Veteran Telugu actress-producer-filmmaker Vijaya Nirmala, who passed away on June 27 due to a heart ailment in Hyderabad, electrified the screen with her presence and pulled off any role with stunning sophistication that redefined South Indian cinema.
Born on February 20, 1944, in (then) Madras, Tamil Nadu, Vijaya Nirmala has received loved and adulation from the world over, having played roles in mainstream and independent cinema.
Having romanced the camera from the tender age of seven, she lived and breathed movies for over six decades. An actress par excellence, she could bring each character to life and was at ease portraying diverse personas in films.
Vijaya Nirmala made her acting debut in 1950 Tamil film Machcha Rekkai and a few years later she forayed into Telugu cinema with the film Panduranga Mahatyam strring NTR and Anjali Devi, where she appeared as the young Lord Krishna in the film.
It was through her 1964 Malayalam film Bhargavi Nilayam, she rose to stardom and got noticed. She went on to work with Prem Nazir again in the 1967 blockbuster Udhyogastha.
Before stepping into the Telugu film industry, Vijaya made her Tamil debut with 1965's Enga Veetu Penn. Over the years, she went on to act in other films such as Neelagiri Express, Panama Paasama, Uyira Maanama, En Annan, Gnana Oli and Sumangali Kolam.
Enga Veetu Penn
As a leading lady, she made her Telugu debut in 1966 with Rangula Ratnam alongside Vanisri and Anjali Devi. In 1967, she starred in Telugu film Sakshi and it's on the sets of this film she met actor Krishna with whom she worked in 47 films and eventually ended up marrying. However, it was her second marriage.
Vijaya had a son, Naresh, from her first marriage to the late KS Murthy. She made controversial headlines when she married Krishna, who was the father of five children from his earlier marriage to Indra, including superstar Mahesh Babu.
Through her career, she acted in over 200 films with 25 each in Malayalam and Tamil, and the rest in Telugu.
Vijay Nirmala, who has directed 44 films, was a visionary filmmaker and she made her directorial debut via 1971 Telugu film Meena, which was based on the eponymous popular novel written by Eddanapudi Sulochana Rani. Two years later, she directed her first Malayalam film Kavitha.
As a filmmaker, she had the privilege of directing major stars like Sivaji Ganesan in Bezawada Bebbuli and Rajinikanth in Ram Robert Rahim. She and actress Savitri are credited as the only female directors to have directed the legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan.
Ram Robert Rahim
Her other popular directorial projects include Rowdy Rangamma, Sirimalle Navvindi, Bezawada Bebbuli and Collector Vijaya, among others.
Apart from films, she also ventured into television. She made her debut on the small screen with Balaji Telefilms' Pelli Kanuka in 1988. Soon after, she launched her own banner Vijaya Krishna Movies and produced 15 films.
Vijaya Nirmala holds a Guinness Record for the most number of films directed by a female filmmaker. In 2008, the Andhra Pradesh government conferred her with Raghupathi Venkaiah award for her contribution to Telugu cinema.