Of the 300 movies that Sridevi has starred in, over 80% are in Telugu and Tamil. Here’s a jukebox of songs that are impossible to hum without imagining Sridevi dancing to them, or showing you the true emotion of the song with a single look.
10. Abbani Tiyyani Debba – The Original ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’
With his fluid dance moves, Chiranjeevi was the rockstar of Telugu cinema in the 90s. In a sheer chiffon saree and brilliantly minimal dance steps, Sridevi matches his steps with nonchalance and then surpasses him in style.
Oh, and yes, this is the song that was later ‘borrowed’ for Madhuri Dixit’s iconic ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’ in the movie Beta.
The original is from Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, where Sridevi plays a celestial damsel stuck on earth. True story?
9. Sippi Irukkuthu Muthum Irukkuthu
This was a K Balachander film, written specifically for Kamal Haasan. Sridevi, who was around twenty years old at the time, had already established herself as a talent powerhouse to contend with. And to everyone’s surprise, she stole the show when the movie came out.
Of course, Kamal did some mentoring.
8. Indhira Mandhira Sundara Kaara
There was once a time when Ram Gopal Varma made awesome films. This is true. Really. No, really!
Govinda Govinda bombed at the box office, but then went on to become a sleeper hit that TV channels cash in on every month. All thanks to Sridevi, who plays an NRI in the film. Check out her charm!
7. En Vaanile... Ore Vennila
In the film Johnny (1980), for probably the first time, Rajinikanth plays the hero, instead of a villain, who torments Sridevi.
Their on-screen chemistry was crackling. Both were high on style at the time, and Sridevi’s iconic dialogue, ‘Naan appadithan pesuven’, delivered in a childlike tone, has been used and reused by teens for decades.
I’m not a fan of the singer (Jency), but the song is pure gold.
6. Manchi Tharunam... The NTR-ANR Combo!
The older a superstar, the younger the female lead. NT Ramarao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao were Telugu cinema’s biggest biggies. And by the 80s, they were in their early sixties!
Sridevi was 18 years old when Sathyam Shivam (1981) came out. It was a hit, as usual. The only other option for a superstar at the time was Krishna, who too was equally successful, equally old and equally prolific in acting with Sridevi!
This song is a part of history. It’s not great. But it’s fun.
5. Ninaivo Oru Paravai – Of Red Roses and Murder
From a director known for his earthy tales set in the remotest villages of Tamil Nadu, came Sigappu Rojakkal (1978), a thriller that shook the audience with its black theme. There were only two characters of flesh and blood in the movie; that of Kamal Haasan and Sridevi.
All of fifteen years old, Sridevi belts out a performance that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.
And then this a cappella song, far ahead of its time.
4. Naa Kallu Cheputhunnayi — The ANR Stuff
ANR was to Telugu cinema what ‘Jumping Jack’ Jitendra was to Bollywood. He was sprightly beyond his age, to the point that he played a boy fresh out of college while in his late fifties.
This is one of the many songs shot in overly saturated eastman colour that is now part of Telugu cinematic history.
Fare warning, this song is an earworm.
3. Vaazhve Maayama – And Villain Rajini is Back!
From 1977, Gayathri was yet another movie where Rajinikanth plays a sadist husband, who simply likes to watch his wife, Gayathri (played by Sridevi), cry.
Incidentally, this film marked the debut for Sujatha, the Kerala born singer, who has sung in all south Indian languages, and in Hindi.
She was barely twelve years old at the time!
2. Lullaby – Jaamu Raathiri
Kshanakshanam (1991) was written and directed by Ram Gopal Varma exclusively and for the sole purpose of fulfilling his long standing dream of doing a film with Sridevi. She remains his eternal crush. In fact, he admits that all of the female leads he has worked with since then have had some quirk or the other that resembled Sridevi.
This movie marked Sridevi’s entry into the next generation of Telugu cinema, after NTR and ANR movies, when Venkatesh was the new superstar on the block.
RGV’s ode to Sridevi also holds within it a beautiful lullaby.
1. Kanne Kalaimane – The Ultimate Lullaby
Moondram Pirai (1982) was directed by Balu Mahendra, who, like Stanley Kubrick, was also an exceptional cinematographer.
None of the actors, in any of his movies, ever wore make-up. He believed in the natural beauty of each person’s skin texture and complexion. His brilliance as a director comes through in de-glamourising the naturally beautiful Sridevi, without a single smattering of make-up.
This song is poignant, and carries more meaning now than ever before.