The snub nose became aquiline, the large black eyes turned hazel, the chubby cheeks went sallow, the pleasant plumpness disappeared into a sylph. The South not only lost Sridevi the actress, but Sridevi the stunner. Was it the lack of recognition for her acting skills, for being consistently overlooked at award ceremonies even as her male counterparts swept the silver? She did, and how. The director insisted she only wear a cloth around her waist; a 9-year-old Sridevi had been flat-chested and unembarrassed about the costume. The shooting of a film in which they were both acting had been stalled for a couple of years. But there was a far more interesting transformation in Sridevi herself, one that could be used to sell her films — she was no longer a child; she was long-legged and voluptuous. Two years later, her body had changed, and she hesitated. Other directors followed his lead.
The actress Lakshmi once told a Tamil television channel how she was witness to a perverse incident involving an year-old Sridevi. Rajnikanth is the villain, effectively killing her lover — played by Kamal Haasan — so he can have her for himself; through a series of turns, she ends up in his house, contemplating marriage to a widower. The snub nose became aquiline, the large black eyes turned hazel, the chubby cheeks went sallow, the pleasant plumpness disappeared into a sylph. As late as and as respected a director as Mani Ratnam had Keerthana, then 11 and playing an 8-year-old, run around wearing only panties, in Kannathil Muthamittaal. Jagathalaprathapan is famous for a snake dance performed by a year-old Kumari Kamala, wearing only a dhoti. Though she did make a comeback to cinema with English Vinglish , those who knew Sridevi as the girl from Moondru Mudichu and 16 Vayathinile could see she was a shadow of her former self. In Bollywood, she had to fit a mould, and her appearance changed. Then came her breakthrough role, through K Balachander, the sort of role most actresses wait for their entire careers — Moondru Mudichu , in which she plays the love-interest-turned-stepmother of Rajnikanth. Was it the exploitation of her face and body? Nandini Krishnan Last Updated: Along with the exponentially increased money and fame came attention, rarely kind. What was it that drove her to the North? Bharathiraja made her lean down from swings and trees; he made her stand under waterfalls and wade through rivers. She was loved for her large eyes, but also for the sparkle she brought, a beauty that was not conventional. With no mentors in any of the industries which wanted her, she had to make the most of what she got. Even in her most demure roles, she would be cast in dream sequences where the camera could ogle her curves. Gossip columnists delighted in calling her a home-wrecker. Years of cosmetic modification seemed to have taken their toll, and she was quite unable to pull off the facial contortions that had won the silverscreen. Or perhaps the bounty was higher. Was it the glamour and money that beckoned in Bollywood? In a simulated sex scene, her co-actor caresses her quite explicitly between shots of bees pollinating flowers. But to see the Sridevi whom cameras loved before she learned to love them, one only has to watch the MGR film Nam Naadu , or Agathiyar , or any of the Malayalam and Telugu mythological films in which she acted during the Sixties and early Seventies. If Tamil cinema began to love her body more than it loved her face, Telugu cinema had cut to the chase without even shooting the rest — men who were twice, perhaps thrice, her age thrust out their arthritic knees as she gyrated and grinded against them. The shooting of a film in which they were both acting had been stalled for a couple of years. She would go on to become a caricature of all her talents in Bollywood, which would also make her a superstar.
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