What if Sridevi had said yes to Steven Spielberg when he offered her a role in Jurassic Park? The young actress, who had waded her way north from Tollywood to Bollywood, did not make that leap. She had thunder-thighed her way to the top slot of female superstar in Bollywood and become the female Amitabh Bachchan. It was then that Spielberg had made her the offer of a role in Jurassic Park. The Hawa Hawaii that hit Bollywood could have blown all the way across the oceans to LA. But it was not to be.
At the height of her success Sridevi said no to a small role in a Hollywood movie where her co-stars would have been prehistoric animals. She felt it was a role not worthy of her superstar status we are told.
Many years later, after a eight year hiatus from films, at the age of 49 she would cross the continents to make her comeback film. Walking down the streets of Manhattan in a brown trench coat, cappuccino in hand, Sridevi returned to Bollywood in EnglishVinglish as a middle-aged homemaker who enrolls in an English-speaking course in New York to stop her husband and daughter mocking her lack of English skills The film earned global acclaim at several international festivals and Sridevi was hailed as the “Meryl Streep of India”. English Vinglish was shortlisted as India’s official entry for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
In the movie Sridevi struck a #shetoo chord with all women who faced language barricades. The movie was a big hit in Japan. The Japanese women, themselves driven to despair by the linguistic discrepancies of the diaspora, embraced the film in a big way.
Sridevi who refused to become a dinosaur or act with them had truly conquered language barriers. Would the EnglishVinglish Sridevi have accepted Steven Spielberg’s offer of a role in his film if he made her one now? We would sure hope he had and she had accepted. But that is one more question that drowned with Sridevi the night of February 24th in a bathtub in Dubai.
-Ritu Marwah is the Features Editor for India Currents and enjoys writing on human behavior.