Bollywood star Sridevi dies of heart attack

Indian Bollywood actress Sridevi Kapoor during the Umang Mumbai Police Show 2018 in Mumbai, on Jan 13, 2018.
Indian Bollywood actress Sridevi Kapoor during the Umang Mumbai Police Show 2018 in Mumbai, on Jan 13, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
A file photo showing then-Indian President Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Shree award to Indian film actress Sridevi during the presentation of the Padma Awards 2013 at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, on April 5, 2013.
A file photo showing then-Indian President Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Shree award to Indian film actress Sridevi during the presentation of the Padma Awards 2013 at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, on April 5, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Millions of fans and India's film world were in mourning on Sunday (Feb 25) for the country's first female superstar Sridevi, who died of an apparent heart attack in Dubai where she was attending a nephew's wedding.

The Gulf News, quoting sources, said the 54-year-old actress collapsed in the bathroom last Saturday evening but did not specify exactly where this occurred.

Condolences poured in on Sunday for the soft-spoken actress, who had starred in about 300 movies since the age of four, with many expressing shock at the news.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: "Saddened by the untimely demise of noted actor Sridevi. She was a veteran of the film industry, whose long career included diverse roles and memorable performances. My thoughts are with her family and admirers in this hour of grief. May her soul rest in peace."

Fellow superstar Rajinikanth said the movie industry has "lost a true legend".

"I was extremely shocked to hear of her demise. I'd known her for about 40 years and we had acted together since my second film. She was a very good friend," he told reporters outside his home in Chennai.

Many on social media - which was flooded with fans sharing their favourite Sridevi movie, dialogue and posters - also noted that the actress had died months before her daughter Jhanvi, 19, was to make her acting debut in a Bollywood movie.

Sridevi had pinned the poster of her daughter's movie to her official Twitter account.

Born Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan on Aug 13, 1963, in Sivakasi in the state of Tamil Nadu to a lawyer father and a homemaker mother, Sridevi began her career as a child artist with appearances in the 1967 Tamil film, Kandhan Karunai (By The Mercy Of Kandhan), and the devotional film, Thunaivan (Companion), two years later.

She dropped out of school to continue acting, making an effortless transition from child actor to heroine in a number of movies in different south Indian languages, besides Tamil.

After becoming queen of South Indian cinema, particularly in Kollywood in Tamil Nadu, she set her eyes on Bollywood and soon became a household name in northern India as well.

Actress Sridevi with her husband, film producer Boney Kapoor, and daughters Khushi and Jhanvi (far right).
Sridevi at the International Indian Film Academy in 2013. She started her career in a 1967 Tamil film. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

She starred in a series of commercially successful and some critically acclaimed movies, including Sadma (Shock), Mr India, Chandni (Moonlight) and Lamhe (Moments). She also played diverse roles, such as a mythical shape-shifting cobra and a klutzy journalist.

Sridevi always had a commanding presence on screen, often carrying movies solely on her acting and dancing skills, and was one of very few Indian female superstars who were capable of huge box-office success without the support of a male hero.

Off-camera, though, she came across as extremely shy and a woman of few words in interviews.

In 1996, the award-winning actress married film producer Boney Kapoor, now 62. He is the elder brother of actor Anil Kapoor, with whom Sridevi starred in many blockbuster Bollywood films.

The actress, who often spoke about how she was deprived of a normal childhood, took a break from acting in 1997 to raise two daughters. Her other daughter, Khushi, is 17.

Sridevi often posted pictures of herself with her children who, thanks to their mother's fame, were social media stars. Her last picture on Instagram was with Khushi in Dubai.

In 2012, Sridevi returned to acting after a hiatus of 15 years with the movie English Vinglish, in which she played a downtrodden housewife who decided to learn English to boost her confidence, and followed this up in 2016 with Mom, in which she avenged her daughter's rape.

Indian media reports said her last appearance in a movie would be in a cameo role in Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's upcoming film Zero, due for release in December.

Many say Sridevi, who described herself as an "actor-mum-housewife-actor again!" on her Twitter account, made a lasting impact on Indian cinema.

Indian film editor Beena Paul said: "She had a very long innings. She started in a regional, small way and she grew. She was a fine actress. Her last few films were about strong women characters."

"She was a rare actress," she added.