Thursday, May 30, 2024

Balancing thrills of acting with joys of motherhood

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Exposed to the tinsel town at the tender age of five years, Sridevi Vijaykumar took to films like a duck to water and went on to build a flourishing career spanning Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films. She has etched her name as a versatile actress and a beloved television personality. As the youngest daughter of renowned actors Vijayakumar and late Manjula, Sridevi’s journeys in both personal and professional spheres have been exemplary, marked by strong familial bonds and a sense of deep fulfillment. In a conversation with
The Pioneer’s K Ramya Sree, Sridevi opens up about her enchanting childhood, the profound influence of her parents, her marriage to a predetermined Telugu guy, the joys of motherhood, and the cherished moments that define her life’s tapestry. 

Notorious, big-time rowdy…
As a child, I was never calm or composed at all. Being the last kid in the house, I was pampered and therefore notorious for playing pranks. I was totally ‘duh’ for the whole family. I could get away with anything. I was very naughty, adamant, and a big-time rowdy. I changed completely as I grew up. It is a complete contrast in my personality now. Still, my family members keep taunting that I am the ‘only brat in the family’.

Always got what I wanted…
I started acting when I was just five years old. In fact, for me acting began much before I knew anything else substantial. Going to shoots with ‘amma’ (mom) and ‘appa’ (dad) was very common for us. So, we were sort of born and brought up in films only. If you ask me what we folks talk at home, it is always about cinema. Even if we happen to discuss any other subject, our conversation will eventually veer towards cinema. My childhood was very beautiful. I always got what I wanted; there was never a ‘no’ for me. So, it was obviously very nice, and being part of the industry at a young age left me so many cherished memories. I still remember every bit of my acting when I started off as a five-year-old. I really cherish those memories so much. I had the best childhood ever. I never regret anything I have done or missed because I have had the best, I would say.

Always wanted to be an actor…
Having started off as a child actor, I think I had no option but to get deeper into movies, because the transition period was very less. I had worked as a child artiste at the age of 10 years too. I did Eeswar as the female lead when I was 15 years old. So, there was never a long break for me to even think of what I could do apart from films. I will be in films is what I had in my mind, always. And they knew in my family also that I had it in me. I did not have focus anywhere else. Even when I had to go to school for lack of shooting, I used to literally cry and go to school. I preferred to go to shoots. At one point in my childhood, my mom stopped me from acting because she wanted me to go to school. I then used to balance both.  So, I had to slow down as a child actor, but later the transition to ‘Eeswar’ was very quick.

Pros and cons of being born into a reputed family…
Being born into a family with parents already well-known in the film industry has its own pros and cons. The plus is the reach, everyone knows who you are and where you are coming from, but the minus is the comparison. My dad has done 1,000 plus movies, my mom did 500 plus movies; so, the comparison is immediately with them. It was kind of difficult, because for me it was my first movie, but for them, they had already proved it. Still, you have to move along with it. It does take time to gain more recognition than a normal actor, because we have more pressure I think because we have to keep up with the family’s reputation right from the first film itself. It takes time to mould yourself and to know how to perform everything.

Big family… bigger celebrations…
Going along with mom and dad for different shoots was so much fun. Because the whole film unit used to pamper me. I used to be a really chubby kid. So, automatically I got all the attention. I still have a lot of vivid memories of spending time with my parents on sets as a kid. I have a very big family. It is always like a festival when we are together. We always celebrate even the smallest thing in a big way. That is what my mom has always taught us to enjoy and celebrate each and every moment. Even if it is the smallest achievement, we celebrate it together. We try and make the most of it. That is a very good habit which we are trying to pass it on to our next generation as well. My mom always sees life on large scale. She taught us to spread happiness and positivity to the people around us.

An arranged marriage…
I had an arranged marriage. A lot of people were surprised when I decided to settle down all of a sudden. I was quite young and doing a lot of movies when I decided to get married. But it was always there in my family at what age we have to settle down. I knew that I will have an arranged marriage and I will not go against my father. I can do anything for him. I decided at a young age that I will go with whatever he decided. I set my mind that way and it was not a shocking thing for me. When they decided this, I knew that they will find the right person for me. I got married when I was 22. Thankfully, I have been blessed to have my husband in my life and it was the right decision I made in my life. I am very very happy that my marriage worked out for me and I feel blessed that Rahul, my husband, is in my life because he is very sweet, understanding and very caring. It brought a lot of balance in my life. He was the one who encouraged me to continue acting after marriage and encouraged me not to give up on something that I love doing. Although I wanted to proceed slowly, he pushed me to not waste what I have.

My mom wanted me to marry a Telugu guy…
My mom always wanted a Telugu person for me. She is a Telugu person and she wanted me to marry a Telugu guy, though we are Tamilians. None of the family members was married to a Telugu person, except me. She always wanted it that way and that’s how it worked out. Moreover, I was doing a lot of Telugu movies and I was always in Hyderabad. I was very familiar and it was always a second home for me. We have a beautiful daughter now and it is a small happy family.

All credit to husband…
When it comes to parenting, my husband’s approach is much better than mine. He knows what is important and he is much more balanced and matured than me. Mine is all very impulsive decisions and I am the live-for-the-moment person. But I think it is a balance of both. Being a mother is a beautiful feeling. I grew up with many kids around and got used to the responsibilities that come with having kids. So, when I had my child, it was not out of the blue. The whole phase was beautiful. However, the difficult part was that my mother was not around me when I was giving birth and that hit me more than anything. That was very hard. Thankfully, I have an amazing family who donned the role of a mother to me. They gave me double the attention because they knew how much I missed my mother. After my mother passed away, my life turned upside down and that delayed the process of having my baby. But I believe she came to me in the form of my daughter.

Anything for my father…
My bond with my father is very special. As a girl child, I think every girl is very close to her father. I go a little further for my father. I live for him. My husband has seen the bond between me and my father and how much I love him. When we had a girl, my first thought was that my daughter should have the same bonding that I have had with my dad. Now their bond is so adorable that I am not even jealous of it when they are very close. Because I know how important for a girl her father figure it. So, from day 1 my husband started doing everything for her. It was so beautiful to see that.

Possessive mother…
My daughter was born and within two years Covid-19 outbreak and everything happened so quick. There was a lot of bonding and cute memories we created during the lockdown. There was a lot of baking, cooking and cleaning we did together during lockdown. I did not accept much work after my daughter was born. She is now seven years old and her routine has started now. So, I thought I should get back to doing films. I am very possessive about her. I have never had a help for her ever since she was born. It was either me or my husband who did it all for her. Even now, when I am working, he takes over; and when he is working, I take over. That’s how we have balanced it with her from dropping to school to picking her up. I never leave her alone. People say give her some space but I want to be around her because at one point anyway they are going to have their freedom. Till that point I want to be with her.  

Not a sportsperson…
I was never into sports from childhood. I am a little lazy that way. Badminton is the only sport I play and I am good at that. I learned to play badminton before my marriage but not during childhood. Moreover, I was never into fitness. I always used to balance with my diet. Of late, I have started exercising to maintain health. I tend to put on a lot of weight. It runs in my family, I guess. From my childhood, I have always been like that. So, I have to always maintain my diet. Also, being happy inside gives the energy on your face.

Rapid fire:
Describe yourself in one sentence: A happy person who dreams big. I will, I can, I am.
Favourite holiday destination: Europe. I like the whole feel of chilling in the café and sitting in a park. I am a mountain and scenic person.
A city you wish to visit: New Zealand. I went to New Zealand when I did Eeswar. It has been 20 years now. It is on my next list.
Favourite colour: Black, red and blue.
Are you religious or spiritual: I am very religious. I believe a lot in God, I do a lot of puja. I am very much into that. I follow it very much and I want my daughter too to follow. She is learning shlokas now, She is grasping it quickly.
Are you a foodie: Big-time. I can’t live without non-veg. Chicken should be in my meals every day. I enjoy Telugu food, particularly spicy dishes. I am a big-time dessert person. I will melt for ice creams and desserts.
Your guilty pleasure: Desserts. I have restricted myself very few times for desserts.
What are you most scared of: Lizards, cockroaches. I am very scared to stay alone. I have never lived alone, never slept alone.
Your driving force: My life is all about my father. I live for my father. I would do anything to bring a smile on his face. My life revolves around my father and my daughter now.
Your stress buster: Being around my family.

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