Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

The Death of India’s ‘First Female Superstar’ 

Sridevi

On Feb. 25, India woke up to find that Bollywood actress Sridevi is no more, and the news sent the film fraternity and fans in shock. The actress was found in the bathtub of their hotel room in Dubai by her film producer husband Boney Kapoor on the night of Feb. 24.

The 54-year-old actress died as a result of “accidental drowning,” Gulf News reported, citing the  forensic report. Traces of alcohol were found in her body, the report added. “The investigation is still going on to determine the circumstances surrounding the accident as the forensic report only says that she drowned,” an official was quoted as saying by the publication.

Sridevi’s remains are expected to be flown to Mumbai on Feb. 26 afternoon.

Earlier reports had said that the actress died following a cardiac arrest and was brought dead to the hospital.

Indian celebrities, including Bollywood actors and directors to politicians and sportspersons expressed their shock and sadness at her passing. The news of her death was covered extensively by international outlets as well, with obituaries dedicated to India’s “first female superstar.”

The Independent featured a blog by Indian-origin writer Ashanti Omkar, who spoke of how Sridevi’s death was “about so much more than Bollywood.” The writer said that while her name may “evoke images of Bollywood cliches and dancing around trees,” the actress was an icon for Southeast Asians across the world for being “a true trailblazer who fought to change perceptions of women in cinema, and still won over the hearts of a patriarchal nation.”

She added: “She pushed for screen time on par with her male co-leads, as well as equal pay – long before these were widely discussed topics. She was one of the only women in Bollywood who could lead a film without a male co-star – something incredibly rare in Indian cinema.”

The thought was echoed by Indo-Carribbean writer Dr Vishnu Bisram on the ICDN Today website, who said that the expressive actress was an icon for Indo-Caribbeans and that “many Indo-Guyanese daughters were named after the actress.”

Brown Girls Magazine, a publication for South Asian women, also said that “Sridevi’s presence was a game changer.” It added: “Not only did the success of 1986’s Nagina, a snake fantasy film, lay solely on Sridevi’s shoulders, but even today, when the 1987 Anil Kapoor-Sridevi superhit Mr India is mentioned, it is Sridevi’s portrayal as the witty crime reporter that outshines Kapoor as the desi invisible man.”

The Entertainment Weekly detailed her illustrious career that spanned four decades from her first feature film at the age of 4 (a Tamil film called Thunaivan) to her 300th film, Mom, last year.

Tributes poured in for the star from national and international personalities:

Lion actress Priyanka Bose paid a tribute as well:

Sachin Tendulkar was quoted by reporters at an event saying: “To hear that Sridevi is no longer with us, it’s hard to digest. My condolences to her family members and everyone who’s followed her career, and loved her, loved her for everything that she was and she did for us.”

Born Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan in Tamil Nadu, Sridevi started her acting career at the age of four, by appearing in several Tamil-language films in the 1960s and 1970s. Her wide range of work includes films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi.

She was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honor in India, in 2013.

She began a relationship and went on to marry an already married film producer Boney Kapoor. The couple had two daughters named Jhanvi and Khushi.