The ‘Hawa Hawai’ girl on her next, daughters Jhanvi and Khushi’s starry aspirations and her 22-year-old romance
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; June 22, 2017)

It’s hard to imagine Sridevi away from the arclights. Three hundred films in a career spanning four decades, she has seamlessly made the transition from glitzy mainstream Bollywood to more off-beat films rooted in reality, like English Vinglish and the upcoming Mom. The once larger-than-life diva is happy being a home-maker today and casual in a sweatsuit, this bespectacled Sridevi is a far cry from the tooty-fruity Seema of Mr India. “Can you imagine me doing a 'Hawa Hawai' now?” she lets out a faint laugh, adding that she’s careful about choosing characters that suit her age and comfort level. “The performance should come naturally. I don’t want to do something that is not me. I know age is just a number and as an actor one should be ready to experiment, but being a mother, I want my daughters (Jhanvi and Khushi) to appreciate me on screen.”

So, which of her films are her daughters’ favourite? She springs another surprise by admitting that she has never shown them any of her films. “It’s only now that Jhanvi, urged by outsiders, has started seeing some, but Khushi so far has seen only Mr India, that too because it’s her father’s (Boney Kapoor) film. Whenever any of my films come on, I always switch off the TV, not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed but because I feel odd. That makes Boneyji angry because he loves watching all my films. He will order me out of the room and watch it alone,” she laughs.

It’s cute to see her blush when she talks about her producer-husband, who has always been extremely protective of her. Even now, he is just across the landing, a solid, comforting presence, as his actress-wife fields queries in the living room. “I am lucky I have him. After my parents passed away, Boneyji has been my father, mother and husband. We’ve been married for 22 years but even today, people tell me his eyes light up when he talks about me. I take credit for that, I’ve worked really hard,” she smiles.

She can’t pinpoint the little things they are constantly doing for each other, reasoning that a husband and wife will always love, respect and stand up for each other. For her romance is dressing up to go out, gazing into the mirror and telling herself that her husband will like the way she is looking. “And the next morning he’s sending me pictures from the event, telling me, ‘Dekho, how beautiful you are looking.’ When I ask him where he got the pictures from, he says mysteriously that he has his sources. It’s so cute to see him show off,” she giggles, imitating Boney.

She agrees that even her kids are charmed to see them joke with and bully each other. “Yes, I bully him and so does he, but all in jest,” she asserts. “Jhanvi says she doesn’t find such happiness in her friends’ homes and wants a man just like her dad.”

While Sridevi would be happy to get her daughter married, she’s had to reluctantly surrender to her starry ambitions. She remembers how growing up, Jhanvi wanted to be a doctor, a teacher and wasn’t prepared when told she now wanted to follow in her mamma’s footsteps. “While we may slog, we’re protective of our children and don’t want to expose them to stress and toil. But a friend’s daughter, who was pushed into marriage early, still complains, even after six years of a happy marriage. I didn’t want Jhanvi to blame me so I gave my consent even though I wish she’d stayed away from this industry, because I didn’t want my child to go through all the pain, sacrifices and heartache,” she sighs, going on to say that recently her daughter was really low after it was reported that she’d been chasing an actor at a party. “'But mummy, I was with Gauri aunty' (Gauri Shinde, director of English Vinglish) Jhanvi protested and I told her, ‘Welcome to my world, if you want to be a part of it, you have to be prepared for all this,’” the world-weary actor narrates, adding with a sigh that she is now waiting for Khushi to give her a shock one day soon. “She has already started modelling and it will end up with her saying, ‘Mujhe bhi acting karni hai'.”

In this era of remakes, is there any film of hers she’d like Jhanvi to take forward. “Abhi tak to aage bhi nahin badi hai woh, let’s see how she does in her first film,” Sridevi shoots back. Is her daughter being launched by Karan Johar in the Student of the Year sequel opposite Tiger Shroff as reported? “Wait for the announcement, it’ll come soon enough and aapko khud pata chal jayega,” she sounds like the perfect producer’s wife.

Which brings us to the subject of their home production, Mom, a thriller revolving around a frantic mother, whose daughter is in trouble. Sridevi confides that like the comedy-drama, English Vinglish, which fell into her lap and wooed her with the relatable Shashi, Mom too just came her way two years after her comeback film. “Boneyji came to me with just one line saying if I liked the idea, they’d develop it. It took them a year to lock the script, another year to finalise the cast. I never thought I’d come back to the studio again, I was happy in my own world with my husband and children,” says the woman for whom the word ‘mom’ epitomises devotion, giving and selflessness and brings back memories of her own mother who was very religious and taught her to respect elders and always be punctual and professional, qualities she wants to pass on to her children. “Whatever I am today is because of my mom,” she says emotionally.

Given a chance to relive her life, would she choose another profession? “My family wasn’t in films and destiny brought me into this film industry at the age of four, and I’d always want to be this Sridevi, Sridevi, the actor,” she signs off with another smile.