Scandal Flashback: Sridevi's Bizarre Behaviour
Masala! recounts the actress's quirky professional side
Sridevi was known as the female Amitabh Bachchan of the 1980s. Her dance numbers, performances and striking personality made her the undisputed diva of Bollywood. Films like Tohfa, Nagina, Mr India, Chaalbaaz and Sadma not only showcased her incredible talent but also her box office pull. It was hardly surprising that filmmakers vied to sign her for their movies while her contemporaries did not even try to reach
However her great success was not without controversies. While her personal life was always under scrutiny (her alleged affair with Mithun Chakraborty and later Boney Kapoor made for sensational headlines), her professional side was not without blemish either. Of course, she was a fabulous actress and extremely dedicated to her craft but Sridevi made news not for the films she signed but for the ones she didn’t! A lot of the films she rejected went on to become superhits thus benefitting some other actress but what surprised people was the reason for which she’d refuse a film – they bordered from the bizarre to the inane making people wonder why she behaved so oddly.
Once Sridevi was offered a role in a film called Kaamyab opposite Jeetendra, which she rejected. What happened later was an epic and interesting fight. The producers, Padmalaya Films were reportedly miffed with Sri so they signed another South actress, Radha in her place. Later, posters of the other actress were seen all over the city with the tagline:'She's not Sridevi. She's Radha!' Obviously upset by the production house's childish behaviour, Sridevi's mother asked her not to work in another film, Hoshiyar that she had earlier signed with them. Apparently, Sri's mum wanted to punish the producers for hitting back at her daughter. The actress also reportedly rejected being part of a Yash Chopra film titled Vijay because it was a multi-star cast film. She wanted to make the most of her stardom getting the maximum coverage and a prominent role!
The next big film she rejected was Shashi Kapoor's home production Ajooba in which she was approached for a role opposite none other than Amitabh Bachchan. The reason for denying the film? She felt Amitabh had a more prominent role and felt she didn't deserve anything less than what he got. In an interview in 1987, she said, "I have never said I won't work with Amitji. But then what's there for any artiste to do in a film starring him? He does everything himself." While some felt her statement reeked of arrogance (especially at a time when heroine-oriented films were non-existent) others felt that she was merely seeking her place in the industry as a superstar in her own right. She may have refused Ajooba because she felt the role wasn't significant enough but when she got a fantastic author-backed character in Beta, she said no to that as well! The film was eventually signed by Madhuri Dixit and it went on to become a blockbuster helping the Dhak Dhak girl edge out Sridevi as the numero uno. Sri's reason for rejecting Beta was that it starred Anil Kapoor with whom she had worked a number of times. A couple of years later Sridevi was offered Darr, a film that made Juhi Chawla a superstar. But she turned it down saying, "After Chandni and Lamhe, I feel Darr would have been an ordinary character for me. If I’m playing Shah Rukh Khan's role, then of course, I would have loved to do it. The character Juhi played was new for her and so it was good for her. But for me, it was something I had done many times before." Perhaps she thought she was repeating herself in a role, but justifying that Shah Rukh's character was way more interesting and had she been offered that she would have gladly taken it up, almost displayed her arrogance. In the case of another film Yugpursh, Sridevi accepted the offer to play a call girl but backed out claiming she was not mentally prepared to take on such an intense role. Her logic may have sounded reasonable but then emerged rumours that there was another reason for her refusal. Apparently, it was on Boney Kapoor's insistence that she went back on her word since Nana Patekar, the lead of Yugpursh and Boney’s brother, Anil Kapoor, had had a war of words on a film set.
Apparently, Sridevi was also offered a role in Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg. She refused to star in it because it wasn't a staggering, meaty role.
Apart from refusing good films, there were also whispers about Sridevi making her male co-stars insecure. Once in an interview, when asked about Sridevi, Salman Khan said, "It’s good to work with an actress like Sridevi. But I'm scared. She has the reputation of finishing off the hero with her performance." Even the actresses were a little wary of her. As Amrita Singh once said, "Except for Sridevi, all the other heroines including myself can be slotted together. I'm afraid it is reality and it's time we face it. Today, most producers are proposal makers and most heroines are interchangeable. Sridevi is the only actress who makes a difference in the selling price of a film. She is there for keeps. Take it or leave it." Even producers made films especially to suit her tastes. Filmmaker Harmesh Malhotra once said, "I make films for Sridevi. The co-stars are not important. If people can make films for Amitabh why I can't make films for Sri?"
Sridevi ruled Bollywood a long time but there were occasions when she was rejected too. Apparently, she was chosen for Baazigar in 1993. She was supposed to do a dual role in the film and the script was written to suit her persona. However, the directors (Abbas Mustan) then got uncomfortable with the idea of having Sridevi on board as they felt that the audience would never be able to sympathise with SRK's character if he killed her. The role was re-written and two newcomers, Shilpa Shetty and Kajol, were signed up. In another film, Sunhera Sansar, she was to star along with Hema Malini. However, the makers decided to drop her at the last moment. Sridevi once confessed, "I remember having signed a film with Hemaji. I was a child star then. Halfway through the film, the hero objected to having so many South Indians in the film, so I was dropped."
Despite her rejections, there was no one like Sridevi in Bollywood. She was the first actress of her time to get Rs1 crore (roughly Dhs660,000) per film while her competition managed to earn a few hundred thousands. She once said, "I have a lot of responsibilities. I have to do something different in every film. Being at the top is like being on a rollercoaster ride. It’s thrilling and scary." In an interview to a leading newspaper she said, "I am glad I am in a position to do whatever is comfortable for me. I am glad I am in a position to select scripts." Sridevi is a remarkable actress and perhaps that's why despite so many controversies, she remains a true diva.
Where Is She Now:
Sridevi: Sri made a fabulous comeback with English Vinglish two years ago but hasn't signed any movie ever since. She continues to dazzle at red carpet events but is now said to be waiting for her daughter Jhanvi to make her debut.