NEW DELHI — Sridevi, Bollywood’s leading lady of the 1980s and ’90s who redefined stardom for actresses in India, has died at age 54.
The actress was described as the first female superstar in India’s male-dominated film industry. She used one name onscreen, like many leading ladies of her generation, and was known for her comic timing and her dancing skills, a great asset in the song-and-dance melodramas that are a staple of mainstream Indian cinema.
Sridevi died Saturday in Dubai from cardiac arrest, her brother-in-law Sanjay Kapoor confirmed to Indian Express online. She had been in Dubai to attend a wedding in her extended family.
Indian political leaders and entertainers posted condolences and recollections of her work, with many colleagues and fans expressing shock at the sudden news.
“Woken up to this tragic news. Absolute shock. Sad,” tweeted Rishi Kapoor, her co-star in the 1989 film Chandni, or Moonlight, in which Sridevi played a woman choosing between two loves.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences too. “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,” he tweeted.
Sridevi began acting as a child in regional cinema in India’s south and made her debut in Hindi-language Bollywood films in the late ’70s.
Other famous roles included Mr. India, in which she played a reporter, and Lamhe, or Moments, a 1991 film in which she played dual roles of mother and teenage daughter.
Her impeccable comic timing and her dancing skills were front and center in Chaalbaaz, or Game Player, in 1989, where she played twins separated at birth.
She shared the screen with some of Indian cinema’s most iconic leading men, from Amitabh Bachchan to Shahrukh Khan. Another co-star was Anil Kapoor, her brother-in-law, who was known in the West for his role in Slumdog Millionaire.
She stopped acting for several years after her marriage to film producer Boney Kapoor but made a well-received comeback in 2012 with English Vinglish, a nuanced performance about a middle-aged woman learning English to fit in better with her family.
Her last performance was the 2017 film Mom, where she played a woman seeking vengeance after her stepdaughter is raped.
She is survived by her husband and two daughters.
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