The legendary actress Sridevi would have turned 55 today. Fondly remembered as ‘Chandni’, Sridevi is credited as being India’s first female superstar. Having starred in over 30 films, she was known for her stellar performances across genres, from comedy to melodrama. However, while the superstar is primarily known as one of the most influential actresses in Indian Cinema, she is also considered by some to be an LGBT icon.
“Harish, the mental trauma you have suffered until the age of 18 – I can’t even imagine that someone would do something like this to a child. You have shown the courage of sharing your past with us all. It will give courage to so many children who are going through this hell right now. That makes you a real hero,” Sridevi told prominent LGBTQ activist Harish Iyer on a 2012 episode of the show, Satyamev Jayate, according to The News Minute. Iyer had spoken about how the actress’s films had helped him overcome his childhood trauma.
In an interview with Mirror Now following her death, Iyer had said that “her life needs to be celebrated, her films need to be celebrated.”
— Mirror Now (@MirrorNow) February 27, 2018
“Sridevi represented a freedom that many LGBT people were denied. In her dance, costume and acting, a new imagination was opened up for some. For a moment, you could be glamorous and sexy even without the clothes or stardom, which your family or society denied you or you couldn’t afford,” Dhiren Borisa, a doctoral candidate at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University said in an interview with Dhrubo Jyoti for the Hindustan Times.
According to many LGBT+ people interviewed for this article, Sridevi represented a rare glimpse at freedom through expression. Her outrageous looks and attitude helped many queer folks gain confidence in themselves. Perhaps, this one tweet sums it all up:
A #queer friend once said, all 90s boys liked one of 2 #Bollywood divas – if they liked Madhuri, they were straight. If they liked #Sridevi, chances are, they were gay. #RIPSridevi #NHsmtp pic.twitter.com/nn8TDBlMP5
— Alyssa G. Lobo (@filmibaby) February 25, 2018