2 December 1960
Somavarappadu, Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India
|Died||23 September 1996
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Cause of death||suicide|
Vijayalakshmi (2 December 1960 – 23 September 1996), better known by her stage name 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.
Vijayalakshmi 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 typecast. 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."
Silk Smitha was found dead in her Chennai apartment, having committed suicide on 23 September 1996. The cause of her death is not known, it may have been her disillusionment of getting failure as a film producer which she had tried her hand on the previous year, an unrequited love or alcohol dependency. At 11.30 a.m, on 23 September 1996, Smitha was found to be dead in her chennai apartment home in Saligramam, hanging by a rope from the ceiling fan of her bedroom. She had left a suicide note in which she had written that she was frustrated with repeated failures in her life and so she was taking the extreme step.
||This section possibly contains original research. (February 2015)|
Silk Smitha had a string of lovers, some of whom were producers, directors and A-grade actors who were besotted by her. Director Velu Prabhakaran confessed that he had an intimate relationship with Silk Smitha and had cheated on his girlfriend with her.
Cause of death
||This section possibly contains original research. (February 2015)|
Silk Smitha’s popularity began to wane by mid-1990s. She had a live-in boyfriend who had promised to start her luxury life from scratch and lured her into producing films. If reports are to be believed, Silk Smitha’s two movies that she had produced flopped and she was in debt for Rs. 20 million while the third one was stuck due to loss of funds. Silk Smitha could not reconcile to her being back to her impoverished day that she never wanted to go to, after she had reveled in luxury. She did get the odd film over, the last one being a movie called Subaash, a Tamil film, that released two days before her death.
The police directed examining doctors to send a part of Silk Smitha’s body parts to forensic scientists to find out if there were traces of poison in her body; she might have been poisoned before hanging her by the fan, they felt. A post-mortem report on Silk Smitha revealed a large amount of bananas and chocolates in her stomach.
|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||Justice Raja||Item dancer||Malayalam|
|1983||Nizhal Moodiya Nirangal||Malayalam|
|1983||Silk Silk Silk||Tamil|
|1985||Chorakku Chora||C.I.D Silk||Malayalam|
|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||"Lockup Death"||Item Number||Kannada|
|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||Item Dancer||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 National Film Award for 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 actress 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.
- Anupama Chopra (28 September 2011). "Why Silk Smitha is Bollywood's favourite bad girl". NDTV Movies.
- "Silk Route: Ekta Kapoor's forthcoming film 'The Dirty Picture' revisits a sequins-and-pelvic-thrust era of Tamil cinema.". Mint. 30 September 2011.
- Kuldip, Hussain (26 September 1996). "Obituary". The Independent cited in BNET. Retrieved 9 November 2006.[dead link]
- "Chronicle of a death foretold". Rediff India Abroad. 4 April 1997. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- Chronicle of a death foretold Rediff 4 April 1997
- "கவர்ச்சி நடனத்தால் ரசிகர்களைக் கவர்ந்த 'சில்க்' சுமிதா தூக்கில் தொங்கினார்". Cinema.maalaimalar.com. 22 September 1996. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Staff Correspondent, Name= Pradeep (26 October 2006). "Some reel-life role models". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
- Vicky Lalwani (21 February 2011). "Ekta slams Silk Smitha's boyfriend". The Times of India.
- Sebastian, Name= (6 March 2005). "Magic workers". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
- Bhattacharya, Name= Roshmila (8 November 2002). "Sex Sells". Screen Weekly. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
- Ashok Kumar, Name= SR (6 September 2006). "A saga of success". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
- "Vidya's nothing like Silk". Pune Times of India. 2 September 2011.
- "'The Dirty Picture' irks Silk's kin". Indianexpress.com. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "THE DIRTY PICTURE is not about Silk Smitha! – Bollywood news". glamsham.com. 7 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema, Oxford University Press, 1994 (ISBN 0-85170-669-X)
- 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)