Lakshmi is an Indian actress and director, who has predominately worked in the South Indian entertainment industries. She has appeared in numerous popular Indian films such as Julie (1975), Jeans (1998), Padayappa (1999), Hulchul (2004), and Oh! Baby (2019). She has won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress a total of eight times for working in the Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam films, a rare feat achieved by any actor in India.
Yaragudipadi Venkata Mahalakshmi was born on Saturday, 13 December 1952 (age 70 years; as of 2022) in Madras, Madras State (now Chennai, Tamil Nadu), India. Her zodiac sign is Sagittarius.
She grew up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where she completed her schooling. Lakshmi used to participate in acting competitions while studying in school; she won numerous accolades for her school in the competitions.
Height (approx.): 5′ 5″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Parents & Siblings
Her father, Yaragudipati Varada Rao, was a renowned filmmaker, who predominately worked in the South Indian film industries. He passed away on 13 February 1979.
Her mother, Kumari Rukmani, was an actress and dancer, who worked in the Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi films.
Husband & Children
Her first husband’s name is Bhaskaran. She got married to him in 1969, and in 1975, they got separated.
Her second husband, Mohan Sharma, is an actor and filmmaker. She married him in 1975 and got divorced from him in 1980.
Her third husband, K. S. Sivachandran (also known as Narayanan), is an actor, director, and writer, who has mostly worked in the Tamil film industry. She got married to him in 1987.
Lakshmi has two daughters, Aishwariyaa Bhaskaran, an actress born to Laksmi and her first husband Bhaskaran, and Sivachandran Samyuktha, who was adopted by Lakshmi and Sivachandran in 2000. In an interview, Mahalakshmi talked about adopting her second daughter and said,
I would say she adopted us as parents. Our attitude as parents at this stage in life is different, our approach and behavior is not the same when we are 19, the age when I gave birth to my first daughter Aishwariyaa Bhaskaran.”
Her maternal grandmother, Nungambakkam Janaki, was an actress who appeared in the 1932 Tamil film Harishchandra.
Reportedly, Lakshmi and Mohan Sharma began dating during the shooting of the Malayalam film Chattakkari (1974). Following her separation from Mohan, she began dating actor-director K. S. Sivachandran whom she met on the sets of the 1988 Tamil film En Uyir Kannamma.
Yaragudipadi Venkata Mahalakshmi follows Hinduism.
Lakshmi made her acting debut in the Tamil film industry with the 1961 Hindu mythological film Sri Valli in which she appeared as Child Valli.
In 1968, she landed the role of a character named Lalitha in the film Jeevanamsam for which she reportedly received Rs. 2,500. During a media interaction, Lakshmi said that during those times, there were no acting classes that aspiring actors could attend to refine their skills. She said,
When I started acting in 1968 there was no concept of professional training. You learned about acting out of the experience. It was up to you to apply your mind and refine your technique. Acting is a piece of cake when compared to hosting talk shows. Sometimes it is as if I act to relax.”
In 1969, she appeared in several blockbuster Tamil films including Kanni Penn, Annaiyum Pithavum, and Magane Nee Vazhga. Her rise to stardom took place in the 1970s. In 1974, she appeared as Parvathi in the film Dikkatra Parvathi; she received a Filmfare Award for the film.
She won the National Film Award for the 1977 film Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal in which she appeared as Ganga.
She appeared in the 1978 film Oru Nadigai Natakam Parkiral as a character named Kalyani and received the Tamil Nadu State Film Award. Lakshmi made her directorial debut, under the guidance of K. Balachander, in 1980 with the film Mazhalai Pattalam, which was adapted from the 1968 American family comedy-drama film Yours, Mine and Ours. The film was simultaneously made in the Kannada language.
She received a Filmfare Award for her acting in the 1983 film Unmaigal. She essayed the role of Uma in the film Samsaram Adhu Minsaram, which was released in 1986; Lakshmi won the Cinema Express Award for appearing in the film. In 1999, she acted in several Tamil films including Padayappa as the main character Padayappa’s mother, Kannupada Poguthaiya as Parvathy, and Manam Virumbuthe Unnai as Saradha. In 2004, she shared the screen with the renowned actor Kamal Hassan in the comedy film Vasool Raja MBBS. She bagged the role of the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu in the 2009 film Unnaipol Oruvan.
Lakshmi made her debut in the Kannada film industry with the film Goa Dalli CID 999 in 1968. During a media interaction, she revealed that she asked the producer of the film for a fee of Rs. 3,000. She talked about it and said,
When I entered the film industry, I did not have any ambition. I was fascinated by the glamour and the money associated with it. In those days, diamond earrings used to cost Rs 3,000. From the money I made, I wanted to buy myself a watch and jewellery. These are the fantasies that 16-year-old girls had back then, and I was also one of them.”
In 1978, she acted in the film Kiladi Jodi in which she shared the screen with popular actors like Vishnuvardhan and Srinath. In 1983, she acted in two Kannada films, Pallavi Anu Pallavi, and Nodi Swamy Navirodu Hige. In 1984, she appeared in the film Makkaliralavva Mane Thumba. She has acted alongside numerous popular actors in the Kannada film industry, but it was her on-screen chemistry with the renowned Kannada star Anant Nag during the 1970s and 1980s that deeply resonated with the audience. Nag and Lakshmi are widely regarded as one of the most iconic pairs in South Indian cinema. They co-starred in over 25 films, many of which were adapted from T. R. Subba Rao’s novels, which centred around the lives of young middle-class couples.
In 1993, she bagged the role of a character named Ramabai in the film Hoovu Hannu for which she received two awards, a Filmfare Award, and a Karnataka State Film Award. In the film Vamshi, released in 2008, she portrayed the role of the mother of Vamshi, a character essayed by Puneeth Rajkumar. She won the Karnataka State Film Award for her acting in the film. In 2022, she landed a role in the film Trikona.
In 1968, she made her debut in the Telugu film industry with the film Bandhavyalu as a character named Lakshmi; the film was directed by the famous Indian director S. V. Ranga Rao.
In 1969, she landed the role of Rani in the film Karpura Harathi in which she shared the screen with Krishna Ghattamaneni, Mahesh Babu’s father. She essayed the role of a character named Latha in the 1973 film Puttinillu Mettinillu, which is a remake of the 1972 Tamil film Puguntha Veedu. In 1978, she essayed the role of Sharada in the film Panthulamma, and her performance earned her both the Filmfare Special Award and the Nandi Award. For her acting in the 1986 film Sravana Megalu, Lakshmi received a Filmfare Award as well as a Nandi Award. In 1993, she shared the screen with the famous actor Nandamuri Balakrishna in the film Nippu Ravva.
For appearing as Gopakka in the 2001 film Murari, she received a Nandi Award. In 2009, she was nominated for the Filmfare Award under the Best Supporting Actress – Telugu category for the film Eenadu. She essayed the role of Buchchi Lakshmi in the 2012 film Mithunam for which she won the Nandi Special Jury Award; as per Film Companion, her performance in the film was one of the 100 greatest performances of the decade. In 2019, she appeared in several Telugu films including Oh! Baby as Savitri/Bebakka/Baby, Manmadhudu 2 as the main character Samba Siva Rao’s mother, and Nani’s Gang Leader as Saraswathi. She landed a role in the film Kushi, which was released in 2023.
Lakshmi made her debut in the Malayalam film industry with the 1974 film Chattakkari in which she appeared in the lead role of Julie. The film had a successful run at the box office, and Lakshmi was honoured with both the Filmfare Award and the Malayalam State Film Award for her performance in the film. The film holds the unique record of being the first to run consistently for 40 weeks in a Bangalore theatre.
In 1975, she won a Filmfare Award for her film Chalanum in which she essayed the role of a character named Pavizham. She landed the lead role of Mohini in the 1976 film Mohiniyaattam for which she was given a Filmfare Award. In 1990, she acted in two Malayalam films, Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kalathu as Sreedevi Rosario, and Kshanakkathu as Devaki Nair. In 2012, she landed a role in the film Bhoomiyude Avakashikal. She was seen in the 2014 film Ormayundo Ee Mukham.
In 1975, Lakshmi made her debut in the Hindi film industry with the titular role in the film Julie, a remake of the 1974 Malayalam film Chattakari.
In 1977, she was seen in two films, Jeevan Mukt, and Charandas. In 1981, she appeared along with Jeetendra in the film Kahani Ek Chor Ki in which she essayed the role of a character named Geeta. Thereafter, she did not appear in any film till 2004. In an interview, she revealed that she preferred acting in the South Indian Cinema over Bollywood and said,
That was the time when I already had a happening career in the South. A lot of female-oriented films were being offered to me. I was not mad enough to ditch those kind of roles for that of a simpering, scantily clad woman who only had to shout “Bachao, mujhe bachao”! [Save me] In retrospective I should have taken it up. But there were already enough good heroines in Bollywood and I did not want to fight for roles. Besides I was quite comfortable at home and with all four languages in the south.”
Web Series & Television Shows/Series
She appeared in a 1990 Tamil TV show titled Adutha Veetu Kavithai, which was televised on Sun TV. Thereafter, she appeared in two Tamil serials, Nallathor Veenai, and Mahalakshmi. In July 2023, she appeared as a character named Sundari in the Amazon Prime Video web series Sweet Kaaram Coffee.
Additionally, she has appeared as a contestant and judge in various reality television programs such as Kannadada Kotyadhipati, Kathai Alla Nijam, Neeya Naana, Drama Juniors, Champions, and Kathe Alla Jeevana.
Kerala State Film Awards
- 1974 – Kerala State Film Award for Best Actress for Chattakari
Filmfare Awards South
- 1974 – Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actress for Dikkatra Parvathi
- 1974 – Filmfare Award for Best Malayalam Actress for Chattakari
- 1975 – Filmfare Award for Best Malayalam Actress for Chalanum
- 1976 – Filmfare Award for Best Malayalam Actress for Mohiniyaattam
- 1978 – Filmfare Special Jury Award for Panthulamma
- 1983 – Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actress for Unmaigal
- 1986 – Filmfare Award for Best Telugu Actress for Sravana Meghalu
- 1993 – Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Actress for Hoovu Hannu
- 1998 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award (South)
Bengal Film Journalists Association Awards
- 1975 – Most outstanding work of the year for Julie
- 1976 – Filmfare Award for Best Actress for Julie
National Film Awards
- 1977 – National Film Award for Best Actress for Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal
- 1977 – Best Actress for the film Panthulamma
- 1986 – Best Actress for the film Sravana Meghalu
- 2001 – Best Character Actress for the film Murari
- 2012 – Special Jury Award for the film Mithunam
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
- 1978 – Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress for Oru Nadigai Naatakam Paarkiraal
Karnataka State Film Awards
- 1993 – Best Actress for Hoovu Hannu
- 2008 – Best Supporting Actress for Vamshi
- 2017 – Dr. Rajkumar Award (the highest honour in the Kannada film industry)
South India International Movie Awards
- 2021 – SIIMA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Oh! Baby
- She passionately follows her hobby of reading.
- She once revealed that her grandfather wanted her to become a lawyer. In an interview, she talked about it and said,
My grandfather wanted me to be an advocate as in those days, in Brahmin households, accounting and law were considered the best professions. My grandfather wanted me to study law in London.”
- According to sources, she was involved in politics for a brief time.
- She is a polyglot and is fluent in Hindi, English, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu.
- In July 2023, she appeared as a guest on the Kapil Sharma show.