Popular South Indian actress Sujatha, star of over 300 films in a career that lasted nearly 40 years died on April 6th 2011 from cardiac arrest after undergoing treatment for a heart ailment. She had been hospitalized for some time owing to a kidney related disorder.
Born December 10, 1952 in Sri Lanka, she began her acting career while still a child, appearing often in school plays. She moved with her family to Kerala in 1966, and two years later made her screen debut in R. Krishnan & S. Panju’s Do Kaliyaan. Tamil director K. Balachander saw her in the 1971 Malayalam film Ernakulam Junction and was impressed enough to offer her the lead role in his 1974 film, Aval Oru Thodar Kathai, which was her introduction to Tamil cinema. A sentimental family drama, it was the type of film the actress would became famous for.
In 1976 she won audiences hearts as Annam in Annakili, a tragic love triangle which tells of a village midwife who falls in love with the local schoolmaster, even though he has been promised to the daughter of a wealthy landowner. The film was one of the first Tamil films to be shot entirely on location in a single village, giving the film a certain realness that resonated with audiences. It’s also the film that launched the career of music director Ilayaraja, one of the most important (and prolific) composers in the Indian film industry.
Equally as popular was 1977’s Avargal, one of four films she made with actor Kamal Hassan, in which she played the abused wife of a sadistic husband who leaves him and sets off to Chennai to start life anew. A sensitive and remarkably feminist work, Sujatha’s performance as a woman torn between lovers is still considered a benchmark performance.
One of the most sought after heroines of the 70s, Sujatha continued to make films in Tamil and other languages (including Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi) until 2006, when she bid adieu to the silver screen in Sri Ramadasu.