Silk Smitha

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Vijayalakshmi (December 2, 1960 – September 23, 1996), better known by her stage name Silk Smitha, was an Indian film artiste who worked predominantly in the South Indian languages.

She entered the industry as an extra actress and first got noticed for her role as “Silk” in the 1979 Tamil film Vandichakkaram.

She became the most sought-after erotic actress in the early 1980s.

In a career spanning 17 years, she appeared in over 450 films in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi languages.

She left school after her fourth standard (in India, at about 8 years of age) due to the family’s financial constraints.

Her striking looks burdened her with uninvited attention, and her family married her off at a very young age.

When she was ill-treated by her husband and in-laws, she ran away to Madras (now known as Chennai) and started living with an aunt.

Later she was discovered by Vinu Chakravarthy, director at a flour mill.

He renamed her Smitha and took her under his wing: his wife taught her English and arranged for her to learn dancing though soon, due to her marked sex appeal, she switched to roles of cabaret dancers and vamps and inevitably found herself typecast.

After garnering much notice and acclaim with her first major role in the Tamil film Vandichakkaram, in 1979, Smitha assumed the screen name “Silk”, after her character’s name in the movie.

Later she was discovered by Vinu Chakravarthy, director at a flour mill.

He renamed her Smitha and took her under his wing: his wife taught her English and arranged for her to learn dancing though soon, due to her marked sex appeal, she switched to roles of cabaret dancers and vamps and inevitably found herself typecast.

After garnering much notice and acclaim with her first major role in the Tamil film Vandichakkaram, in 1979, Smitha assumed the screen name “Silk”, after her character’s name in the movie.

Her item numbers in films like Amaran, Hallimeshtru Kannada were also celebrated at the box office. Some film critics, historians and journalists have referred to her as a “soft porn” actress.

A vast majority of her movies are considered ‘softcore’ by Indian standards and a common theme is her playing a freakishly strong agent in skimpy bikinis beating up huge thugs.

Her acting prowess did not go completely unnoticed and in her rare non-sexual roles, she impressed critics and audiences, such as her portrayal of a wife hurt by her role in her husband’s rape of their maid (which she passively allowed by not preventing his entering the maid’s bathroom and standing “guard” during the shameful act, to prevent embarrassment to their family) in Alaigal Oivathillai (1981).

One of her films, Layanam (1989), has earned a cult status in the Indian adult film industry and was dubbed in numerous languages including, Hindi as Reshma Ki Jawani (2002), which, too, acquired cult status.
Silk Smitha was found dead in her Chennai apartment, having committed suicide on September 23, 1996.

The cause of her death is not known, it may have been her disillusionment of getting a failure as a film producer which she had tried her hand on the previous year, an unrequited love or alcohol dependency.