Apart from working together in many films, Shakti is remembered in Pankaj Parashar’s ChaalBaaz (1989) as Batuknath Lallanprasad Maalpani aka Balma and Sridevi in her double role as Anju and Manju Das, which is considered to be one of her finest performances in Bollywood.

Shakti became famous for his Chalbaaz dialogue on screen ‘Mein ek nanha sa, pyara sa, chota sa bachcha hoon…’ and the way Sridevi would say Balma to him. Shakti says, “For ChaalBaaz, Sridevi and I improvised on using the word balma as it wasn’t there in the script at all. The scene was when I used to torture Anju, I would tell her ‘abhi haske bolo, balmaaa, abhi roke bolo balmaaa…’ When the other Sridevi (Manju) came, she would bash me up and tell me and would tell me to sing it the way I did with Anju.

Also read: Sridevi's 55th birth anniversary: From Meendum Kokila to Moondram Pirai, some of her iconic south Indian movies

There’s a scene when I tell Manju to massage my head as it was paining, and she bashes me up in the room, that was also done in a very light-hearted, chilled manner. We discussed how she would bash me up. We would all sit together and discuss scenes and how they could be done. She would hesitantly ask ‘Is scene ko aisa karein? Let’s try it this way?’ She would never force or command or insist on any scene to be done her way but ask gently even though she was a top star by then.”

Shakti’s first film with the iconic actress was Himmatwala. “It was the first film we worked together in and her first major Bollywood blockbuster. Sridevi was so pretty and full of energy on screen, yet very quiet off-screen and would be always with her mother. Sridevi had language problems as she couldn’t speak English or Hindi well so nobody thought at that time that she would become such a top actress. At that time Sridevi was a little plump but then she could carry it well as she was tall. Sridevi was one of those few actresses who groomed herself so fast as she understood what was different in Mumbai and South films so she started exercising, diet control and learning Hindi. Initially, all her dubbing used to be done by Naaz and she used
to feel bad about it so she started learning Hindi and she was a very good learner.”

Also read: Sridevi's 55th birth anniversary: Don't miss these personal pictures of the evergreen diva

Shakti says while off-screen Sridevi would be reserved with most people, she would be different with him. “With people like me and Jeetendra, she would be herself. We would be working 10-15 days in a month together and have lunch together. I used to get along very well with Sridevi’s mother (Rajeswari Yanger) and younger sister Lata too. Once I was to be launched as a hero, with Neelam and Sonam opposite me, by Pahlaj Nihalani in a film called Bhagya Vidhata, which was never made later, but at that time I shed 18 kgs in a span of 40 days, to look the hero’s part. I bumped into Sridevi at the airport and she burst into laughter when she saw me. She was laughing so hard that she almost fell off her chair and had no problem people watching her also (laughs). Sridevi told me, ‘What have you done to yourself – you have become my weight? Shaktiji, yeh sab aapko suit nahi karta… You look good the way you were.’ I told her that I was trying to be a hero so she said, ‘A hero doesn’t need to look so skinny, itna sukhda ladka achcha nahi dikhta!’

Shakti and Sridevi worked in 24 films together. “All our films were very big hits apart from Himmatwala and they include Justice Chaudhury, Farz Aur Kanoon, Tohfa, Chalbaaz, Guru etc. I did 24 films with her. We did our first show together in the 1980s in USA – Sridevi, Jeetuji, Kader Khan, Asrani and me and some singers. It was the first show ever for Bollywood stars abroad as it was the first time that all big stars came together. After us, everyone started doing more Bollywood shows later. I always remember Sridevi as always smiling, talking and in chirpy mood… Then she would go and sit quietly in a corner.”

Check this out: Throwback Pictures: When Aishwarya Rai, Rekha celebrated Sridevi's last birthday

Sridevi’s death (the actress passed away on February 24, 2018) must have been a shock for Shakti. “Shock? I couldn’t believe it when the news came on my phone saying Shridevi had passed away! I couldn’t sleep the whole night thinking which Shridevi it was! Then my brother-in-law Tutu Sharma, who is very close to Boney (Kapoor), told us on our family WhatsApp that Sridevi had expired and I got the shock of my life! I am still in shock. Aisa bhi ho sakta hai? Now I feel, anything can happen in life…”