Interview Hindi

Sridevi: I can’t expect my children to be like how I was with my mom

The versatile actress gets talking about her upcoming film, Mom and gets nostalgic about her own mother.

Keyur Seta

Sridevi made a spectacular comeback after 15 years in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish (2012). In fact, it is considered one of the best comebacks by a top actor. Naturally, there was keen excitement to see what she does next. But the versatile actress took her own time before saying yes to Ravi Udyawar’s Mom. As the film is nearing its release (7 July), Sridevi talks to us about the film, her criteria of signing films at this stage and the way film industry has changed in all these years. 

What is Mom about exactly? It looks like a revenge drama from the promos.

It’s a simple subject. It’s an emotional family drama about a mother-daughter relationship. Definitely it has thrill and suspense. 

What is your criteria for choosing a film these days?

There is nothing like choosing. I don’t choose films from the mind, I choose from my heart. When I hear the subject, it should touch my heart. I should feel good about the story, my character and of course the characters around me. So, it’s a simple thing. 

Your co-star Akshaye Khanna recently complemented you saying that it was difficult working with you as you are a very good actor. How was your experience with him?

It was very good. We find very few actors who work this way. He is very dignified, quiet and very well brought up child. His personality is so powerful that if he is in the frame he doesn’t need to do anything. His smile and style are enough. He has done some very good work in the movie. 

Did you see any reflection of his father Vinod Khanna in him? You have worked with both.

There was his reflection definitely since he (Akshaye) is his son. We can see Vinod ji’s style and charm in Akshaye. But as a performer, he has his own identity. That’s the best thing. You won’t find any similarity with Vinod ji. He has a very special and different style. 

After English Vinglish (2012), Mom is your next film, which has taken five years. Have you decided to do less but good films?

There hasn’t been any conscious decision. I don’t plan anything in my life. After 15 years, I never thought I would be doing a film. English Vinglish just came to my lap. The same was with Mom. I was happy for two years, enjoying the success of English Vinglish. Then this subject came to me. I felt it’s nice so I should do it. There was no plan as to when I would do my next film. 

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Your character in English Vinglish created a strong impact on the audience. Should we expect something similar in Mom?

When I was working on English Vinglish, I enjoyed doing it. Everybody identified with the character. At that time, I never thought about this. I thought it will reach everyone. As an actor, I was very happy doing that role. But I hadn’t thought that people would appreciate and identify with it so much. Not only the elders, even the daughters felt guilty and called their mother after seeing it, which I never expected. I don’t know what will happen with Mom. This is what you should decide. 

How did you prepare for that role?

Artists, at the back of their mind, observe people. I used to see my aunt dressing up like that. She is an office-going, well-educated lady. I used to observe her way of walking and talking. As a child, I noticed and admired her. I used that in English Vinglish. So, subconsciously you keep learning and keep some characters in your mind. Then when a character comes across, you think of using it. 

Coming to Mom, tell us about your mom (Rajeswari Yanger) who used to visit you during shoots during your early days.

When I was a child star, I could always see her standing there whether we used to shoot in rains, hot sun or snow. I can’t remember one occasion when she asked me to go for the shoot alone saying she was tired or not well. She was always there standing, looking at me and making sure that I am comfortable and okay. This is the biggest memory I have of my mother.

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Did she ever guide you in your filmi career?

She used to encourage me in things like giving your 100%, working hard, being punctual, respecting your elders. The things which normally every mother tells her kids. 

What kind of a mom are you to Jhanvi and Khushi? Are you strict or like a friend?

There has to be a balance. I am a friend and sometimes I am strict too. Touchwood, my kids never gave me a reason to be too strict. I never had to take a stick in my hand. They know where I am coming from, so they are aware of it. They listen to me. So, we understand them also because we are a different generation. I can’t expect my children to be how I was with my mother. It would be unfair. Even the parents should change with time. 

Has anyone in your family seen Mom? What has been their reaction?

My elder daughter (Jhanvi) saw it. She didn’t say a word. She just hugged me and she couldn’t speak. So I felt really good. But at this stage all of you, the audience should be happy with the film. 

What was your reaction after watching the film?

Actors are never satisfied with themselves. Even in my earlier films, I felt that I could have done better. Like, in that shot, I should have done that. This always keeps on going in our minds. We never feel that we did well. We are always very greedy. 

You started working long ago. How do you see the change in the film industry in all these decades?

A lot has changed in the film industry. Other things like director’s thinking is the same. But technically it’s unbelievable. The environment has changed. There is a time period now. Earlier we used to work on film (reel). If you take 10 takes, you can spot the producer’s face in tension, with his hands on his head. He would say, ‘It has been 10 takes! My film is getting wasted. What’s happening?’ He used to wonder what would happen if the reel gets over and there is not enough stock left. Now this is not there at all. It’s all digital. You can take as many takes till you get it right. You don’t have any such tension at the back of your mind. 

And there is also a monitor. More than anything else, there is a luxury of the vanity van. I have shot at Rajahmundry, Vizag, etc. If we had to change, it was behind a tree or bus. We all went through this. This is like a golden period. Whole day we didn’t drink water, thinking that you don’t know where to... (stops). I don’t remember drinking (water) all my life. I am so used to not having water (laughs). 

You have done a lot of rain songs in your career...

It’s torturous.

But they have been hits, like the ones in Mr India (1987) and Chaalbaaz (1989). How much do you enjoy the rainy season in real life?

I am a very outdoor person. I like to spend time in my garden. Going for a walk in the evening, jogging or sometimes I will sit. But you can’t do such things in the rains. And I definitely don’t enjoy rain songs. During most of the songs, I had a running temperature.

Mr India recently completed 30 years. The film is still remembered. When is the status of its sequel?

I am very happy. People keep asking when will Mr India 2 will be made. I am really glad. It will surely be made some day. It is too early to talk about that. 

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Your film is nearing release. What are you going through?

I have given the exam paper. Now I am awaiting results (laughs). Everybody has given their heart, just like in every film. Of course, every film is a special film for me and this film is more special because it’s a home production. As an actor, it is a very satisfying experience. I have worked with a lot of people for the first time in this film and I am very lucky. I got to work with Gauri (Shinde) before and now Ravi (Udyawar). He is a wonderful director. He has done some tremendous work in this movie.