The passing away of Sridevi for me is no less than a personal loss. With my friendship with Boney Kapoor having stood the test of time – despite differences, arguments, tiffs, quarrels and even major fights over some of my reviews of films either produced by him or starring brothers Anil and Sanjay Kapoor and much later, son Arjun Kapoor – we’ve been close friends.
Before Sridevi took on the Kapoor surname, she was just a great actress of Hindi and South cinemas for me. I had interacted with her only occasionally, and the interactions were purely professional. I remember my first meeting with her, years ago. She was already a force to reckon with, I was wet behind the ears, having joined my father in our business of publication of film trdae magazine Film Information. I had gone on a film set to interview her. She had spoken to me without a fuss and after the interview, I had asked her to share her address with me so that I could mail (there were no e-mails then) her “two copies of Film Information” carrying her interview. Very gently, she had told me, “Just write ‘Sridevi, Madras’ on the envelope, it will reach me.” There was no arrogance in her reply but I felt foolish for having asked her such a silly question.
After that, we kept meeting at shootings mostly but, as I said, the meetings were brief and strictly professional. Despite being close to Boney, I didn’t realise that he was seeing Sridevi – not until he told me one day that he was planning to marry her. It was probably because although Boney and I used to speak over the telephone at least five or six times daily, we only discussed films, box-office figures and trade talks, nothing else.
A couple of years passed. Sridevi delivered Janhvi first and Khushi then but I rarely saw her. My friendship with Boney continued. By then, we had had some fights but had become friends after brief spells of not talking to one another.
It was after a few years that I started meeting Sridevi with Boney as his better half. She must’ve known about our friendship because she once told me, “Komal, you know something. I’ve never seen Boney so much at peace with himself and with such a broad smile on his face as when he is talking to you on telephone. Tell me, what do you both talk that he is always so happy while talking to you!” I had laughed out loud then and had replied, “Sridevi ji, trust me, we talk only trade, nothing but trade.” The lady had continued, “Main Boney se hamesha poochhti hoon, how come, you don’t have the same smile when you speak with me?” I laughed even louder, and she joined me, laughing indulgently and innocently.
I remember another incident when Sridevi had made me laugh a lot. There was a time when we used to run annual quiz contests for actors in our bumper Diwali issues. I remember one such quiz contest. To corner the stars, we asked them trade-related questions, although very basic. Of course, many of the stars didn’t know many of the answers, and Sridevi was among them. While I was asking her the questions, she had tried her level best to ‘bribe’ her way through because she didn’t know the answers. “Komal, I’ll feed you hot idlis and dosas if you increase my points or prompt me the correct answers,” she had joked and gone into peals of laughter. She had realised the irony – that Boney had trade matters at his finger tips while she was struggling for the correct answers. “Aie aie yo,” she had wailed, “what will Boney ji say, when he sees my points? Komal, you have to help me, aap ko thoda toh help karna chahiye!” It was this child-like quality which made her so different from the other top stars.
On another occasion, we were in Delhi where Boney had taken a media contingent to cover the shooting of his Milenge Milenge. Sridevi had accompanied Boney and had narrated a rather cute incident about Janhvi who was a kid then. Sridevi used to often tell Janhvi that she should study hard and become a doctor when she grew up. Like any normal child, Janhvi had parroted the line that she would become a doctor. Recalled Sridevi in Delhi, “One day, we had guests at home. One of them asked Janhvi what she wanted to be when she grew up. Promptly, Janhvi replied, ‘Actress’. I nudged her and showed my displeasure because she did not answer ‘Doctor’. Realising my unhappiness, Janhvi tried to reassure me by saying, ‘Mom, I’ll play a doctor in one film.”’
Sridevi doted on Boney whom she fondly referred to as ‘Papa’, probably because her daughters call him that. For Boney, she was ‘Jaan’. Papa had asked Jaan to make a painting for my new house which he wanted to gift me at the griha pravesh ceremony in 2011. Boney had told me even while the interiors of the new house were being done, to keep a particular wall in a particular room vacant for Sridevi’s painting. The house-warming ceremony saw the lovely couple come to wish me and my family but instead of the painting, Boney came with another gift. I had forgotten about the painting he had spoken of, till one day, very recently, Boney asked me if the painting was still adorning that particular room in my house. I told him that he had not gifted me Sridevi’s painting. The perplexed look on Boney’s face said it all – he had been under the impression that the painting had reached my house. But it hadn’t. “Where’s the painting?” he asked me. “I don’t know, I never saw it,” I replied helplessly. “But Sri made it for you,” he emphasised, adding, “My God, where has it landed? Sri had made three paintings – one for Salman, another for Satish Kaushik, and the third for your home.” The worried look on Boney’s face stayed for a while thereafter as he tried to desperately recall if he had given the painting to anybody else. As if to reassure himself, he added, “But how could I give it to any one when it was made for your home!”
If Boney was unhappy about Sridevi’s painting not reaching its correct destination, Sridevi used to be unhappy when Boney and I had differences which were, as mentioned earlier, rare but mostly over my reviews of his films. We must’ve fought around seven or eight times during the last 23-24 years when Sridevi and Boney lived as a couple. At least on a couple of occasions, Sridevi had told me, “Komal, please don’t fight with Boney ji. He feels miserable when he stops talking to you.” I used to reply, “But so do I.” She used to shoot back, “Then why do you both fight? You both are so fond of one another… stop fighting, please.” I never asked Boney this but I am sure, she must have advised him too to not fight with me ever.
Look, Sridevi ji, I didn’t fight with your ‘Papa’ for having let you go away so soon although I had a good mind to do that! And do you know, Sridevi ji, what he told me when I met him at Celebration Sports Club where your mortal remains lay on 28th February? He said, “Komal, uss painting ko dhoondh. Search for Sri’s painting. It was made for you!”