An uncharacteristically cool and lovely evening in the 1970s Chennai, a few film enthusiasts and critics who formed a committee to honour Telugu and Tamil actors of excellence went to a star actress’ home. They’re ushered into the living room and she sat royally in a chair and asked them to relax with coffee, tea, and snacks etc. A few minutes later she asked them what’s the matter.
They excitedly revealed that she was selected as the best actress for her performance of in a film that was a huge critical and commercial success. They expected her to be excited and thank them with all (cinematic) humbleness just like all our stars do and say: I didn’t do anything special but it was just the director helped me do a good job and the audience were generous to accept my efforts. Thank you thank you for recognising this humble me.
But NO! She just took a glance at them and without batting an eye lid and said: you have good taste.
She is Bhanumathi Ramakrishna. The pride of South Indian Cinema. All all-rounder. She’s as good a singer as any of the top playback singers of her time. She’s as good an actress as Savitri and even older generation thespians. She’s the first South Indian actress to turn a director. And playing a dual role in the film. She used to choose her own scripts.
She used to get top billings (top billing means name appearing first in the screen) in films where the likes of N. T. Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao were male leads. Heck! Even NTR himself had given her the sole protagonist role in a film he starred and directed. Nowadays we have been hearing actresses talking about equality, women empowerment, and equal pay. But none, I say none, comes closer to her stardom and command over the industry bigwigs. She was the personification of women empowerment without uttering the word.
Bhanumathi was and will remain once in a century talent. One cannot do everything and do well. Except when you’re once in a century talent. Bhanumathi knows she’s an all time great. And says it unabashedly. On her 96th birth anniversary, we present you with 18 iconic roles she played. We confidently say, none of the current generation actresses come close to match her charisma in those roles.