Circa 1994. In the heart of Chennai, in the bustling neighbourhood of Mylapore, stood a quaint bungalow manned by a single guard — the home of the then reigning diva, Sridevi. An impromptu work trip had led this writer to her private escape, in a quest for an interview with the elusive and only female superstar of the time who held sway over lakhs in the 80s and 90s.
This was back when Sridevi was shooting for Chand Ka Tukda with Salman Khan in the hot environs of the southern city. This spontaneous decision to try my luck at her home was met with surprising warmth. Her mother welcomed us in, informing us that Sridevi was getting ready, only for her to glide down the stairs 10 minutes later, dressed in a bathrobe with a towel wrapped around her freshly washed hair. The aura was unmistakable. Dark expressive eyes, a soft demeanour and a confident poise that remains etched in memory after all these years.
Cut to 2022. That very gait is unmistakable in daughter Janhvi Kapoor, who is, in many ways, a mirror image of her late mother. Similar cherubic features, a poise that belies her age, and a certain playfulness that comes to the fore more often than not.
“I hope my mother’s proud of the choices I’ve made because everything I do, I tend to with the intention of making her proud,” says Janhvi, with a soft smile.
One can’t help but compare the grace in her movements to that of Sridevi. There’s a serene air around Janhvi, a trait she appears to have inherited — in addition to the deep connect Sridevi shared with Manish Malhotra, who was the first designer to style her for her movies. In fact, as we speak, Janhvi’s shooting for HELLO! at Manish’s lovely home in Juhu, Mumbai, a place as comfortable to her as her own personal space.
“Mum was supposed to work on a movie before English Vinglish; that was meant to be her comeback film. I remember trying to impress Manish when he had come over to decide on her look. I had asked her to get him to design an outfit for me, a look with blue sequins and pants that I had spotted in a movie. I’m not sure whether she lied to me, or whether Manish really designed it, but she claimed he had. So I wore the outfit every day for a month!”
The couturier’s bond with the family goes back decades. He’s seen Janhvi grow into the fine young lady she is today and can’t conceal his fondness for her.
“I’ve known Janhvi since she was born. I worked with Sridevi for so long, so she’s like family to me,” says Manish. “I even watched her face the camera for the first time, and now, she’s grown into such a fine woman. Janhvi can carry a western outfit and a saree with equal grace — just like Sridevi. I’m also very fond of her as an actor and truly believe in her craft. She’s already done good work, but I know there’s so much more awaiting her.”
At ease before the camera, oblivious to the team milling about her, Janhvi is comfortably ensconced on the couch at Manish’s home, surrounded by white carnations, being primped in a rose pink lehenga with intricate work, part of Manish’s new ‘Khaab’ collection of bridal wear. Keeping tabs on her time, given that she has a flight to catch that evening for Japiur for another shoot, she quickly changes into a mermaid-fit pear green lehenga, another gem from Manish’s bridal line.
“Manish is ever evolving and bringing something new to the table without compromising on his signature glamour quotient,” she gushes about her couturier friend. “He really has seen it all. He’s been around to see so many actresses evolve and also helped create their style. He’s shaped how women in India look at bridal wear and fashion and is still keen to learn, change and challenge things. I don’t think anyone gets glamour the way Manish does. There’s always an element of something cinematic in his work, which I love.”
Watching Janhvi carefully perched on a table laid out with desserts, posing for the HELLO! camera, Manish gets nostalgic as he recalls fond memories of Sridevi.
“I worked with Sridevi for so many years, and the bond I shared with her remains special to me till date. She was meticulous and very sure about how she wanted to appear both on screen and off, but she was also very receptive to trying out new looks... Among the many memories I cherish today, one was from our time in Las Vegas and Los Angeles during the shoot for Judaai.” Manish also endorses our belief that Janhvi is quite like her mother.
“She loves to dress up just as much! She loves clothes and the glamour of it all like her mum.” It’s the sad reality that life often leaves us with nothing but memories to hold on to. Tragedy struck the young star’s world just as she was geared up to make her Bollywood debut. Along with millions of adoring fans, Jahnvi lost her mother while filming for Dhadak. While it’s difficult to decipher her inner turmoil, one can tell Janhvi’s healed over time. Perhaps why cousin Sonam Kapoor Ahuja believes she’s über brave.
Reflecting on that statement, Janhvi cautiously agrees: “I can’t say I am supremely brave. But yes, I think I’ve grown up, and I’m definitely more courageous than people give me credit for.”
Call it irony or a heart-breaking coincidence, there’s a poignant scene in Dhadak where her character cries out in anguish for being away from her mother. It’s a scene that’s as heart- wrenching as her reality at the time. The untimely loss had the world empathise with her, though Janhvi has evolved since then, both as a young woman and a performer. Dhadak, produced by Karan Johar, was her big-ticket launch, and Janhvi is more than grateful for this break from her mentor.
“I’ll always be indebted to Karan for how much he did for me. I know he believed in me when not many others did. He saw potential in me before anyone else, and his confidence in me made me believe in myself even more. Karan expects a lot out of me, and I hope I can make him proud of me someday.”
This is an excerpt from an interview that was originally published in Hello! India’s October 2022 issue. To read the full interview, get your hands on the latest issue right here!
Photography: Vaishnav Praveen From The House Of Pixels; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Fashion Editor: Sonam Poladia; Junior Stylist: Anushree Sardesai; Makeup: Savleen Manchanda; Hair: Priyanka Borkar; Wardrobe Courtesy: Manish Malhotra; Jewellery Courtesy: Manish Malhotra Jewellery By Raniwala 1881; Food Courtesy: I’m Wholesome; Team Manish Malhotra: Chandni Prakash Gowani
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