Mumbai, March 1: If politics divides, art unites. As politicians cutting across party lines are busy dividing people, screen idol Sridevi in her untimely death acted as a bridge to bring together a sea of mourners under one roof. On Wednesday, India bade goodbye to the legendary actress, who died at the age of 54 on Saturday in Dubai.
Apart from Sridevi's family members, colleagues from the film industry and friends, it was her fans, with heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, who gave her a well-deserved farewell. Her admirers waited in long queues in Mumbai to have a last glimpse of their favourite actress who through her films taught them how to love, laugh, cry and live.
Since Sunday, when the news of the demise of Padma Shri-winning actress came to light, her fans started milling around her Mumbai house. A visually-challenged man from Uttar Pradesh came all the way to Mumbai and waited two days in front of Sridevi's house to be a part of her funeral.
Jatin Valmiki, who has never seen her movies like a normal person because of his disability, too is a huge fan of Sridevi. Jatin told journalists that Sridevi had once donated Rs 1 lakh to him to conduct his brother's surgery. The actress' generosity saved his brother, but Jatin lamented that he could not do anything for his benefactor.
Sobbing like a baby for losing his "hero", all Jatin wanted was to be a part of her last journey. Similarly her admirers from Chennai, Bengaluru and Delhi came to Mumbai only to be a part of her funeral. Many of them were disappointed as they failed to see the last image of their screen idol lying calmly draped in a red kanjivaram sari with a bindi on her forehead.
When her mortal remains were brought to the Mumbai's Celebration Sports Club for people to pay their tributes, long queues of her devotees were seen holding flowers and chanting prayers for the departed soul. A poster of Sridevi outside the club read, "Bahut dino baad esa dekha. Dil nahi bhara, asu bhar aaye. Dil chahta hain aaj roh lu mein jee bhar ke najaney kis kis baat par udhaas hoon (It has happened after a long time. My heart is empty but eyes are full of tears. Today, I want to cry to my heart's desire. Don't know why I am sad over so many things.)"
The poster carrying two beautiful photographs of the actress also had the message, "I miss you Sridevi." Later, the legendary actress was cremated with state honours in Mumbai in the presence of thousands of fans and members of the film fraternity. Jhanvi and Khushi, her two daughters, performed the final rituals with husband Boney Kapoor standing by their side. Sridevi's body, wrapped in the national flag and placed in a glass casket, was brought to the Pawan Hans crematorium in Vile Parle from the Celebration Sports Club near her home in Lokhandwala.
Sridevi was given state honours for her immense contribution to the Indian cinema. From down south to Bollywood (as the Hindi film industry is popularly known as), Sridevi has worked in some of the finest films, leaving behind a legacy which would be definitely hard for her successors to replicate.
She has worked in more than 250 Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films in a career spanning 50 years. She started her career at the age of four as a child artist in the Tamil film, Thunaivan. Since then she has never looked back. From Tamil films Moondram Pirai, 16 Vayathinile to Bollywood movies Lamhe and English Vinglish, Sridevi proved why she was a truly pan-Indian artist, who was beyond geographical and linguistic barriers.
Her sudden death has triggered a frenzy of disbelief and grief which was witnessed when thousands of her fans came out to the streets of Mumbai to be a part of her funeral. It is hard to recall when the nation last witnessed such public grief and solidarity. It was a sad occasion, but everyone stood united. They were mourning and it did not matter whether they were Hindus, Muslims, Mumbaikars or Tamilians. They were all united by the love for Sridevi.
Unfortunately, today we don't have any politician who can unite us all and install faith in us that as a nation we can be together irrespective of various religions, castes, languages and regions. NDTV's Pooja Talwar, who reported Sridevi's funeral, stated that she never saw such a huge crowd. "I simply stopped counting the crowd," Pooja said.
On Sridevi's last journey, it looked as if the entire Mumbai was out in the open. Not a single inch of the road--right from Sridevi's house to the crematorium--was empty. The maximum city simply stood still. Mumbai, a city where people usually have no time for others, made it a point to stop all businesses to say their last goodbye to their dear actress. Such love for Sridevi was because of her body of work.
She was a rare talent. An actress par excellence, a dancer with great grace and sensuality, a comedian with great timing, a diva with her own style statement--Sridevi epitomised the best of the Indian cinema. Those who are questioning why she was given state honour should have by now realised that she deserves it.
"Those wondering why @SrideviBKapoor was given a #StateFuneral, pls note it's the prerogative of the State Govt based on the stature of the deceased. No longer just for those who held Constitutional positions. Sridevi deserved the honour. @soniandtv @sardesairajdeep @RShivshankar," tweeted Sanjay Pinto, lawyer and columnist.
Those wondering why @SrideviBKapoor was given a #StateFuneral, pls note it's the prerogative of the State Govt based on the stature of the deceased. No longer just for those who held Constitutional positions. Sridevi deserved the honour. @soniandtv @sardesairajdeep @RShivshankar— Sanjay Pinto (@Sanjay_Pinto) February 28, 2018
In the last few days, we have seen how rumour mongers, aptly joined by a section of the Indian media, acted like "parasites" spreading canards against Sridevi and her family.
However, the matinee idol was beyond lies and hatred. From her films to her last journey, Sridevi always managed to bring people together even at a time when we stand divided as a nation.