Why Sridevi considered Himmatwala’s success her bad luck
Sridevi believed it was her bad luck that her first big hit in Hindi films turned out to be a commercial one, Himmatwala, and when she did a performance-oriented role in Sadma, the film flopped.
The 1980s smash hit Himmatwala might have turned Sridevi into an overnight star in Bollywood, but according to a new book, the actor considered the film “bad luck” for her. Quoting an 1987 interview of the yesteryear actor, the book titled Sridevi: Queen of Hearts, said that she was not entirely pleased that her first big hit in Hindi cinema was Himmatwala (1983).
“In Tamil films, they love to see me act naturally. But in Hindi films they want a lot of glamour, richness and masala. My bad luck was that my first big hit in Hindi films turned out to be a commercial one (Himmatwala). When I did a character role in Sadma, the picture flopped. So people started casting me only for glamour roles. But one day I’m going to prove to everyone that I can act also,” said the actor, as quoted in the book.
Sridevi, as written by journalist-author Lalita Iyer, soon with her widely-acclaimed cult classic Mr India (1987) proved her versatility as a “pan-Indian” actor. “Mr India was the year’s best film and a riot at box office; it had something for everyone, and was one of her most lovable performances. Sridevi had finally proved to Hindi cinema that she was more than just a box office draw,” Iyer writes in the book.
The author, who is an unabashed Sridevi fan, calls her the “Hero No 1” of the ‘80s, a period when, as per her, the Hindi film industry was going through a low phase and there was no real “contender for the No 1 hero position, even less so for a heroine”.
“People were tired of Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man persona and his films were not doing well... The angry man and his stunt-based films had largely killed music. Sridevi couldn’t have chosen a better moment to enter Hindi films,” claimed the author.
Though the book, which in Iyer’s own admission is not a tell-all book but a tribute to the actor, does mentions her struggle, be it “body shaming” or “being ridiculed” during the dubbing of the film, as she was not fluent in most of the languages.
According to the author, Sridevi’s language barrier led to a certain guardedness or aloofness on sets, which people construed as arrogance. “All through the 1980s, when her career was an all time high, she was a fortress that journalists could not breach. She spoke very little and mostly answered in monosyllables. The media was not very kind to her. They called her ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘ask Mummy’ because most of her answers were either ‘ask Mummy’ or ‘yes’ or ‘no,” reads the book.
Ironically, it was the biggest blockbuster of 1983 Himmatwala only that earned Sridevi the moniker of “thunder thighs”, thanks to her whip-cracking scenes in leather leotards, Iyer writes. However, like the author notes, it was Himmatwala only that got her a “dozen more films at the price she commanded”.