T. Krishna Kumari was one of the most popular actresses during 1950s and 1960s. The ravishingly beautiful actress was the younger sister of the actress Sowkar Janaki. While her elder sister Janaki ruled the Tamil cinema, Krishna Kumari was the reigning queen in Telugu film industry. During her time, Kumari was a contemporary of Mahanati Savitri. She worked with several leading actors including Akkineni Nageswara Rao , N.T. Rama Rao, Krishnam Raju, Kanta Rao, Dr. Rajkumar, , Sivaji Ganesan and Jaggayya. Along with impressive work in Telugu cinema, Krishna Kumari also acted in Tamil and Kannada films. She wooed the audience with her beauty and very convincing acting skills.
Krishna Kumari was born on 6 March 1933, in a Telugu-speaking Madhwa Brahmin family to T. Venkoji Rao and Sachi Devi. Talking about how her journey started in an interview, Krishna Kumari revealed that she always wanted to be a classical dancer in films. With the same intention, she also joined the Gemini
Studios which was then making the film Veerakumar. However, the film was halted and Krishna Kumari, who waited for almost 10 months, left Gemini Studios. Following this, comedian Kasturi Sivarao, who was planning to make a movie, took her make-up stills. Even though he did not make a movie, he had shown the stills to some producers. Thus, Krishna Kumari appeared before the camera in ANR, Sriranjani-starrer Manthradandam. In the film, she played a soothsayer’s character. However, the first film that released was Navvithe Navarathnaalu. In the film Navvithe Navarathnaalu, she played Gowri, which gave her the opportunity to showcase her dancing skills. In the movie, she had four to five dance sequences. The people rushed to the theatres to see Krishna Kumari, the charming new heroine.
In 1953, she also worked in the NTR film Pichi Pullayya. In the film, she shared screen space with her sister. The film had her play Kantham the female lead in the film . NTR was already a very established actor by then, and Krishna Kumari was relatively new in the industry. In an interview, she revealed that NTR was a senior and acted as a teacher and guided her in the movie. At the same time, she also featured as leading actress in Tamil films like Manithan, Thirumbi Paar, Azhagi, Viduthalai, Thuli Visham and Pudhu Yugam .
Later, Krishna Kumari started focussing more on Telugu cinema. Her work in the industry elevated her to superstardom. Krishna Kumari was seen in several hit films including Vagdanam , Bharya Bhartalu , Kulagothralu , Gudi Gantalu and many other classics. In the early 60s, Krishna Kumari made her debut in Kannada films. But after a very short stint, Krishna Kumari decided to return to the Telugu cinema. Though she worked for about 5 to 6 years in Kannada industry, she delivered some memorable performances. In most of her films, she played the romantic interest of Kannada superstar Dr. Rajkumar. In fact, Krishna Kumari won her first ever award with the Rajkumar starrer film Bhaktha Kanakadasa which was made in 1960. She worked with actor Krishnam Raju in the film Chilaka Gorinka in 1966. At that time, Kumari was already an established actress and Raju was her junior and it was his debut film. The film went on to become a huge hit that also won a lot of awards. Krishna Kumari also made her presence felt in Bollywood. In Hindi, she was seen in 1958 film 'Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala'. In Hindi films, she was given the name Rati.
However, Bollywood did not attract her and despite of having several offers in Hindi, Krishna Kumari returned to Madras. She made the audience go awe with her wondrous performances in about 180 films out of which, 150 were in Telugu and about 30 were Tamil and Kannada films. Her prowess won her millions of fans across India and she was also honoured with the President's Award.
In 1969, Krishna Kumari got married to a journalist and a businessman Ajay Mohan Khaitan. Following her marriage, Krishna Kumari opted to retire from
films and she moved to Bangalore to stay with her husband. Post marriage, she devoted her time to her family and also developed her interests in gardening and cooking. The legendary actress passed away on January 24, 2018 due to bone marrow cancer.
Krishna Kumari was an enchanting beauty who made her fans go gaga over her. She was tall and had big expressive eyes. Her pairing with NTR, ANR, Dr Rajkumar and Kantha Rao was appreciated a lot. Her beauty had also bewitched senior NTR, the actor with whom Krishna Kumari worked in almost 25 films.
One of the reasons for the individuality and discipline of the two sisters according to Kumari was the freedom given by their broad minded father.
Filmmaker LV Prasad was very keen to work with late Krishna Kumari. In 1956, when he produced the film Ilavelpu, he signed her up to play the female lead and he also approached her to launch the film. The film Ilavelpu had Krishna Kumari and Akkineni Nageswara Rao as the leads, and it became a super hit.
In 1960, Krishna Kumari played the lead in the film Pelli Kanuka. She was paired again with ANR. Her next film was with NT Rama Rao. Both the films were success and were made by Vittalacharya. Vittalacharya was known as the ‘Janapada Brahma’. He directed almost 25 folklore films and most of them stared Krishna Kumari and NT Rama Rao. Some of the films included Irugu Porugu, Bandipotu and Chikkadu Dorakadu.
Talking about Krishna Kumari, late actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao said that he had a very long career in the film industry and he got the opportunity to work with a number of talented acresses. Krishna Kumari was one of them . She was beautiful and very expressive. B Saroja Devi recalled Krishna Kumari and said that they had worked together in the film Pelli Kanuka in which they played sisters. Later, they also worked in the film Rahasyam. Saroja Devi said that she considers Krishna as her closest friend. They were neighbours in Madras and visited each other often. She also said that she knew her entire family and they were very cordial.
When the film studios shifted from Madras to Hyderabad, Devi and Krishna Kumari would schedule their travels together and talk non-stop in the aircraft.
Most of her colleagues said that Krishna was extremely patient and they never saw her getting angry. Her elder sister Janaki said that even though she was the younger one, she took the assumed responsibility of her mother and her family.
Sridevi, worked with Krishna Kumari as a child artist. She remembered that Kumari was a very big star when she worked with her. She also added that she saw Krishna Kumari as a princess. She was very soft spoken, and always had a very sweet smile and welcomed everyone with a sweet voice. She said that working with Krishna Kumari was a pleasant experience.
In the film Pichi Pulliyya, she played the role of a naughty village girl. However, she grew up in a semi-modern environment. Krishna Kumari revealed that she had to research a lot about the role. She also revealed that she would automatically go into the character’s life. She also revealed that acting was quite difficult in those days. They would have continuous shots and even the smallest mistake would mean a re-shoot.
In 1963, Krishna Kumari shot 16 films and she went on to become the only artist achieve the feat during those times.