Silk Smitha is probably one of the most controversial actresses in South Indian cinema history. At the peak of her career, she was a craze, a sex siren and the queen of sensuality. Her entry on any screen would turn men's gazes to the slopes of her curves and begin a loop of fantasies.

Despite her star power and despite having 'everything' in life, Silk Smitha committed suicide at the age of 36, when she hanged herself. While suicide stories are common in the cine world, Silk Smitha was the kind of person anybody thought would take her own life. After all, she was a rebel who defied the norms of the industry and carved out her own place in the world.

Life Before Cinema

Born as Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati, she came from a poor Telugu family in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh. After Class 4 (8 years old), she stopped going to school due to her family's poverty.

She was married off at a very young age and her husband and in-laws turned out to be abusive. Unable to bear their torments, Silk Smitha escaped to Chennai to live with her aunt and it was there she found a job as a touch-up artist for an actress. Soon, she was playing uncredited roles in films and was eventually noticed by director Vinu Chakravarthy.

He and his wife mentored her by teaching her English and arranging dance classes for her. They introduced her as Smitha. Her first hit role was in the film Vandichakkaram in 1979 and she adopted her role 'Silk' as her image by adding it to her screen name.

Rise of Silk Smitha

Soon, because of her striking looks and massive sex appeal, Silk Smitha was cast in every movie to perform at least an item number. At one point between the 80s and 90s, the success of a movie was determined solely based on Silk Smitha's presence in it. Her raging hits gave producers confidence.

Due to her bold choices of characters and item dance numbers, she was typecasted into playing only sensual and erotic roles throughout her career in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada films. Some of her most iconic performances include Moondru Mugam, Moondram Pirai, Thanga Magan, Paayum Puli, and Sivappu Sooriyan to name a few.

But that didn't mean Silk Smitha was not capable of taking on challenging roles. She proved her craft in a film called Alaigal Oivathillai where she played the wife of a corrupt man. During her shoots, she was very professional. She even learned to fluently speak English.

Personal Life

Despite her successful career, Silk Smitha's personal life was not smooth. She had many failed and turbulent relationships and her friends describe her as an introvert with a child-like personality.

Tragic Death

Her downfall came with age and her venture into producing movies. A new breed of actresses was coming into the industry at much cheaper rates. She was not getting much work. On top of that, financial losses and the heartbreak from a failed love affair was too much to bear, some sources revealed. On the night before her death, she called a close friend, another dancer named Anuradha.

She wanted to speak, urgently. But, Anuradha promised to visit her the next day. It was too late. On 23 September 1996, she was found dead in her apartment in Chennai. Till today, Anuradha regrets waiting till the next day. Here's an interview with her eight years ago:

Even years after her demise, Silk Smitha is still known as South Indian cinema's most celebrated sex symbol. No actress has managed to live up to her reputation and sensuality.

Source: Dailyhunt, Economic Times & India Today
Photo Credit: New Indian Express, Telugu Cinema, Chsushilrao, MSN, Times of India, Mid-Day, Bollywood & India Today