Padmini, an actress of yesteryears, who paired with popular heroes like MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Raj Kapoor, Prem Nazir and Dev Anand, died of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Chennai on Sunday night. She is 74 and is survived by a son, Prem Anand, who settled in the United States.
She acted in over 500 films in all the south Indian languages, besides Hindi and earned a place of her own in the Indian film industry. She was staying alone at her Chennai residence and is ailing for the past some time. Even she made a public appearance to participate in the film world felicitation to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Saturday last, of course in a wheel chair, where she collapsed and fell unconscious.
She was immediately shifted to a private hospital. She suffered a mass heart attack on Sunday night and her condition turned critical. She was rushed to the Apollo Hospital for treatment but she breathed her last at the hospital at 10.10 pm. Her funeral was performed on Tuesday after the arrival of her son from US.
Born in Poojapura in Tiruvanantapuram on July 12, 1932, Padmini is the second daughter of Padmini Tangappan Pillai and Saraswati. She along with her elder sister Lalitha and younger sister Ragini were called the 'Famous Travancore Sisters'. Padmini also had a younger brother Chandrasekhar (father of actress Sobhana). All the three sisters earned name and fame as good classical danders.
Padmini started learning dance at an early age of four. She learnt dance from Gopinath and TM Mahalingam Pillai. She made her arangetram as a classical dancer at the age of 10. She entered the film industry in 1949 at the age of 17 through a Hindi film 'Kalpana'. She was introduced to the Tamil audience in 1950 through 'Marumagazh'. She became popular after pairing up with Tamil Super Star Sivaji Ganeshan in 'Panam' in 1952. She had also worked opposite former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran in 'Madurai Veeran' and 'Mannadi Mannan'.
Padmini made her debut appearance in Telugu for Laila Majnu produced on the banner of Bharani Pictures in 1949. After that she did several Telugu films including 'Ammalakkalu', 'Kanchana', 'Oka Talli Pillalu', 'Vijayagouri' and 'Beedala Patlu'. In total she played in over 15 Telugu films. She made her first appearance in Hindi with 'Payal' in 1957 and worked with Raj Kapoor in 1961 for 'Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai'. Her films 'Mahabharat' (1965), 'Mera Naam Joker' (1971) got appreciation even from critics. Her film 'Tillana Mohanaambal' with Sivaji Ganeshan remained a milestone in her film career. Her film career continued uninterrupted for over four decades and she worked for over 250 films. Padmini had also shaken her legs with several top class artistes including NT Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Dev Anand, Prem Nazir and Rajkumar.
She got married to Dr KT Ramachandran in 1961. However, she left the film industry in 1977 to settle in the US, where she started the famous Padmini School of Fine Arts at New Jersey, an Indian classical dance school. From then onwards she dedicated her life for the school and now it grew up leaps and bounds as the one of the largest Indian classical dance institute in the US. After the death of her husband in 1981, she returned to Chennai. But her son Prem Anand continued to work with 'Warner Brothers' in the US. He also turned an actor and acted in a Malayalam film, besides producing three documentaries. Padmini last played in a film 'Poove Poo Chudavaa'.
During her 40 years of film career, Padmini bagged several awards. The Russian Government had awarded the 'Moscow Youth Festival Award' by recognizing her as the best classical dancer in 1957. The Tamil Nadu government honoured her with 'Kalaimamani' award in 1958. She had also won the Filmfare award in 1985. The erstwhile Soviet Union had released a postal stamp in her honour. She gave a dance performance in Rashtrapati Bhavan, where Queen Elizabeth, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, President Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Lady Mount Batten attended as guests.
Several film personalities have expressed their deep condolences over her sad demise. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, expressing his shock over her death, lauded her as a 'star among stars'. Karunanidhi, himself a film writer, accompanied by film lyricist Vairamuthu, visited the residence of Padmini's niece Sobhana, also a dancer and national award winning actor, and placed a wreath on her body.
Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa says, 'The death of Padmini is a void which can't be filled, not only in the film industry, but also in the entire fine arts sector. The Tamil film industry paid glowing tributes to the polyglot actress and "Nattiya Peroli," describing her death as an irreparable loss to the Indian film world. Film artistes, including actors and actresses of the present and earlier generations, paid homage to the mortal remains of the actress. Renowned danseuse and former MP Vyjayanthimala Bali, Manorama and Nagesh, contemporaries of Padmini, placed wreaths and said the death of Padmini was a personal loss to them.
Among others who paid their last respects included Kamal Haasan, Arjun, Parthiban, Vikram, veteran Sivakumar, Gouthami, Kushboo, distributors, producers and directors from the tinsel world. The mortal remains of Padmini were consigned to flames at the Besant Nagar crematorium on Tuesday.