2 December 1960
Somavarappadu, Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
|Died||23 September 1996
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Cause of death
Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati (2 December 1960 – 23 September 1996), known popularly as Silk Smitha, was an Indian film artiste who worked predominantly in the South Indian languages. She entered the industry as an extra actress and first got noticed for her role as "Silk" in the 1979 Tamil film Vandichakkaram. She became the most sought-after erotic actress in the early 1980s. In a career spanning 17 years, she appeared in over "450 films" in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi languages. On 23 September 1996, she was found dead in her apartment in Chennai, apparently having committed suicide.
Vijayalakshmi was born in a family to Ramallu and Sarasamma in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh. She left school after her fourth standard (in India, at about 8 years of age) due to the family's financial constraints. Her striking looks burdened her with uninvited attention, and her family married her off at a very young age. When she was ill-treated by her husband and in-laws, she ran away to Madras (now known as Chennai) and started living with an aunt.
Vijaya Lakshmi started as a touch-up artist for a -D grade actress and soon got a break in small character roles. Later she was discovered by Vinu Chakravarthy, director at a flour mill. He renamed her Smitha and took her under his wing: his wife taught her English and arranged for her to learn dancing. though soon, due to her marked sex appeal, she switched to roles of cabaret dancers and vamps and inevitably found herself type casted. After garnering much notice and acclaim with her first major role in the Tamil film Vandichakkaram, in 1979, Smitha assumed the screen name "Silk", after her character's name in the movie. After it became a big hit, she could not escape typecasting, severely limiting her range throughout her career.
Silk Smitha went on to star in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and a few Hindi films. Her dance numbers, semi-nude scenes and bold performances in films like Moondru Mugam made her the ultimate symbol of sensuality in South Indian cinema. Her item numbers in films like Amaran, Hallimeshtru Kannada were also celebrated at the box office. Some film critics, historians and journalists have referred to her as a "soft porn" actress. 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 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 his entering the maid's bathroom and standing "guard" during the shameful act, to prevent embarrassment to their family) in Alaigal Oivathillai (1981). One of her films, Layanam (1989), has earned a cult status in the Indian adult film industry and was dubbed in numerous languages including, Hindi as Reshma Ki Jawani (2002), which, too, acquired cult status. 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.
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."
In 1996, Smitha was found dead in her Chennai apartment. In the prior year she had been trying to move her career to become a film producer. Financial problems, a disillusionment in love and an alcohol dependency apparently led to depression. It is suspected that Smitha committed suicide by hanging.
|1979||Vandichakkaram||Silk as bar girl||Tamil|
|1981||Sneham Oru Pravaaham||Malayalam|
|1981||Pinneyum Pookkunna Kaadu||Malayalam|
|1982||Moondram Pirai||Headmaster's wife||Tamil|
|1982||Theeram Thedunna Thira||Malayalam|
|1983||Nizhal Moodiya Nirangal||Malayalam|
|1983||Silk Silk Silk||Tamil|
|1985||Shri Datta Darshanam||Telugu|
|1989||Andru Peytha Mazhaiyil||Tamil|
|1989||Geethanjali||Guest appearance in song||Telugu|
|1990||Avasara Police 100||Amulu||Tamil|
|1990||Sunday 7 PM||Sherly||Malayalam|
|1990||Bamma Maata Bangaru Baata||Telugu|
|1991||Aditya 369||Rajanarthaki Nandini||Telugu|
|1991||Thambikku Oru Paattu||Tamil|
|1993||Saakshaal Sreeman Chaatthunni||Malayalam|
|1993||Govindha Govindha||Guest Appearance in song||Telugu|
|1994||Oru Vasantha Geetham||Tamil|
|1994||Maro Quit India||Telugu|
|1994||CID Unnikrishnan BA BED||Malayalam|
|1994||Gentleman Security||Item Dance||Malayalam|
|1995||Villadhi Villain||Guest Appearance in song||Tamil|
|1995||Mazhavil Koodaram||Rathi Teacher||Malayalam|
|1995||Kaattile Thadi Thevarude Aana||Malayalam|
|1995||Three Men Army||Malayalam|
|1996||Maa aavida collector||Telugu|
In 2011, a biographical film on Silk Smitha's life, titled The Dirty Picture, was produced in Hindi by Ekta Kapoor. The movie was directed by Milan Luthria and starred Vidya Balan (who later won Best Actress). The movie was released on Smitha's birthday (2 December 2011) and received favourable reviews. Reports suggest that the family of Silk Smitha, on whom the film is based, is not happy with the movie. Smitha's brother V Naga Vara Prasad claimed the film was made without the family's consent. After the claim, Ekta Kapoor immediately changed her statement by quoting The Dirty Picture is not based on Silk Smitha's life.
However in 2013, a Kannada film titled Dirty Picture: Silk Sakkath Hot starring Pakistani beauty Veena Malik was released. The film was based on Silk Smitha and Veena Malik was praised for her performance in the film. The film was a huge hit in Karnataka.
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- "'எனக்கு வாழ்க்கை தருவதாக கூறியவர் ஏமாற்றிவிட்டார்': 'சில்க்' சுமிதாவின் கண்ணீர் கடிதம்". Cinema.maalaimalar.com. 22 September 1996. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
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- Roopa Swaminathan, Star Dust: Vignettes from the Fringes of the Film Industry, Penguin, 2004 (ISBN 0-14-303243-7)
- Suparna Bhaskaran, Made in India: Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Trans/National Projects, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004 (ISBN 1-4039-6726-1)