Indian actress Sridevi passed away at 54 in Dubai late on Saturday just one day before her film Himmatwala, where she acted with Jeetendra, would have turned 35. Speaking to Mid-day, Jeetendra, now 75, said that Rekha was the original choice for the film and how this film changed both his and Sridevi’s fortunes. He also added that Sridevi’s death had shocked him.
"We all know how it changed both our fortunes. Not many know that Rekha was the original choice for Himmatwala. But I guess Sridevi was destined to do the film - she bagged the role and the film became one of the biggest grossers of the year. And with it, Bollywood woke up to the magic of Sridevi. Today [February 25] marked the 35th anniversary of the film's release and it's tragic how she passed away just a day before... I was terribly shocked when I heard about her demise," Jeetendra said.
Himmatwala was directed by K Raghavendra Rao and was a turning point in the careers of both Sridevi and Jeetendra. Sridevi made her debut as a heroine in Bollywood with Sawan (1979) but it was Himmatwala, which made her popular. Himmatwala was a remake of Telugu film called Ooruki Monagadu, which starred Krishna and Jaya Prada.
"I first met Sridevi at the 100th day jubilee function of one of her Tamil films. I walked up to this bright-eyed girl and congratulated her on her performance. Little did I know that we would be working together in a few months' time. I was going through a low phase after Deedar-E-Yaar (1982) - the film suffered heavy losses, and brought me back to square one as an actor and producer. Sridevi too, was coming out of Solva Saawan (1979), her debut film as a full-fledged heroine in Bollywood. The film didn't fare well and almost put her out of the Hindi film industry. So Himmatwala, directed by K Raghavendra Rao, was a turning point for both of us," Jeetendra told Mid-day.
Sridevi and Jeetendra starred together in 15 films including Tohfa, Majaal, Aag Aur Shola and Ghar Sansaar. The actor also said that he used to be nervous when dancing with Sri as she was a fabulous dancer who would get things right at the first attempt.
“It's still so difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that the woman, who ruled over everyone's hearts with her shy smile and bright eyes, is no more," he added.