Revisiting Chandni who established the mystery and myth of Sridevi
Yash Chopra’s film Chandni in 1989 is a romantic ode dedicated to the beauty, charm, elegance and grace of Sridevi who fascinated audiences with his eyes, smile and screen presence. On the occasion of his 58th birthday, here is revisiting the film that changed the way Bollywood viewed its heroines, and the impact of that can still be seen in Hindi films to this day. The actor died in 2018.
Chandni came to a time when Hindi cinema didn’t make a lot of indulgent romantic films. For Yash Chopra too, it was his first foray into a love story and even though love was the main conflict of films like Silsila and Kabhi Kabhie, it was with Chandni that he rewrote the playbook of onscreen romance, which later became the Bible for filmmakers like Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra. In a previous interview, Yash Chopra had revealed that he initially thought about doing Chandni with Rekha but quickly focused on Sridevi to play the lead role.
Despite the presence of Rishi and Vinod in the film, it was entirely up to Sridevi and the director’s vision. In fact, Chopra had shot a dramatic entrance scene for Vinod Khanna, but later cut it as it looked out of place. Chandni was even supposed to have a son after marrying Rohit, but that angle was dropped as well. “I wanted a romantic film with great music. I was fed up with the violence, ”Chopra said.
When Sridevi became Chandni, she invaded the screen with such healthy grace that it was simply impossible to look away. She stopped the audience with her flowy sarees and made scenes that didn’t present her dull in comparison (looking at you, the bromance song “Tu Mujhe Suna”). While Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna were both accomplished actors, Chandni belonged to Sridevi. Since she was the main character here, every scene had its mention. It felt like you were in a world that only revolved around Chandni but didn’t necessarily favor her, which prompts you to support her every step of the way.
The 1980s were probably not the most promising decade in Hindi cinema and unlike many of his contemporaries, Chandni took some risks. This was a film directed by a female character who is strong enough to lead her life on her own but would be happy to accept a partner, if she finds the right man. When she falls in love with Rohit (Kapoor) in the first act of the film, her love is naive but by the time she meets Lalit (Khanna), she has learned to accept compatibility as another form of love. As she begins spending time with Lalit in the second half of the film, she enjoys his company, but even though she doesn’t say it in so many words, it’s obvious that she is still hopelessly in love with Rohit. Her love is beyond reason, which is why when she chooses her man at the end, it’s no surprise.
As Chandni begins to become an independent woman, she takes charge of her life. For someone who wasn’t very categorical, Chandni has learned to speak his mind when it comes to drawing boundaries at work. When Lalit asks her to take on some tasks that are not hers, she categorically refuses and does not compromise her integrity.
For Chandni, Chopra roped Bhanu Athaiya and Leena Daru for Sridevi’s costumes in this film, and the magic created by these masters celebrated Sridevi’s physical beauty in a way that quickly became the norm in Hindi cinema.
In 1989, Sridevi reigned over the movies and she had great success – first with Chandni and then with her dual role in Chaalbaaz. Sridevi commanded the big screen for decades, but many still remember her as Bollywood’s Chandni.
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