"Let me make a candid confession. I’ve always been more of a Sri-bhakt [devotee] than a Mads man. At the peak of their respective careers when they were pitched against each other, Sridevi always had an edge. She was what I’d call a complete star-actress who left us with the most stunning hurrah in Judaai. A terrible film that I’ve watched countless times to see her play the money-minded harridan who ‘sells’ her husband to Urmila Matondkar. Who but Sridevi could carry of such an outrageous role with such enthusiastic élan?!"
-- Subhash K Jha (Journalist, Film Critic)
Sridevi's last release (er.. lets try and forget the incomplete, ill-dubbed Meri Biwi Ka Jawab Nahin that somehow came out) was back in 1997! Not without its flaws, Sri did give a bravura performance.
Urmila, "In Judaai, Sridevi treated me like any senior professional treats a junior professional and we discussed the weather. She was sweet." (Filmfare, May, 1997).
Urmila, "Sridevi is a heroine who wasn't born with a silver spoon, and she made it in an industry where it is very difficult to come up. She is the last big heroine we have, and she sustained her position for quite some time. I think of her only as the Sridevi who started with Julie and who's come a long way." (Stardust, April, 1997).
Urmila, "I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes that I did with Sridevi in Judaai. She is such a complete actress and I learned so much from her. Actually, I am an admirer of Sridevi and her work."
The Telugu original, Shubhalagnam was a super-hit. Yet, no actor wanted to do the Hindi remake. Imagine being sold by your wife to another woman for Rs 2 crore! Even Anil Kapoor admitted he was distinctly uncomfortable with this “different” role but was coaxed into doing it by his father, the film’s producer Surinder Kapoor. The film brought him back into the reckoning and was also a surprise comeback for the new mama Sridevi. It was rangeeli Urmila’s second big grosser in a sober, sacrificing and saree-clad role.
Sold for Rs 1.25 crore per major territory, this unorthodox ladies film was a slow starter. But collections remained steady at a modest 75 per cent at a time when films getting a 100 per cent initial crashed after the first week. This was the only woman’s film of 1997 and obviously it struck a chord specially in commercial centres like Mumbai where, according to a tongue-in-cheek trade analyst, a woman would have no qualms about selling her husband for a TV, micro oven and a new-fangled dish washer. Changing your pati parmeshwar was, the liberated Indian miss would probably argue, any day better than a quick divorce. In the North, in places like Delhi and UP, the film did only average business possibly because the society there is still pretty conservative. Even in Mumbai in the more rural Thane belt the film wasn’t much of a crowd-puller. The distributor there will probably have lost a couple of lakhs on his investment but elsewhere in the city, its distributors have had an unexpected bonus. Being a remake it was not a mega hit down South but was a good earner.
Overseas, though it had an amazing run probably because Anil Kapoor is a big draw abroad and the film appealed to the NRIs there who are always attracted to a story with a difference.
This will probably be Sridevi’s last film. The lady’s announced her decision to quit show business at the end of the year.