Silk Smitha’s death continues to be a mystery even after 24 years

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Silk Smitha’s death continues to be a mystery even after 24 years

It has been exactly 24 years since Silk Smitha committed suicide, but till date, no one knows the exact reason behind her extreme step. Considered as one of the most controversial actresses in the southern film industry, the diva was the queen of sensuality and a favourite among the masses during the peak of her career. Termed as the Marilyn Monroe of Indian cinema, Smitha appeared in over 450 films across five languages in a roller-coaster career spanning for 17 years.
On September 23, 1996, Smitha was found dead at her apartment in Chennai after she reportedly committed suicide. While the exact reason is yet to be discovered, it is reported that the actress was battling multiple problems, including financial crunch, disillusionment in love and severe depression.
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Silk Smitha was born as Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati in a Telugu family and she hails from a village in Denduluru, Eluru. Due to severe financial constraints, she left school after fourth standard and at the young age of 14, she was married. She walked out of the forced alliance after getting ill-treated by her husband and in-laws and eventually, escaped to Chennai with her aunt.

The introverted personality started off her career as a touch-up artist and gradually appeared in uncredited roles. She was spotted by late actor-cum-director Vinu Chakravarthy in a flour mill near AVM Studio. Along with his wife Karna Poo, Vinu took Smitha under his wing and arranged dancing, acting and etiquette classes for her.


In 1980, Smitha got her major break as an actress in the 1980 film ‘Vandichakkaram’ in which she portrayed the role of a bar girl. Her character name ‘Silk’ in the film became her screen name in the years to come. Though the film turned out to become a huge success with several offers approaching her way, Smitha couldn’t escape typecasting which severely limited her range throughout her career.

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Silk Smitha turned into the ultimate symbol of sensuality after the release of Rajinikanth’s ‘Moondru Mugam’ in 1982. During a stage from the 80s to 90s, the success of a movie was determined solely based on Silk Smitha's presence and according to Tamil film historian Randor Guy, “Films that laid in cans for years were sold by the simple addition of a Silk Smitha song.”

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During one of his old interview, veteran Kannada actor Ravichandran revealed that hours before Smitha took her life; she called him up to perhaps tell something which disturbed her. The ‘Crazy Star’ said “I was busy shooting that day (September 23, 1996) and was surprised to see Smitha trying frantically to reach me a few times. I tried to speak to her, but the call never got through due to poor connectivity. I thought it was a routine call. However the next day, to my horror, I realised that Smitha had killed herself. I shudder to think what could have been the reason for her call. This haunts even me now.”
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