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Vijayashanthi
In a hero-worshipping world of Indian Cinema, to be precise, South Indian cinema, there is one heroine who calls her shots. Vijayasanthi’s magic spell has not diminished since she attained it eight years back with the epic making film-‘Kartavyam’. The film not only catapulated the star to dizzying heights in the tinsel world, but won her two prestigious awards – the national and the AP State Best Actress award in 1991.

In a carefully nurtured career, Vijayasanthi since then has reached the status of a ‘hero’ in box office parlance, carrying the success of a film entirely on her shoulders. And with Dasari’s “Osey Ramulamma” where she played a downtrodden woman who rose against her oppressors (again a State Award for her). Vijayasanthi excelled and this time the janata literally owned her and felt that here was a true leader who could guide them. This could be seen in the last General elections where, to the surprise of some she campaigned for the B J P and won the party four seats in Andhra Pradesh, for the first time in the Party’s history. Since then things changed. Shanthi is disillusioned with the Party and now she is giving a thought to the formation of a third front in the State political arena. It is early to say whether she will go ahead with the plan.

Meanwhile she is concentrating on her current films- Dasari’s “Adavichukka”, Kodi Ramakrishan’s “Bharath Rathna”, the Tamil, Telugu bilingual “Rajasthan” directed by R K Selvamani and of course the Amitabh Bachchan starrer (untitled) directed by Ramanathan. No doubt, the star-performer has won the national award for “Karthavyam”, but many felt she deserved the one for her sterling performance in “Osey Ramulamma” too.

In ‘Pratighatana” another film that essayed the role of a lawyer’s wife who takes revenge on the cruel politicians she bettered her own performance in “Karthavyam” where she played the super cop, with a scene in this film where she takes on the wrath of the lawyers all by herself. Introduced to the silver screen by Bharathiraja in his Tamil film “Kallukkul Eeram” (1980), when she was barely 14. Vijayasanthi got a break the same year in a Telugu movie too- “Kiladi Krishnudu” directed by Vyjayanthimala with Krishna as the hero.

After a couple of inconsequential roles, came “Pellichoopulu” (1983) directed by P Sambasivarao and brought recognition to her as a star. This was a remake of K Bhagyaraj’s Tamil Film “Thooral Ninnu Pochu”. If “Pellichoopulu” got her the much-needed recognition, it was late director T Krishna’s “Neti Bharatham” that established her as a serious actress. It was her association with T Krishna that catapulated Vijayasanthi to stardom- “Neti Bharatham”, “Desamlo Dongalu Paddaru”, “Pratighatana”, “Devalayam”, “Vandemataram” and “Repati Pourulu”. In each one of these films, Krishna offered her a variety of roles bringing out her talent.

She played the role of a bride who revolts, who ties the “mangalsutra” to the bridegroom in “Desamlo Dongalu Paddaru” and the act was meant to make a mockery of the dowry system. Likewise in “Pratighatana” T Krishna created the character of Jhansi who exposed the corrupt and brute politicians. He carved the role of a dedicated teacher, Saraswathi, to shape the future citizen of India in “Repati Pourulu.” Each one of these characters is a milestone in her career.

T Krishna spotted her on the sets of his friend Madala Rangarao’s “Navodayam”. He saw her perform and predicted that she would turn out to be a good actress. A member of the Praja Natya Mandali, T Krishna had no intention of turning to films at that time. But later circumstances forced him to enter films along with his friend P Babu Rao and launch the banner “Eetharam Pictures". "When she started out in her first film, “Neti Bharatham,” Krishna took up direction. His natural choice for the heroine’s role was Vijayasanthi,” says actor-producer Babu Rao. “But there was an initial hesitation on her part as we were all new to filmmaking. We persuaded her to accept our offer. From then on she acted in almost every film directed by T Krishna, including the much acclaimed “Pratighatana” produced by Ramoji Rao which established her as one of the top stars of the Telugu screen.

Unlike some of the recent crop of heroines, Vijayasanthi rose to the top step by step. Performance wise she has matured a lot. Previously she used to follow the director’s instructions blindly. But with experience she is now able to interpret her role nearer to reality. This has been possible only because she has worked with directors such as T Krishna, Bapu, Bharathiraja, K Viswanath and Dasari.

Be it in K Viswanath’s “Swayam Krushi” where she acts as an illiterate woman who falls in love with a cobbler played by Chiranjeevi or K Raghavendra Rao’s “Sahasa Samrat” where she is a highly educated woman who marries a village bumpkin played by Balakrishna, she is equally at ease. Also in "Jeevan Portam" (remake of "Roti Kapda Aur Makan") where she plays the role of Zeenat Aman or in other commercial blockbusters such as "Desodharakudu", "Muddula Krishnayya" in which she acts as a film star. "Athaku Yamudu Ammayiki Mogudu" and "Lorry Driver" or in films with progressive themes such as "Bharatha Nari", "Arunakiranam", 'Pratighatana', "Karthavyam", "Osey Ramulamma". But Vijayshanthi is modest and says credit should be given to the writer and director only.

She prefers to be remembered for her acting talent rather than as a crowd-puller. She feels at home doing serious roles that are closer to reality. Though Vijayasanthi made her entry into films via the Tamil field and subsequently acted in about 17 Tamil films, including "Mannan" opposite Rajnikanth and "Indran Chandran" with Kamal Hassan, it was the dubbed version of "Pratighatana" ( Poovondru Puyalanathu") that made the Tamil audience sit up and watch her. Later some of her films in the same genre directed by T Krishnan and Muthyala Subbiah were dubbed into Tamil.

She was introduced to Hindi cinema by K Viswanath in the film 'Eswar', a re-make of his Telugu film 'Swathi Muthyam'. It proved a success and offers poured in but she did not accept any of them because she felt that the Bollywood industry was dead slow and she wanted to do a lot of films in a year. Her second Hindi film was "Mukaddar Ka Badsha", a remake of the Telugu film "Aswatham" In the Hindi version she acted with another National award winning actress - Shabana Azmi. Her other starrers are "Aparadhi" in which she is paired with Anil Kapoor "Tejaswini", a remake of "Karthavyam". Directed by N. Chandra. Her Kannada films include "Keralida Hennu" with Shankar Nag and 'Aydha'. And in Malayalam she has starred in a couple of films.

Her one ambition is to play a dual role and finally she found one, thanks to Kodi Ramakrishna. She is playing a dual role-as a military officer and a petty thief in "Bharathrathna" which is her latest movie. After all the success she has found she is still a person with a carefree attitude. She never looks back at past mistakes but always remembers the hurdles she has crossed and the distance she has travelled to reach this exalted place in the industry.
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