In a country that worships its male superstars, Sridevi’s stardom is unparalleled. She played a key role in bridging the gap between Bollywood and South Indian cinema, which made her not only one of India’s biggest superstars but also one of the country’s great actors. In her career spanning more than five decades, Sridevi had a little over 300 films to her credit in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi.
Starting from her first appearance at four years old, playing a child Lord Murugan in Kandhan Karunai (1967), to her last major film, Mom, Sridevi has been an inspiration to many, inside and out of the industry. When she returned to cinema after a gap of 15 years in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish (2012), it truly felt like it was just the beginning of another great phase in her life; however, her sudden demise on February 24, 2018, left a huge void which will, perhaps, never be filled. Her legacy carries on in the films she has done, people she has worked with, and in her fans’ hearts.
Looking to explore her filmography beyond the usual picks? Here are acclaimed 10 Sridevi movies you can start with:
Moondru Mudichu (1976)
A remake of Telugu film O Seetha Katha, Moondru Mudichu was Sridevi’s first movie as a lead female actor in Tamil cinema, and it was also the first time that Sridevi worked together with Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Directed by K Balachander, the film is about Selvi (Sridevi), who lives in the same apartment complex as Balaji (Kamal Haasan) and Prasad (Rajinikanth). Although Balaji is in love with Selvi, Prasad has his own plans; however, things take a dramatic turn following the death of Balaji and Selvi’s entry into Prasad’s life as his step-mother! Sridevi was just 13-years-old when she played this much older and mature character, which she pulled off with elan. K Balachander is said to have asked Kamal Haasan to be her baby-sitter, and soon, the actor became her mentor. The movie laid the foundation for her stardom in movies, and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Sridevi and Haasan.
16 Vayathinile (1977)
Directed by Bharathiraja, the film was a game-changer for not just Sridevi, but also Tamil cinema in terms of how they portrayed realism and rural life. The film follows the trials and tribulations in the life of a 16-year-old girl, Mayil (Sridevi), who has big dreams about her future. But when her relationship with a suitor ends on a sour note, it triggers a series of events in her life which lead her to make a choice about her future. The film has terrific performances by Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, and the music, composed by Ilaiyaraaja, added a lot of heft to its cult status. Sridevi went on to reprise the same role in the Telugu (Padaharella Vayasu) and Hindi (Solva Sawan) remakes of the film, which established her career in respective film industries.
Moondram Pirai (1982)
Heartbreaking is an understatement to describe Balu Mahendra’s classic romantic drama, Moondram Pirai, which was later remade in Hindi as Sadma. Partly inspired from Balu Mahendra’s own experiences in his life, the film focuses on the relationship between Srinivas (Kamal Haasan) and Bhagyalakshmi (Sridevi), and how Srinivas helps rescue her from a brothel and takes care of her as she tries to recover from retrograde amnesia. Sridevi poured her child-like enthusiasm into one of her toughest roles, which went on to become a milestone in her career.
Directed by Dasari Narayana Rao, Premabhishekam had Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Sridevi playing the lead roles and it follows the journey of a couple Rajesh and Devi, whose relationship hits a roadblock after Rajesh is diagnosed with terminal illness. The film was also a musical blockbuster with songs like ‘Naa Kallu Chebuthunnayi’, ‘Vandanam Abhivandanam’ turning out to be evergreen hits.
Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990)
K Raghavendra Rao’s fantasy action drama Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, starring Chiranjeevi and Sridevi, was, in a lot of ways, a tribute to Sridevi’s alluring beauty. In the film, she plays an angel, who is forced to go to Earth to retrieve a magical ring that she loses in the Himalayas. Sridevi’s onscreen chemistry with Chiranjeevi and her playfulness is palpable in every scene, and the duo went on to set the screens on fire in what turned out to be one of the landmark movies of the ’90s in Telugu cinema. The film is also best known for its songs and Amrish Puri’s performance as a wizard. The larger-than-life backdrop and epic action sequences captured the imagination of a generation of moviegoers and the film, rightfully, baptised Sridevi as Athiloka Sundari, which translates to ethereal beauty.
Kshana Kshanam (1991)
Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s road thriller, Kshana Kshanam was, in his own words, his love letter to Sridevi. Soon after making his debut with Shiva, the filmmaker convinced his favourite actor to come on-board the film in which she played Satya, a young girl who gets embroiled in a clash between cops and bank robbers, and she takes the help of a small-time thief Chandu (Venkatesh) to get out of the situation. Apart from having numerous quirky characters, including a very eccentric Paresh Rawal as a bank robber, Kshana Kshanam was quite ahead of its time. RGV’s realistic style of filmmaking is evident and so is his immense love for Sridevi, who was at her best in the film.
Mr India (1987)
The film that turned Sridevi into a superstar in Hindi cinema, Mr India, directed by Shekhar Kapur, is a superhero film with all the markers of an Indian potboiler. She played Seema, a journalist, who falls in love with Arun (Anil Kapoor), a kind-hearted man who is guardian to a bunch of orphaned children. Sridevi stole everyone’s heart with her sensuous act in the song Kaate Nahi, the unbridled enthusiasm that she exuded in , and an impersonation of in a casino sequence. Be it in the comic sequences—Hawa Hawaii, or the Charlie Chaplin impersonation at the casino—or romance—her iconic Kaate Nahi sequence in the blue sari—Sridevi nailed it with her performance in this classic.
Loosely based on the 1973 film Seeta aur Geeta, Sridevi played dual roles to perfection in Pankaj Parashar’s Chaalbaaz. As Anju, she was the submissive young girl, tormented by her uncle and aunt; and as Manju, Sridevi played an boisterous street-smart girl who grows up in a slum. The story is about how these twins, separated at birth, end up swapping places, finally reuniting to discover the truth of their shared history.
Considered one of the greatest romantic dramas ever made in Hindi, Yash Chopra’s Lamhe had Sridevi playing dual roles once again, but this time, she was cast as mother and daughter. Lamhe narrates the story of Viren (Anil Kapoor), who falls in love with Pallavi (Sridevi); however, he’s heartbroken when he realizes that she’s in love with another man. Soon, Pallavi and her husband die in a car crash, leaving behind their only daughter Pooja, who grows up looking just like her mother. The twist in the tale occurs years later when Pooja falls in love with Viren. The film was considered bold and ahead of its time, but that didn’t stop people from appreciating Sridevi’s class act. A personal favorite of Yash Chopra’s, Lamhe stood the test of time and gained acclaim over the years.
English Vinglish (2012)
Sridevi returned to the silver screen after a hiatus of 15 years in Gauri Shinde’s heartwarming drama English Vinglish. In the film, Sridevi played Shashi, a middle-aged woman, who’s often belittled by her own family, which makes her feel insecure. When she heads to New York to help her sister prepare for a wedding in the family, Shashi enrols in an English class that changes her life and those around her. Sridevi’s performance resonated with the audience, and she personified the everyday struggle that many women go through daily.