV and saw it. I slapped myself hard two three times and then broke down. I had to be controlled by my wife and she took care of me. Tears were rolling down nonstop. I took a flight later that day and been to Mumbai to her place and was eagerly waiting day 1 to day 3 for her arrival. I always had different visions in my mind – She is known for her airport looks, she had been to Dubai stylishly and she will come back gracefully and surprise everyone. She cannot leave us, leave the family, and leave the fans worldwide. So, from the time she was brought back to seeing her that last moment – I was totally shattered, depressed, lost all my smiles and to the extent of crying nonstop, my tears also got dried. I am the luckiest person in this planet representing all her fans worldwide as this eyes has witnessed her last rites and will remain in my eyes, hearts and mind forever. Sridevi made me part of her last few moments journey. Those Lamhe will be cherished forever and ever and ever.
And the legacy continues.
She is a Goddess and Goddess never dies, they live immortal in our hearts and prayers. She was our Devi and will be worshipped always. She’s our Roop Ki Rani, our Apsara, our Athiloka Sundari, our Senthoora Poove, our Hawaa Hawaii, our Nagina, our Chandramukhi, our Chand Ka Tukdaa, our Anju and Manju, our Lalitha, our Pallavi and Pooja, our Rajni and Neelam, our Benazir and Mehndi, our Chandni and our Mom!
She will live with us and with cinema – forever and ever and ever.
Yes.. I have started a new page on Facebook, Whatsapp groups and take this ahead in twitter too by the name ‘Sridevi Forever’ and the forthcoming projects and plan include – an NGO in her name to help the poor and needy; which also is been supported and with cooperation from all her million fans across the globe. Also her birthday on August 13th, we would like to have it celebrate as ‘Sridevi Jayanthi’ which I am initiating it and also ‘Malani Talkies Sridevi Awards’ which will be given to 5 actresses one each from Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi for the best performance of the year – as every other actress looks upto her as inspiration. These awards will be announced on her birthday. And her collection of songs in DVD format and her entire journey of 300 films will be in print format soon.
Sundeep Malani – A ‘Devotee’ of SRIDEVI
CEO | Director
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