Towards the tail end of her Telugu film career, Sridevi started venturing into Hindi movies. Her first film as a heroine titled Solva Saawan released in 1978, flopped at the box office. Before Bollywood could write her off, her second film Himmatwala in 1983 opposite Jeetendra went on to be a blockbuster hit and skyrocketed Sridevi to overnight stardom. The chartbuster number 'Nainon me Sapna' picturised around thousands of pots set the trend for more Southern masala potboilers in Bollywood. Jeetendra and Sridevi became a hit pair and went on to star in many more successful films like Tohfa, Mawaali and Justice Chaudhry. While Sridevi was fast becoming the new poster girl of the masses, she also wowed the critics with her performance as a child-woman suffering from amnesia in the highly acclaimed Sadma remade from the Tamil hit Moondram Pirai opposite Kamal Haasan. Her histrionics in the film won her the first Filmfare nomination for Best Actress but she lost out to Shabana Azmi for Arth.
Sridevi's success story continued with hits like Subhash Ghai directed Karma and K. Bhagyaraj's Aakhree Raasta, both released in 1986. The success of the snake fantasy film Nagina in 1986 established Sridevi's reputation as a leading star. The film's snake dance in the climax also showcased her dancing skills under the guidance of choreographer Saroj Khan who went on to deliver many more hit dance numbers with the actress. The next year Sridevi starred in the all-time blockbuster Mr. India with Anil Kapoor. The dance number 'Hawa Hawai' gave her an eponymous nickname.