It was nearly midnight and we were awaiting our most important guest for the Masala! Awards 2017 - one of Indian cinema’s most enduring stars, Sridevi! The excitement was high because it had been preceded by much anxiety that is a common feature of all big events. Finally everything was sorted and there we were, ready to welcome her to Dubai.
Sridevi, Boney Kapoor and Khushi finally made it through arrivals, around half past midnight, with a huge trolley of five to six massive suitcases. Dressed in a black tee, jeans and boots, a stylish pair of reading glasses adorning her eyes, hair in a bun, Sridevi looked like a regular tourist but even in her no-make up look, the star quality was hard to miss. Graceful, refined and soft spoken, she accepted our greetings. We requested the couple to say a few words about the Awards and they did so, without any qualms.
Unfortunately, there was a minor hiccup in the transport but while Boney was getting a bit impatient, Sri was a picture of calm and composure. She didn’t complain one bit as she waited for the car to arrive. When it finally did, we heaved a sigh of relief and saw them off, promising to meet again later in the evening – at the event at Bollywood Parks.
Cut to the evening. The crowds were building up and everyone had only one question – where is Sridevi? When would she arrive?
She came in style, at nearly 9 pm, long after the Masala! Awards had started. Dressed in a silvery Manish Malhotra gown, she was the epitome of grace as she walked the red carpet. There were few who weren’t taken in by her aura.
Sridevi glided on the red carpet, stopping to give polite video bytes to the hordes of journalists there. She particularly was a huge hit with Pakistani journalists. Having worked with two Pakistani stars in her last film Mom – Sajal Aly who played her daughter and Adnan Siddiqui who played her husband – she was extremely popular in Lollywood and her quotes on the night won her more fans than before. “I don’t believe in divides for art, I loved working with Sajal and Adnan, there should be no boundaries…” For a person known to be supremely diplomatic, she was very candid about her experience of working with stars across the border.
When it was her turn to go up and fetch her award, she was her shy self, making a short sweet speech about freeing art from the shackles of politics. But her joy at receiving a trophy for Mom, a movie that was close to her heart, was palpable.
What followed gave an insight into the mystery that is Sridevi. After receiving her trophy, Sri and her entourage walked up backstage where award winners and celebrities gathered for having their pictures taken. The area immediately cleared up to make way for her. She suddenly seemed taciturn and reserved, not encouraging too many selfie-seekers. Backstage, the other stars – Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar, Manish Malhotra and other celebs were in a relaxed mood. But Sri seemed keen to wrap up the shoot.
The photographer was a bit tense but ready for her to take the spotlight. The team knew, she wouldn’t probably give them too much time. They wondered if they could dare suggest a pose or two to her but they were needlessly worrying. Once the lensman started clicking, there was a transformation. It’s as if Sri was waiting for the camera to start rolling. Her face lit up, there was a beatific smile and she started seducing the camera in a way only Sri could. In seconds, she gave the perfect pose, the right smile and the ideal pout.
Shoot done, she was once again reticent. But that was when the other celebs – especially Mahira Khan, Mawra Hocane and Saba Qamar - took over. Their love and admiration for the legend was evident as Lollywood’s divas started behaving like fan girls. Manish, the common designer favourite, joined in and soon it seemed like an old friend’s reunion club.
The chatter went for quite some time before Sri decided she wanted to head back. A few polite goodbyes later, she was on her way but not before giving everyone present, memories of a lifetime.
A woman born for the cameras, she went away with the greasepaint firmly on. Thank you Sridevi for the moments, the movies and the memories…