Silk Smitha

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Silk Smitha
Silk Smitha.jpg
Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati

(1960-12-02)2 December 1960
Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
Died23 September 1996(1996-09-23) (aged 35)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Cause of death Suicide by hanging
Years active1979–1996

Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati (2 December 1960 – 23 September 1996), better known by her stage name Silk Smitha, was an Indian actress and dancer who worked mainly in Tamil and Telugu cinema, in addition to some Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi films. [1] She became one of India's most popular sex symbols of the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as one of the most sought-after erotic actresses in South Indian cinema in the 1980s. [2] [3] Smitha was a key figure in the Malayalam softcore film genre in the late 1980s. [4]


In a career spanning 18 years, she appeared in over 450 films. [5] Smitha was part of several successful dance numbers in the 1980s Indian films. [6] She entered the industry as a supporting actress, and was first noticed for her role as "Silk" in the 1979 Tamil film, Vandichakkaram . [5]

Early life

Smitha was born in Kovvali village in Eluru district, Andhra Pradesh on 2 December 1960 to a Telugu couple, Vadlapati Ramallu and Sarasamma. She was a school dropout due to her family situation. Her family married her off at a very young age. Her husband and in-laws treated her poorly and she soon ran away. [7] [8]


Smitha started as a touch-up artist for the actress Aparna and soon got a break in small character roles. [7] She was given her first movie role as a heroine by Malayalam director Antony Eastman in his film "Inaye Thedi", though the movie was released very much later. Eastman gave her the name Smitha. [9]

She got her big break in Tamil by director Vinu Chakravarthy. He took her under his wing; his wife taught her English and arranged for her to learn dancing, [10] though soon, due to her marked sex appeal, she switched to roles of cabaret dancers and vamps and inevitably found herself typecast. [7] After garnering much notice and acclaim with her first major role in the Tamil film Vandichakkaram , [11] in 1979, Smitha assumed the screen name "Silk", after her character's name in the movie. [12] [13] After it became a big hit, she could not escape typecasting, severely limiting her range throughout her career. [7]

Smitha went on to star in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and a few Hindi films. Her dance numbers and bold performances in films such as Moondru Mugam made her the ultimate symbol of sensuality in South Indian cinema. Her item numbers in films such as Amaran and Halli Meshtru (in Kannada) were also celebrated at the box office. Some film critics, historians and journalists have referred to her as a "soft porn" actress. [14] A vast majority of her movies are considered "softcore" by Indian standards and a common theme is her playing a freakishly strong agent in skimpy bikinis and beating up huge thugs.

Her acting prowess did not go completely unnoticed, and in her rare non-sexual roles she impressed critics and audiences, such as her portrayal of a wife hurt by her role in her husband's rape of their maid (which she passively allowed by not preventing him from entering the maid's bathroom and standing "guard" during the shameful act, to prevent embarrassment to their family) and when she poignantly admitted her mistake in her confrontation of her husband in Alaigal Oivathillai (1981). [7] One of her Malayalam softcore films, Layanam (1989), has earned cult status in the Indian adult film industry and was dubbed in numerous languages, including Hindi as Reshma Ki Jawani (2002), acquiring cult status. [7] [15] Her most respected film is Moondram Pirai , by Balu Mahendra, remade in Hindi as Sadma , with much of the top-drawer cast, including Sridevi, Kamal Hassan, and Silk Smitha reprising their roles. [16]

Such was her audience-drawing power that, at the peak of her career, according to Tamil film historian Randor Guy, "Films that had lain in cans for years were sold by the simple addition of a Silk Smitha song." [7]

Personal life

Smitha had a small circle of close friends. Owing to being an introvert she was said to not make friends quickly. She was often known for her short temper, determination and straightforwardness, which some mistook for arrogance. She was punctual (arriving in movie sets well before the shooting commences), responsible, and ambitious (having learned to speak the English language fluently despite her limited education). She was also described as having a "soft" and "child like" personality by her friends and fans. She was skilled with costume design, makeup and made it her profession before entering the industry. [17]


On the night of 22 September 1996, after a movie shoot, Smitha contacted her friend Anuradha to discuss a serious issue that was disturbing her. Later that morning, Smitha was found dead by hanging in her hotel room.

A few months after her death it was reported that Smitha may have died by suicide due to excess alcohol found in her body. [18] [19] The police also recovered a suicide note from her, which could not be deciphered. Her death remains as an unsolved mystery. [20]


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Further reading