2 December 1960
|Died||23 September 1996 (aged 35)|
|Cause of death||Suicide|
Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati (2 December 1960 – 23 September 1996), better known by her stage name Silk Smitha, was an Indian film actress who worked predominantly in South Indian films. She entered the industry as a side actress and was first noticed for her role as "Silk" in the 1979 Tamil film Vandichakkaram. She became a major sex symbol and the most sought-after erotic actress in the 1980s. In a career spanning 17 years, she appeared in over 450 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi languages. On 23 September 1996, she was found dead in her apartment in Chennai, having committed suicide.
Smitha was born in a Telugu family to Ramallu and Sarasamma in Kovvali village, Denduluru MandalEluru. She left school after her fourth standard (in India, at about 10 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. Her husband and in-laws treated her poorly and she soon ran away. 
Smitha started as a touch-up artist for an actress and soon got a break in small character roles. Later, she was discovered by Vinu Chakravarthy, director at a flour mill near AVM studios. He changed her name to 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.
Smitha went on to star in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and a few Hindi films. Her dance numbers 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, 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. 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). One of her films, Layanam (1989), has earned cult status in the Indian adult film industry and was dubbed in numerous languages, including Hindi. (Reshma Ki Jawani, 2002), 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 had a small circle of close friends. She was an introvert and did not make friends quickly with anyone. She is also known for her short temper and straightforwardness, which some mistakenly took for arrogance. In reality, 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 is also described as having a "soft" and "child like" personality by her friends and fans. She was skilled with makeup and made it her profession before entering the industry. She was naturally beautiful and well known for her doe-like eyes, golden complexion and physique.
The morning of September 23, 1996, she had contacted her friend, dancer Anuradha, to discuss a matter that was disturbing her. Anuradha said she visited, after dropping her child at school.
In the morning of September 23, 1996, after a few hours, Smitha was found dead in her Chennai home, much to the shock of her fans. The reason behind her death remains a mystery. Some believe it was due to depression over her debt accumulated from producing movies, while others continue to suspect foul play. A few months after her death it was declared in the postmortem report that Smitha died of suicide by hanging herself from a fan with a sari.
|1980||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||Smitha||Malayalam|
|1983||Justice Raja||Item dancer||Malayalam|
|1983||Nizhal Moodiya Nirangal||Malayalam|
|1983||Silk Silk Silk||Tamil|
|1984||Qaidi||Dancer in song Bongo Bongo||Hindi|
|1985||Chorakku Chora||C.I.D Silk||Malayalam|
|1985||Shri Datta Darshanam||Telugu|
|1988||Ganam Courtar Avargale||Tamil|
|1988||Paatti Sollai Thattathe||Anushiya||Tamil|
|1989||Andru Peytha Mazhaiyil||Capri||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||Anasuya||Telugu|
|1991||Aditya 369||Rajanarthaki Nandini||Telugu|
|1991||Thalattu Ketkuthamma||Dr. Mary||Tamil|
|1991||Thambikku Oru Paattu||Tamil|
|1991||Onnum Theriyatha Pappa||Tamil|
|1993||Saakshaal Sreeman Chaatthunni||Herself special appearance in song||Malayalam|
|1993||Govindha Govindha||Guest Appearance in song||Telugu|
|1994||Oru Vasantha Geetham||Tamil|
|1994||Maro Quit India||Telugu|
|1994||CID Unnikrishnan B.A., B.Ed.||Malayalam|
|1994||Lockup Death||Item Number||Kannada|
|1994||Gentleman Security||Item Dance||Malayalam|
|1994||May Madham||Palakkattu Machanukku song (Guest Appearance)||Tamil|
|1995||Mazhavil Koodaram||Rathi Teacher||Malayalam|
|1995||Kaattile Thadi Thevarude Aana||Malayalam|
|1995||Three Men Army||Item Dancer||Malayalam|
|1996||Coimbatore Mappillai||Item Number||Tamil|
|1996||K. L. 7/95 Ernakulam North||Malayalam|
|1996||Dominic Presentation||Item number||Malayalam|
|1996||Aavathum Pennale Azhivathum Pennale||item Number||Tamil|
|1996||Maa Aavida Collector||Telugu|
|1996||Time Bomb||Malayalam, Hindi|
In 2011, a film inspired by 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 along with its dubbed versions in Tamil and Telugu (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 hit in Karnataka.
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- "'சுமிதாவுக்கு திருமணத்தில் நம்பிக்கை இல்லை': 'சில்க்' சுமிதாவின் காதலர் பேட்டி" [' Sumita does not believe in the marriage ': Silk 'Sumita's Valentine Interview]. Cinema.maalaimalar.com. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "'எனக்கு வாழ்க்கை தருவதாக" [Give me life]. Archived from the original on 14 January 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- "Time Bomb (1996)". Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- "Vidya's nothing like Silk". Pune Times of India. 2 September 2011.
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- "THE DIRTY PICTURE is not about Silk Smitha! – Bollywood news". glamsham.com. 7 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
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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)