Updated: July 27, 2021 8:51:53 am
Veteran actor Jayanthi passed away due to age-related ailments at her residence in Bengaluru on Monday morning. She was 76.
Born in Ballari as Kamala Kumari, she was a trained classical dancer. And she appeared in small roles before she was introduced to the world as Jayanthi by director Y. R. Swamy with his 1963 film Jenu Goodu. And the actor never looked back. In a career spanning over six decades, she acted in more than 500 movies across languages, including Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.
Jayanthi’s screen presence was such that she was celebrated by her fans as ‘Abhinaya Sharadhe’, which means the goddess of acting.
Her performance in the song “Naadina Veera Ramaniya” in the evergreen Kannada film Nagarahavu, which marked the acting debut of Dr Vishnuvardhan, is noteworthy. In the period song, she brought to life the valour and sacrifice of Onake Obavva, the legendary woman warrior in the Chitradurga dynasty in the 18th century. Obavva is celebrated for stalling the invading forces of Hyder Ali at the Chitradurga fort wielding just pestle as her weapon. And hence she came to be known as Onake Obavva. Her performance in that song has remained etched in the memory of Kannada movie fans.
She was also a force to be reckoned with in the Tamil and Telugu film industries during the best years of her career.
Jayanthi’s tender screen presence in K. Balachander’s 1968 Edhir Neechal complimented the brilliant performance of legendary Nagesh. In the climax, she quits the pretence of a ‘helpless’ woman and stands up to those who are trying to force her into a marriage against her will. She effortlessly switches between her performance as a strong-willed woman fighting for love and dignity, who is reduced to tears after realising nobody seems to understand her, including her parents.
Talking about a strong-willed woman, one can’t forget her performance in the 1965 film Miss Leelavathi. The female-centric film was directed by M. R. Vittal from Korati Srinivasa Rao’s script. While an actress appearing in a swimsuit in a film feels something of a cliche today, it was considered path-breaking in the 60s. Jayanthi holds the distinction of being the first female actor in Kannada cinema to appear in a swimsuit in Miss Leelavathi. Besides the bold fashion choices of its female protagonist, the film also challenged several gender stereotypes in the patriarchal setting. It talked about a woman’s right to assert her sexuality and choose a career over married life. In legendary director Puttanna Kanagal’s Edakallu Guddada Mele, she played a sex-lorn married woman, who is driven into the arms of another man. The film was way ahead of its time as instead of being judgemental, it takes a compassionate view of the female protagonist, who cheats on her husband.
Jayanthi won her first Karnataka State Film Award for her performance in Edakallu Guddada Mele. She went on to win several awards in her career.
Jayanthi also shared screen space with all the leading male superstars of her time, including Dr Rajkumar (with whom she acted in more than 30 films), NT Rama Rao, MG Ramachandran, Shivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan to name a few.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.