Lady Superstar—people in the South mostly attach this title to Nayantara today, but few know, this title originally belonged to Vijayashanthi, the only heroine in the South who stood head and shoulders ahead of her contemporaries.
Her place was earned through constant self appraisal and retrospection in choice of her movies and also the amount of physical strain she undertook to do ‘non heroine’ like things like beating up goons and carrying out risky action sequences single handedly in movies like Karthavyam. The cop drama earned her the National Film Award for Best Actress in 1990.
Vijayashanthi turns 53 on June 24th, 2019 and is all set to regale her millions of fans with a fantastic comeback in Anil Ravipudi’s Sarileru Neekevvaru, which is a Mahesh Babu starrer.
The original Lady Superstar of the South
Vijayashanthi started her career in Tamil and starred in films driven by hero star value, till she found her foot as an upright lecturer, who stands for justice and is molested by politicians. She bounces back with vengeance on the political mafia. This, you find in the iconic film Prathighatana, which made Vijayashanthi and her firebrand persona a household name in South. It was for the first time a leading lady had a fiery persona who kills the villain in public for the misdeed he did to the society.
Her dialogues were sold as long playing records and cassettes in the late 1980s, not only in Tamil but in Telugu too, making her the first choice for women centric films. It would not be an understatement to say, Vijayashanthi gave directors and filmmakers scope for making women centric movies, with strong women characters.
Vijayashanthi proved her versatility starring opposite legends like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, holding her own in combination scenes with the two icons of the South. In Indrudu Chandrudu (1989,) she played a fun loving journalist,who unearths a political leader’s corrupt practices, alongside Kamal Haasan. In Mannan (1992,) she proved her mettle as an arrogant industrialist who chastises her worker, played by Rajinikanth, because he questions the injustice meted out to the working class. These films assured her place in the South as a nonpareil actress who could play any role with panache and assurance.
Karthavyam: The Lady Amitabh Bachchan garners national attention
Vijayashanthi’s biggest triumph and testimony to her subtle performing skills came in 1990, in the form of Karthavyam. This movie was a cop drama with her playing an extremely honest police officer who is undone by scheming politicians, but who bounces back to take revenge on them, legally. Vijayashanthi became a symbol of Durga, who performed stunts with such elan and vigor as impressively as the reigning superstars of the South or the North did. There was no heroine in the whole of Bollywood and the South who did any serious stunt sequences in their movies. This pioneering attempt by Vijayashanthi made her get the title ‘Lady Amitabh Bachchan.’
When Karthavyam won her the National Film Award For Best Actress, she stole the hearts of the national media, as the movie was dubbed into Hindi and released in the northern belt.
Senior IPS officer Kiran Bedi saw the movie and appreciated the cop role Vijayashanthi played to perfection, including the body language of a confident woman police officer.
Osey Ramulamma: The Superstardom Enhances
The legendary Dasari Narayana Rao made this path breaking movie about the exploitation of women in Telangana. In Osey Ramulamma, Vijayashanthi playing the role of Ramulamma, a poor, beautiful girl, who, upon attaining puberty, is sold to the local landlord as his serf, who provides sexual favours on his behest. Unable to bear this, one day, Ramulamma escapes and joins the naxalite movement and kills the zamindar and his son, who was her child.
The movie was a raging hit in Andhra Pradesh and won her both the State and Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
Vijayashanthi became a legend, who carved her career on her own terms, making smart choices in her nearly four decade long film journey. Her last movie, before joining the political arena as a member of Parliament in 2004, was Nayudamma, which was in the making for years together due to her political campaigns. Vijayashanthi was deservedly bestowed with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 for her monumental body of work in the Indian film industry.
With Sarileru Neekevvaru gaining all the positive talk and love from her fans, who desperately want to see her on the silver screen, Vijayashanthi is raring to comeback, as she explains in her Twitter posts. She often declares her love for films in general and Tollywood, in particular.
Here’s wishing the Lady Superstar a happy birthday and homecoming! We are waiting for more from her!