Telugu cinema: heroines

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Women who changed the face of Telugu cinema

Suresh Kavirayani, TNN Mar 7, 2013

The Times of India

• They were more than just heroines. They were glamourous divas, excellent performers, talented directors, celebrated singers,awe-inspiring female icons and more. Here's to the women who set remarkable trends in cinema during their times


Tanguturi Suryakumari

Telugu cinema's first heroine At a time when women in movies just earned a passing mention for their acting stints, Tanguturi Suryakumari broke the mold to truly become Telugu cinema's first "heroine". She not only shot to fame for her acting skills, but also became popular for her remarkable singing and dancing skills, something that was unheard of in those times. Known for her rendition of Maa Telugu Thalliki, Andhra Pradesh's anthem, she became a film star at the age of 12 and went on to act in around 25 films, of which movies like Devatha and Raithu Bidda made cinematic history and contributed to the Golden age of Telugu Cinema. She even has the distinction of being the first woman to play a male role — Narada — and singing for the roles too.


300 FILMS! The fact that an entire cinematic era has been named after her is proof enough of how Savitri changed the face of Telugu movies like no one else. The Savitri era that marks the period from the 50s to the 70s is also associated with the Golden Era of Telugu cinema. Savitri's lively and captivating performances during her illustrious career have become the benchmark for acting for actors ever since. She starred in more than 300 films in the Telugu, Tamil and Hindi film industries, boasting of around 10 to 20 releases every year! Her excellent portrayal of strong women earned her the title — 'Mahanati' Savitri.


The first diva Undoubtedly Tollywood's first diva, Jamuna was one female star, who inspired awe and applause from the audiences of her times. She commanded as much respect as her male peers and was known to be the only actress who bought her own car back then. One of the finest actresses of Telugu cinema, she has acted in nearly 200 films in Telugu and other South Indian languages. Until the 70s, she ruled the Telugu film industry and has earned much acclaim for her powerful performances in social and mythological films, notably for her portrayal of Satyabhama, opposite NT Rama Rao.



Satyajit Ray, who considered her his muse, called her the most beautiful woman in the world and there was a time when roles were written only for her. Jayaprada became an integral part of Telugu cinema, who changed the equations and wowed everyone with her versatility of balancing commercial roles with strong performance-oriented characters. But what made Jayaprada a celebrated name across the country is the fact that she was the first Telugu actress to work her way up to the A-league of both Tollywood and Bollywood. Even as she broke box office records and romanced all the top stars, she managed to win everyone's hearts with her powerful performances in movies like Sagara Sangamam.


first female superstar No other actress in the history of Telugu cinema enjoyed demi-God status like Sridevi. One of the most beautiful actresses the industry had ever seen, Sridevi went on to become the first female superstar. A favourite with all the actors and filmmakers, Sridevi managed to oscillate between uber glam roles and completely de-glamourised and powerful performances. In her long career, she has played NT Rama Rao's granddaughter in Badipanthulu and later went on to romance the superstar in many successful films. Sridevi still remains one of the most celebrated actresses in Telugu cinema.

Anjali Devi


Anjali Devi was the first actress from the industry who became the face of powerful, mythological characters like Sita in Lava Kusha, which was the first colour movie in the Telugu Film Industry. She is also known for essaying path-breaking characters in folk cinema and has acted in more than 350 Telugu films over her career of three decades, playing everything from a strong traditional woman and empowered mother to even demons, angels and goddesses.



A force to reckon with in the industry in those times, Bhanumathi was a true woman of power, who was not only ahead of her times, but also lived life on her own terms. A versatile film personality, she was not only a celebrated actress, but was also celebrated for her directorial, musical, writing and singing skills. It was said that many veteran actors were intimidated by her bold and confident persona on the sets. Bhanumathi ruled the Telugu film industry for almost three decades and gave the audiences some memorable performances.

See also P Bhanumathi


national award winning actress


who also had a great impact on telugu Cinema .


Granddaughter of NTR, Heroine for NTR, Heroine for Balakrishna (NTR son)



See also

Telugu cinemaTelugu cinema: 2010 onwardsTelugu cinema: heroines Telugu cinema: list of all-time hits Telugu Filmfare Awards

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