Sri Devi from my hometown Madras aka Chennai, starred in a Tamil picture for the first time when she was barely 4 years old. From child artiste, she went on to become leading lady and superstar not only down south but also in Bollywood. Rather than remembering her for ‘Hawa hawaiii’ and ‘Chandni’ , this is what I will remember her always for: Sri Devi from Tamil films. Can you believe this Sri Devi. Almost no make-up, no glam costumes, none of the farces like nose job… The innocence and dignity of character called Sri Devi. Unlike the diva who banished her true self into oblivion once she set foot in Bollywood. Every single picture of hers was epic. Tamil people mostly do not speak Hindi and know of only her Tamil pictures. This list is not exhaustive. I have compiled whatever came to my mind.
This is my tribute to the legendary star who passed away last night in Dubai. Untimely death. I doubt whether even her daughters know the other side of her the way the Tamil audience may.
However i do not underrate her tryst with Bollywood. Daughter of Chennai may be, but bahu of Mumbai. Bombay made her phenomenal, the first all India lady superstar that she was. If not for Bollywood, she would have remained a hidden jewel to the world.
This first number is from her debut picture opposite both Rajni Kanth and Kamal Hasan, directed by thespian director K Balachander. Sri Devi is 13 years in this film.
A crime story, Gayathri must have been a heavy subject to handle for 15 year Sri Devi with anti-hero Rajni Kanth but she managed it admirably well.
A cute Jolly Abraham song which was my pre-teen favourite.
Also a pre-teen favourite, this is a film where Sri plays village belle.
The landmark and award winning ’16 Vayathinile’ which went on to create 3 superheroes in Indian film industry: Sri Devi, Kamal Hasan and Rajni Kanth. Bharathi Raja became ace film director and Ilaya Raja became south India’s no.1 composer. Village story. Cannot see a classic like this until today, down to earth. A peek into rural Tamil Nad.
This song was a rare mistake of Sri Devi’s in Tamil films but it went on to become a runaway superhit with its catchy tune. I happened to watch the video only in You Tube and was relieved I only listened to this one in radio in my teenage:
Another award winning and thought provoking picture with director K Balachander who was belatedly awarded Dada Saheb Phalke award as if as an afterthought.
Award winning ‘Moondram Pirai’ which was dubbed into ‘Sadma’ in Hindi. My school screened a single film for us every year. That is how I got to watch this picture with my entire school gang in our school’s huge LV Hall, in the second floor. The dozens of lining doors were closed and the hall was darkened before the projector started running. Every time Cheenu (played by Kamal) called ‘Viji’ (Sri Devi character), my friends called me back ‘Viji’ a dozen times! It was also the first time I ever saw a picture with my school friends/friends without adult companionship/supervision. Unforgettable memories about the film. Every girl in my class remembers it even today therefore. Although we did not know then that the Balu Mahendra picture would forever take Sri Devi away from Madras, once it was dubbed into Hindi.
Beautiful melodies from Johny:
The cutest one and my all time favourite of Sri Devi. This was also my mother’s favourite (my mother passed away in 1982).
Vaazhve Maayam presented a stylish Sri Devi for the first time to Tamil audience. Sri Devi was changing.
Crime-Horror film like none other:
Priya: Sri Devi in her first foreign shoot in Singapore.
Another favourite of mine: