Content with her fame, Telugu film actress Vanisri is now out to do something for an industry that had nurtured her.

I was the first heroine to innovate on various styles

At her home in Secunderabad, Vanisri is leading a peaceful and a contented life. The actress who began her career as heroine with Marupurani Katha and there was no looking back. With hardly any competition during her time, she was able to carve a niche for herself in the Telugu cinema industry.

She says, “The existing heroines had announced their retirement, Savitri became overweight, Krishna Kumari and Jamuna were married and around that time, devudu naa meedha oka muthyala jallu, charactersdvaara kurinpinchaadu. Also with every film turning out to be a success, there was no looking back. Kanchana was there, but she did her own genre.”

The actress originally Ratna Kumari was rechristened Vanisri by S.V. Ranga Rao after his banner Sri Vani films. She worked in 14 films a year and 16 hours every day recollects that she never had time to even discuss “manchi chedu” with her parents and relatives. She adds, “I never knew how I would look without make up. While others had a professional and personal life, my reel life was my real life. Even the jewellery or saris I bought was worn during shootings because there was no occasion to dress up. I was such a novice, would sign a cheque but never knew how it should be encashed in the bank.”

The actress revealed that the studios were like a reality school where she studied people, her contemporaries and also learnt the art of make up on her own. Vanisri says, “I would read a lot of novels and the descriptions of the heroines influenced me. I started evolving my own style of dressing and make up. I was the first one to try on different shades of lipsticks, bindis, nail colours that would match the saris and preferred bright colours, remember that chengavi rangu cheera(Bangaru Babu 1972)? I was averse to the same hair style, knotted bun and a plait with flowers. I brought in novelty by stitching two saris with polka dots on it and wearing black outdoors, would have constant arguments with the art and camera department because they thought it would look gawdy.”

She adds, “V.B. Rajendra Prasad had immaculate taste, he would select the right colour. I would always ask why a heroine should always look shabby if she is unhappy. Face lo mood thevaale thappa why should she leave her hair and wear crumpled clothes. Ibbandhi anedhi manasuku sambandinchidi.”

Didn’t any hero propose to her? She guffaws, “Never, all the heroes got married, the existing ones probably didn’t have the courage, but I always wanted to marry someone outside the industry and someone who is not already married . I have seen many actresses who didn’t succeed with second marriages and the characters we played helped us to study society.”

Just like the changes in the surroundings before any impending disaster like tornado or a tsunami, Vanisri says she had an inkling that obscenity was beginning to creep in the industry and heroines were being asked to do the roles of a vamp or at least dress like them. She says, “The hero’s dance movements made me very uncomfortable and it’s then when I realised that Vanisri was not needed anymore in this field. “

The actress has established a school from where around 400 students have passed out and have become doctors and engineers. She is planning to construct a home for the aged in the film industry called Adharana and a mobile theatre to spot talent from various places in Andhra Pradesh.

“Whatever a person learns before turning 27, stays with her till death. The industry has given me so much, I want to do something for it,” she signs off.