It was 1:45 in the midnight and I received a text from Mahira Khan that read ‘ So sorry for your loss, I know what she meant for you – Long Live the Queen’. It took me a while to register what she meant and then the series of phone calls started to check up on how I was doing and coping with my favourite star’s death. I was in disbelief until I verified this with Faraz Manan who had received a confirmation from Kareena Kapoor about Sridevi’s sudden and untimely demise. I was shattered to learn that my hero had died just within the radius of 3 kilometres from where I live in Dubai. I wanted to go to her but I had no clue on her whereabouts. I collected myself and dashed into the nearby American Hospital (one of the best in class Hospitals and notoriously known as the Hospital for the richer). I had a feeling that she would be brought here for treatment. But my calculation was wrong. She had been taken to Rashid Hospital that has the exclusive license to accept cases under emergency but unfortunately she was declared dead on arrival. The media as usual went over the top with this story and now that the body has finally been released, the speculations have been laid to rest. I connected with Faraz who had been in touch with Sridevi directly for the last few months and even a short while before her death.
Though Sridevi has been a Manish Malhotra loyalist most of her life, of late, she seemed to have developed a liking for the UAE-based Pakistani designer Faraz Manan, a Masala! Awards winner. During the last few months, Faraz and Sridevi were in constant touch with each other as she had been placing a lot of orders with him. His staff had also delivered dresses to her a day before the fateful incident took place.
Faraz remembered her as someone very unique. “She would spend 10 to 15 minutes on each dress and would discuss everything with me, from fittings to embroidery to the fabric. I have not seen such a dedicated woman in my career. She did not only wear the outfits, she understood them too. From fabric to cut to craft of embroidery, she knew everything so well that in a short span of time, I learnt a lot from her. She was one of those who wore my dresses exactly how I thought a woman should wear. It’s sad she is not with us but her legacy lives on because they don’t make women like her anymore,” he says.
Remembering her and her frequent visits to Dubai, Faraz adds, “Sridevi used to love Dubai, in fact she loved all things luxury. I would say she was a true ‘Shouqeen’. Fashion was her ‘Shouq’. It reflected in her taste; she was someone who was never afraid of experimenting and would carry any dress with utmost perfection and grace.” It is a common practice in the fashion world for stars to wear a designer’s clothes for mutual benefit. And if the muse is someone like Sridevi, who was every designer’s delight, it made all the sense for designers to gift their creations to her as her appearance in the outfit could boost the brand image. But Faraz revealed something really surprising. She would never accept the dresses as gift. If she liked something, she would insist on paying, as in her words, “I like to own things”.
The late Sridevi sporting a Faraz Manan creation
“She was such a humble woman and she would speak with everyone with great respect. A few months ago, when she was staying at Palm Jumeirah, I had sent my driver to pick her up. My driver is a South Indian and on way back, she spoke to the driver in her language and asked him about his family and his wellbeing. He had tears in his eyes when he saw Sridevi connecting with him at a personal level. I have similar stories to share. She would make whatsapp calls and would always start with ‘Aap busy to nahi hai Faraz’.
This statement would embarrass me so much! But my respect for the lady grew tremendously. During my early interactions with her, I confessed that it was her films like Chandni and Lamhe that made me realise that fashion was my calling. She had had a huge impact on driving the concept of minimalism through those films. She would jokingly say, ‘Aapne itne bachpan se notice kia’? Of late, I had been working on an elaborate ball gown for her and her daughters but sadly that will never get delivered. When I heard the news of the death, I sent her a message, ‘Please say this is not true - sadly those messages are still unread on my phone. I hope this all was a bad dream”. The designer ended the conversation wishfully.
Sridevi may be lying motionless but she has moved the world with her untimely death. Her demise has caused similar chaos and curiosity as her films did at box office during her hey days. Over a span of five decades, Sridevi shone bright in the film firmament of India and beyond. The world will miss this true fashion icon and will celebrate her legacy for years to come.
Sadiq Saleem is a UAE based entertainment writer. He can be contacted on www.sidsaidso.com