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Sridevi died as she had lived, a beautiful enigma in the looking glass world of Bollywood. The conspiracy theories spawned by her untimely and so far inexplicable death may be entirely off the mark. What’s disturbing are the intense debates sparked by her passing, on the peculiar stresses to which female stars of a certain age are subject: looking good, defying age and staying relevant.Going gently and elegantly into the evening of life, like Waheeda Rehman, is no longer the norm or so we are given to understand. Greying is passé. Critics point to advertisements featuring increasingly youthful mothers, purchasing diamonds and lingerie, streaking their hair and having adventures. These, along with the ever-youthful Sridevi and Madhuri, are the new role models for women in their 40s and 50s.The recognition that female sexuality does and should survive domesticity and motherhood is encouraging and empowering. The Gen X woman’s identity transcends her role as wife and mother and liberates her from the stereotyped image of benevolent grandmother, whose only remaining relevance is her ample and nurturing lap.
Sridevi’s death shocked many, but for the people who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, she was their childhood. Priyanka Chopra, writing in Time magazine said that Sridevi was one of the reasons she became an actor. “She was my childhood, and one of the big reasons I became an actor. To refer to all of us as mere fans would be a disservice to her,” she said. “When the news first broke of her passing, I was immobilized. All I could do then was listen to songs from her films, revisit her interviews and watch her iconic scenes over and over again. I knew I was not alone; millions were feeling that exact emotion of shock and loss. Her connection with the audience was so strong that that each one of us has special memories linked to her.”
She continued, “Everyone wanted her and wanted to be like her. She could be childlike, grown up, funny, serious, beguiling, sexy—she was the ultimate actor. Sridevi leaves behind a legacy that will live beyond us all, a legacy built on the foundation of pure dedication, talent, hard work and a sprinkle of fairy dust that was showered on her by the Gods!”
Priyanka is not alone. Sridevi inspired an entire generation. She was the first female superstar, a ubiquitous presence in films. Her comeback in Bollywood showed that Sridevi still had a lot to offer. Unfortunately, it was cut short too soon.A lot many epithets are associated with Sridevi. “Chandni” is one of them. For Priyanka Chopra, she was an angel. “But angels don’t pass on. They just shine brighter in another realm—so I will always look out for her in the sky,” she wrote.
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