Padmini Ramachandran, who was amongst the first heroines to make it big in the Tamil film industry, died of a heart attack in Chennai at 3 am on Monday morning. She was 74.
Born in Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, on June 12, 1932, Padmini started learning classical dance at the age of four and at the age of ten, she had her arangettam or dance debut.
Her entry into the film world was rather unexpected. The legendary dancer Uday Shanker, on seeing her dance performance, invited her to act in the film he was making. Thus Padmini became the heroine of the Hindi film Kalpana and started a career in movies spanning a period of over 40 years. The film garnered her a lot of appreciation. More so, because of her eclectic style and charismatic dance moves.
Padmini had two sisters, Lalitha and Ragini who were also dancers. The trio was popularly known as the “Travancore sisters”. Her first Tamil film Manamagal (1950), which was directed by N S Krishnan, was a huge hit.
This was followed by Thooku Thooki, which saw the Travancore sisters dance to the song "Sundari Soundari." Her first movie with Shivaji Ganesan was Panam(1950). Panam was the beginning of a partnership that saw Sivaji and Padmini star together in 60 films.
With a film career that spanned over 40 years, Padmini went on to become a top star in Bollywood as well as in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu cinema.
Padmini's charisma as a dancer allowed her to cross all regional boundaries and she excelled in many different styles from Bharatnatyam to Western. She acted with all the leading heroes of her times, which include legendary stars like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sivaji Ganesan, MGR, Prem Nazir, and Raj Kumar.
Along with Vaijayanthimala, her South Indian compatriot, Padmini could also be credited with popularizing Indian classical dance in Hindi Cinema which went on to become a prerequisite for every Bollywood film during that time.
Among her most well known movies are Manamagal, Mr. Sampath, Adi Parashakthi, Thillana Mohanambal, Vietnam Veedu all in Tamil and Snehaseema, Adhyapika, Umminithanka in Malayalam. Her last film in Malayalam Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu, depicting the role of a grandmother won many accolades.
Her prominent Bollywood films are Payal (1957), Babubhai Mistry's Mahabharat (1965), Raj Kapoor's Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1961), and Mera Naam Joker(1971).
She got married to Dr. KT Ramachandran in 1961. Following her marriage she left the soaring acting career and settled for family life. She made a base for herself in the United States and in 1977 opened her classical dance school in New Jersey, The 'Padmini School of Fine Arts'. Her school is today one of the largest Indian Classical Dance institutions in America.
Her niece, Shobana, is a famous South Indian Actress and has won the Best actress National Award twice for her films Manichithrathazhu and Mitr, My Friend.