Women had always occupied a special place in Telugu cinema. Many of them have been inspiring icons, some changed the face of Telugu cinema and there are glamorous divas, powerful performers, beautiful singers, dancers and much more who played a key role in Telugu cinema. Wishing all the inspiring personalities a “Happy International Women’s day”.
Let’s have a look on the Women who contributed their best in Telugu Cinema.
Kanchana Mala ( 1917-1981)- First glamorous actress
She started her film career in Srikrishna Tulabharam, in a minor role as Mitravinda in 1935. The film was based on a play by Telugu cinema’s first lyricist Chandala Kesava Dasa. The Queen of the 70, Kanchana Mala did what no other Telugu heroine dared to do wear a bikini. the first glamorous actress in Telugu cinema started her career in the mythological film, Veerabhimanyu, and refusing to be typecast, kept innovating with each role. She is known for her glam avatar in Krishna-starters like Ave Kallu, Nenante Nene, and Dharma Daata.
Anjali Devi (1927-2014)
Before entering films, Anjali was a popular theater artist. Mostly known for starring in mythological and family dramas and acted in more than 350 films. She was the first actress from the industry who became the face of powerful, mythological characters like Sita in Lava Kusha, which was the first color movie in the Telugu Film Industry.
Under her banner Anjali Pictures, she had also produced about 20 successful films such as “Anarkali”, “Paradesi” and “Suvarna Sundari”.Anjali is credited with introducing Bollywood actress Rekha into Telugu industry as a child artist with “Rangula Ratnam”.
Savitri Kommareddy (1936-1981)
Kommareddy Savitri (1935-81) starred in more than 300 films in the Telugu, Tamil,and Hindi film industries, boasting of around 10 to 20 releases every year! Her excellent portrayal of strong women earned her the title Mahanati Savitri.
Becoming a film heroine didn’t come easily to her as she had to wait patiently before getting a good role.She couldn’t get anything better than a second lead role in LV Prasad’s ‘Pelli Chesi Choodu’ (1952). But, here onwards she never looked back and acted in a number of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi films.
She got married to one of the stalwarts of the Southern Cinema, Gemini Ganesan. She gave several hit films with Gemini Ganesan as an actress but her directorial career took off with films such as ‘Chinnari Papalu’, ‘Chiranjeevi’ and ‘Maathru Devatha’ during 1968-69. She died at 46, but before that, she had given female directors a launch pad to thrive on in three major South Indian languages.
The Savitri era that marks the period from the 50s to the 70s is also associated with the Golden Era of Telugu cinema.
Jamuna (1936-till date)
The first Diva of TFI, starting her career as a stage artist, acted in 198 films in Telugu and other south Indian languages. She also acted in Hindi films, winning the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Milan (1967), repeating her role from the original Telugu film Mooga Manasulu (1964).
Until the 70s, she ruled the Telugu film industry and has earned much acclaim for her powerful performances in social and mythological films, notably for her portrayal of Satyabhama, opposite NT Rama Rao.She also established Telugu artist association and doing social service through it for the last 25 years.
Surya Kantham (1924-1994)
Suryakantham started her film career as a dancer in Chandralekha. Later she got a few character artiste roles, which did not satisfy her. However, Suryakantham consolidated her position by playing the role of a cruel mother-in-law in Samsaram, and there was no looking back thereafter.
Her performance in title role of Gundamma Katha is remarkable.Till now there is no actress to replace her role completely if the movie is remade.
She has won many prestigious awards such as Mahanati Savitri Memorial Award and has earned titles like Haas Nate Siromani, etc.Her last film was S.P.Parashuram released in the year 1994, during which she was expired too.
Bhanumati(1925-2005) – Multi-Talented
Widely known as the first female superstar of South Indian film Industry, She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2003 for her contribution towards Indian cinema. She was honored among “women in cinema” at the 30th International Film Festival of India.
A versatile film personality, she was not only a celebrated actress but was also celebrated for her directorial, musical, writing and singing skills. Bhanumathi ruled the Telugu film industry for almost
three decades and gave the audiences some memorable performances.
Bhanumati was also a talented writer. Her autobiography Nalo Nenu was published in Telugu and later, released in English as Musings. Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy awarded her as the best short story writer for her popular short stories “Attagari Kathalu”. She also served as Director and Principal of the Tamil Nadu Government Music College,
Vijaya Nirmala (1946- till date)
Nirmala’s direction career is difficult to match for anyone as the Guinness Book of Records registers her as the female director who has made the highest number of films in 2002.Started her career as a child artiste in the famous film Panduranga Mahathyam where she portrayed Sri Krishna. She directed 47 movies, most of which were based on famous Telugu novels. Her directorial skills were lauded by her peers.
Jayalalitha (1948-2016)- Powerful ICON
Actor turned politician who served five terms as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, for over fourteen years between 1991 and 2016. Her acting career went between the 60s and 70s.She appeared in nearly 150 films in all languages.Prominently known as “Queen of Tamil Cinema”, her contribution to Telugu cinema is appreciable even though she acted only in 28 films.
She made her debut in Telugu films as lead actress in Manushulu Mamathalu opposite Akkineni Nageshwara Rao. Her last Telugu release was also opposite Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the film Nayakudu Vinayakudu, which was released in 1980. In 1973, she acted in Sri Krishna Satya, which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress in Telugu
Sridevi (1963-till date) – the glamorous diva
Sridevi is considered one of the most beautiful faces to have graced the Indian screen.She went on to become the first female superstar. Sridevi started her career as a child artist at the age of four and continued to act in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films.
Sridevi managed to oscillate between uber glam roles and completely de-glamourized and powerful performances. In her long career, she has played NT Rama Rao’s granddaughter in Badipanthulu and later went on to romance the superstar in many successful films. Sridevi still remains one of the most celebrated actresses in Telugu cinema.
Later in 2012, she made a comeback with English Vinglish.Sridevi, most probably, became the only actress in Bollywood to make a successful comeback as a leading lady after marriage and a long hiatus.
VijayaShanti (1966-till date)– The HERO
VijayaShanti is one of the actors turned politician.She is one of the most powerful actresses seen in Telugu Cinema seen playing everything from a glamourous and feisty urban woman to a cop who beats up all the baddies. She has received many Nandi Awards as well.Still her performance in few films like “Osey Ramulamma”,”Prathighatana” etc are irreplaceable.She acted in many powerful COP roles. The woman cop grew to be her inspiration.in the years to come.Vyjayanthi IPS ran for 50 days in Vetri theater in Chennai and this record is broken by a Tamil dubbed version of Baahubali in August 2015.
She popularized successful pairings with actors like Megastar Chiranjeevi and Balakrishna, and most of their movies together went on to become blockbusters.She was the first actress to demand 1 crore remuneration in the 90s.
She had been always inspiring for many actresses in this generation to showcase their performance, especially in women-oriented movies.
The most lovable actress in Telugu cinema till now is undoubtedly Soundharya. Beauty, performance, glamor, look and the list goes on. Whatever it may be, she had showcased the best in her entire career.
Her roles opposite Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh, Nagarjuna, Balakrishna and Rajendraprasad etc. is remarkable. She had built a beautiful chemistry with the opposite on screen.
She had around 10 film releases each year, most of them in Telugu, from 1993 to 2001, which reflects her path breaking success. Besides being recognized for her talent, her directors and co-stars describe her as an honest, grounded and friendly person.
She has been always an inspiring icon for the upcoming female actress who wants pave a path in Telugu cinema. Not only these few, their many actresses who contributed their life towards cinema and achieved heights.
Jayaprada, Jayasudha, Shobhana, Ramyakrishna etc… & to be mentioned, Anushka in the present generation. Coming to female singers, many singers had contributed their best in Telugu cinema.
S Janaki, the Gaana Kokila played a prominent role in the world of south Indian film music needs no introduction The beautiful voice has crossed the boundaries of ages and erased the limitations in singing and gave life to the thoughts of several music directors and lyricists across the country. She not only sang in various languages but also achieved unparalleled glory in every language.
P. Susheela , the melody queen, has got a beautiful voice which could melt your heart.The Guinness world record holder in 2016 for singing the most number of songs (18k), also has been awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in January 2008.
KS Chitra is also one of the most beautiful voices we have in our industry. Recognizing her contribution to the music world, Smt. Chithra has been conferred the prestigious Padma Shri title by the Government of India in 2005. Also, she earned may awards and rewards.
Apart from cinema, there are many more inspiring individuals who made an eye-opening and make us realize that women can achieve anything. “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. Not only in the case of a man but this saying stands for the functioning of the whole world. Once again Wishing a “Happy International Women’s Day” to all the aspiring individuals. Stay safe!