She is a diva. She came, she conquered and she left leaving many unspoken truths behind. A movie has been made on her, yet no one knows what made her take such an adverse decision of committing a suicide. The queen who ruled the Indian cinema for years with her seductive looks, Silk. Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati alias Silk Smitha, a village girl who was born in Eluru, landed in Chennai with many aspirations. From a stage of facing many rejections to becoming a glamorous diva her erotic and sensually charismatic career has seen many ups and downs. From being a touch-up girl to an artist to becoming a brand of seduction her journey in world of cinema has seen equal amount of appreciation and criticism.
The Rise of Silk
After working as a touch-up artist for sometime, she decided that this wasn’t what she wanted to do all her life. She went to many production houses for roles. She finally made her debut with a Malayalam film ‘Inaye Thedi’. It is said that she also did a film in Kannada before. But it went unnoticed. ‘Vandichakkaram’ is the movie which gave her the break she wanted and the brand she is known as‘SILK’. Silk is the name of character she played in that movie. Silk Smitha was discovered by director Vinu Chakravarthy in South cinema after which she established herself as one of the most well known erotic actresses in the industry. It proved to be the break she was looking for, and put her in a different category from the other seductresses. For the next few years she ruled the silver screen with her seductive looks and sultry voice.
Ruling the silver screen for years
Silk Smitha was the name given by Anthony Eastman, the director of her first film ‘Inaye Thadi’. After the film’s release she never looked back. For a decade she ruled the industry. In 80’s, due to her marked sex appeal, she acted in more than 450 films including many Bollywood films. There is a time, where audience used to come to the theaters only for her and leave once the song she was starring in was done. There are films that didn’t work well, but there was no song which didn’t work for Silk. Every role and every song took her to another level.
She acted with almost every superstar of every industry. She worked a three shift daily, for one song she would charge only 50k. South superstars like Sivaji Ganesan, Rajnikanth, Kamal Haasan, Chiranjeevi also insisted silk to do atleast one song for their film. She did many item numbers in films likes ‘Vandichakkaram’ as a bar girl named Silk, ‘Justice Raja’, ‘Kiratham’, ‘Antham’, ‘Mafia’, ‘Lockup Death’, ‘Gentalman Security’, ‘Karma’, ‘Coimbatore Mappillai’, and ‘ Subash’ – her last film which was released in 1996. That’s how the sultry, sensuous actress became a country wide sensation overnight, even outstripping established stars like Kamala Hasan and Rajnikant in terms of both popularity and fees.
And the fall
Within a very short time she became an icon in the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries, wearing a bikini on screen and going when others trembled to do the same. Though her professional life is in a boom, her private life was more troubled. Love affairs never went anywhere, financial issues almost ruined her productions and she began to suffer from chronic depression. In the 1990s, the industry began to change as well: heroines were no longer confined to “chaste” roles and did roles that were once the mainstay of the ‘vamps’. And slowly fame of silk got demised. She was no longer a front runner on the lists.
Offers decreased and she was seen lesser in the films. The mindset of the audience also changed. She couldn’t bag good roles as she was marked with a name of an ‘item girl’. She also suffered a lot with her personal behaviour. She is short tempered and also has very less friend circle. She suffered debts. Three of her films failed miserably at box office. Even her love life was inconsistent. The world which she ruled for years now left her alone to suffer.
The End Card
“Why does everyone see women like me as a product? Why does no one consider us human beings as well, with emotions and feelings?”
These were the lines which she told when she went to a village to shoot a film. The villagers, ranging from sixteen to sixty years made miserable and vulgar comments on her. May that is the time where she started to regret what she was doing. That is the question that haunted her to the end. Also once a mob in Madras, spotting her on the street, almost stripped her naked before she was rescued. She suffered for many days with mental distress. On September 23, 1996 Silk committed suicide at her Chennai apartment. She hanged herself from the ceiling fan leaving a note in Telugu which stated that she was frustrated with repeated failures in life and hence was taking the extreme step.
It is almost more than 20 years since she left world. There are lot of questions around her suicide. Is it depression? Is it defaming? Is there something more than that? A movie was also made. But the questions still remain the same? Why and Who?
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