Fame did not change the actress, say her friends and colleagues
Friends of Sridevi remember caring and protective mum
Friends in the UAE who knew Sridevi and those who worked with the Bollywood actress say they will forever treasure the memories they shared with the hardworking actress and doting mother.
A day after her funeral, when tens of thousands of fans lined Mumbai’s streets to bid farewell to India’s first female superstar, those who knew Sridevi say she was unaffected by the trappings of stardom.
Dubai-based Pakistani actor Adnan Siddiqui said he was struck by Sridevi’s dedication to her craft after five decades in the movie industry.
“She was always prepared, always on time and completely focused on her role. On camera she was a megastar. Then there was this switch and off camera she was very down-to-earth,” said Siddiqui, Sridevi’s co-star in her last movie Mom that was released last year.
Her daughters Khushi and Janhvi were in Georgia during shooting of the film.
“Around them she was like this mother hen. She was very protective of her daughters; you could see the bond.”
When Pakistani actress Sajal Aly, who played Sridevi’s daughter in the film, lost her mother during the shooting, Sridevi stayed in touch with the young actress much after the movie release.
“She called Sajal beta (child) and would speak to her regularly in Pakistan. She would tell her that she was there for her, that Sajal was now her daughter and not just on screen. She didn’t need to do that but it just shows the kind of person she was,” said Siddiqui.
“People related to her because she was more than a movie star. There is a collective grief that we all share.”
Upon hearing of her “mother's” death, Sajal posted a photograph with Sridevi on Instagram captioning it: “Lost my mom again …”
Days before she died, Siddiqui saw Sridevi at her nephew’s wedding in Ras Al Khaimah which he attended on February 19 and 20.
On the night of February 24, he met her husband and movie producer Boney Kapoor just hours after the actress was found dead in a bathtub of a Dubai hotel.
“I never thought that would be the last time I saw her,” said Siddiqui, remembering the wedding celebrations.
“I was in shock when after four days I went to see Boney at the hotel. The investigation was going on; the area was already cordoned off but I went up to see him. There was such pain and sadness on his face. She was the soul of the family so it will be very tough for him.”
Rekha Tourani, entrepreneur and co-owner of Dubai’s Dusty’s restaurant, knew the actress as a friend.
They spent time together when Sridevi visited the UAE with her family.
“Her death has left a void in me,” said Tourani.
“Her fans love her because she is a star. They love her powerful performances. She worked in a man’s world, but she would switch off when she was at home. There she was just ‘mom.’ She didn’t talk about her work, although I would know what she was shooting for. Only if a movie was releasing, she would send me some clips.
“I want people to know what she was like. She was a caring person, very soft, childlike even and the kind who never saw negativity in anyone. She was devoted to her daughters. Whatever she was doing workwise, her priority was always the girls and Boney. I will miss our phone calls and meetings.”
Dubai Police confirmed the cause of Sridevi’s death as accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub following loss of consciousness. A forensive report revealed that the actress had been under the influence of alcohol.
Public Prosecution ruled the case would be closed after a “comprehensive investigation” into the circumstances of her death.
Sridevi’s body was handed over to her family three days after her death and taken to Mumbai for cremation.
But rumours surrounding the actress’ cause of death continue to circulate with several media outlets questioning the police findings. The media coverage prompted her family to issue statements immediately after her funeral on Wednesday appealing for privacy and time to grieve.
“This speculation has really been unfair. What people did not understand is that the legal procedure takes time, it took three days here but the media kept questioning why it took so long,” Tourani said.
Harmeek Singh, founder of marketing and events company plan b, has met Sridevi for awards functions in India and Dubai.
He recalls Sridevi talking about elder daughter Janhvi’s Bollywood debut during an awards function in the UAE last December. The movie Dhadak or Heartbeat is scheduled to release in July.
“She was really looking forward to the launch and like any mother she was emotional when talking about how proud she was of Janhvi,” he said.
“Setting up a public court by the media was uncalled for. The girls have lost their mother and they see and hear everything on the news. What the family needs is their time to mourn.”