Sad to- know of actress Krishna Kumari’s passing at age 85. In the history of Telugu Film Industry, Krishna Kumari will remembered as one of the most glamorous heroines in the B&W era making her presence felt in a range of plots from social to folklore to mythologicals. Acting in over 100 films, her strength is in projecting her classical looks into any role which demanded feminine grace, virtues of patience and generosity. What she lacked in versatility of her contemporaries like Savitri and Jamuna, she made up sheerly by her good temperament and immaculate dressing. From NTR to ANR, from Kantha Rao to Krishnam Raju, she was always ready to pair opposite anybody unmindful of her dizzy star power – which even overshadowed her own sister Sowcar Janaki who sprung into films much before her. Winning State Awards was easy for her because of the soberness she carried on screen and one never second-guessed whether she had any mirth off-screen except for those adventurous Janpad films she got paired alongwith Kantha Rao and Rajasree. The twist of history in Tollywood reveals that Krishna Kumari emerged like a dark horse (actually not dark!) when the film industry had an embargo on actress Jamuna after her tiff with NTR. The boycott lasted about five years enough for Krishna Kumari to double down on as many roles, meaty as well as one among the three heroines. Industry heaved a sigh of relief that there is a good alternative to Jamuna. But the gap was short-lived and Jamuna bounced back with her memorable performance in “Gundamma Katha”. Nevertheless, Krishna Kumari created an identity for herself in the South Indian Film Industry with a good mix of pace, initiative and tactfulness. The late NTR was so smitten by her that there is a rumour that both of them wanted to marry but NTR’s wife wouldn’t approve of it. That’s why some of the most romantic hits like “Bandipotu” etc came in that era.
It goes to the credit of Krishna Kumari that her feminine grace and dignified performances ensured that the most magical musical output of the golden era came as lilting songs featuring herself and heroes serenading her. You name any of Krishna Kumari’s films, and scores of melodies and superhit songs count – be it “Vagdaanam”, “Constable Kooturu”, “Kula Gotralu”, “Lakshadikari”, “Bharya Bhartalu”. Women in the 60s and 70s universally identified with her roles and the mesermerising music and the multi-star cast that usually earmarked her films ensured she is enshrined in our memory. She was also keen not to appear older or diseased in her films, a facet that kept her glamor quotient high even if it didn’t aid her career greatly after the nuanced Jamuna staged a comeback and other heroines like B.Saroja Devi, Kanchana, Vanisri etc surfaced. The best part of Krishna Kumari’s life and career is that she kept her dignity throughout, staying closer to her blood sister S.Janaki. Her part in elevating a heroine’s character without qualms and skin show is what is her greatest legacy. Also, if you go through her entire filmography, you may just find very few films like “Sampoorna Ramayanam” where she is seen as aged widow of King Dasaratha. Her obsession with only appearing in fairy tale visuals and happy frames is what makes her the original fruitcake in Tollywood. She reminds me of the Shakespeare quote and I would hence say: Some heroines are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Krishna Kumari is a heroine where Tollywood thrust greatness on her.