Sridevi passes away: Films that the veteran actor did with Jeetendra were a mini industry unto themselves
It wouldn't be far-fetched to say that her films with Jeetendra helped Sridevi find a footing in Bollywood after she was rejected by audiences in her debut film Solva Sawan.
Among all of Sridevi’s films that released in the 80s, we remember seeing the veteran actor featured opposite Anil Kapoor. But truth be told, it was Sridevi’s pairing with Jeetendra that takes the cake. Despite the numerous hits Sridevi and Jeetendra gave together, even after three decades, the films are still to get their rightful due.
One reason that can be attributed to this error is that most of her films with Jeetendra were shot in remote areas of South Indian with the help from local technicians. Whereas her films with Anil Kapoor were shot in Mumbai studios.
Sridevi and Jeetendra together spelled a crackling chemistry and guaranteed box office success, which most actors failed to offer in the 80s. The films that featured the two stars together were solely aimed to entertain the masses. The pair was also instrumental in sort of launching (though unknowingly) a mini industry unto itself which churned out films in succession and in most cases hit the bull’s eye. The format was simple and crisp. A unit of limited people from Mumbai were to be lodged either in Hyderabad or Chennai (depending upon the shoot location) and the technical crew comprising the director and his team of assistants were to be the local. This format spawned a series of film and two actors who benefitted the most from this set up were Sridevi and Jeetendra.
Together they delivered as many as 18 films including super hits like Himmatwala, Maqsad, Justice Chaudhary and Tohfa. The success of Sridevi can to an extent be attributed on the success of such films. She'd become a force to reckon with.
The movement of these films, which began in early 80s, continued till the end of the decade. It wouldn't be far-fetched to say that her films with Jeetendra helped Sridevi find a footing in Bollywood after she was rejected by audiences in her debut film Solva Sawan. While Sri continued with her southern tryst, she mustered enough courage to make a comeback with Himmatwala. Not many know that Sridevi was not the original choice for Himmatwala and it was only after Rekha conveyed her no to the producers that Sridevi was considered.
Telugu and Tamil filmmakers like K Raghvendra Rao, K Bapaiah, T Rama Rao and Dasari Narayan Rao mainly helmed such films. People often claim the '80s to be the worst decade in terms of storytelling, and squarely put the blame on Hindi films that were being made in the South. These films exhibited a certain style of choreography in their song and the garish costumes often made others deride them. But people often forget the blockbuster status of these films, and the sort of mini economy it created by churning out films in succession.
It might come as a shock to many that the Jeetendra and Sridevi starrer Maqsad that hit theatres in 1984 was completed in record 16 days – something unheard of in those days.
Credit must be given to Jeetendra: despite the huge age gap, he remained in shape even during the final films he did with Sridevi. Sridevi and Jeetendra acted together in films like Mawali, Akalmand, Dharam Adhikari, Balidaan, Sarfarosh, Suhagan, Aag Aur Shola, Ghar Sansar, Majaal among others. In an earlier interview, Sridevi had recalled that when she started shooting for Himmatwala, her confidence was at its lowest. Throughout the film, Sridevi remained unusually quiet on the sets in the company of stalwarts like Amjad Khan and Kader Khan. But her strong performance coupled with a strong storyline made up for everything.
While Tohfa introduced cine goers to how dance numbers ought to be in Bollywood films, Sridevi also taught others the nuances of acting. In Suhaagan, she excelled in a performance which was an amalgamation of both tragic and comic roles. It's peculiar to observe that the demise of Hindi films made in the South in late 80s coincided with the period when a semblance of discipline had slowly started trickling in Mumbai based studios.
While people may blame 80s as the worst decade in terms of filmmaking in India, they often forget the fact that the real culprit was the invasion of VCR culture. The haste with which such films were made is evident in their production quality but one should not forget the fact that they also delivered results at the end of the day and their numbers had sweeped Bollywood in the 80s. Sridevi deserves to be thanked by all who benefitted by this culture.
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