Fans of cinema have lost a pioneer and vanguard in the directorial arts, yet many Americans may not be familiar with her name.
Indian film legend Vijaya Nirmala was initially an actress but took her career behind the camera as a director and created an admirable body of work celebrated by cinephiles in the east and the west.
Sadly Nirmala passed away on June 27 at the age of 73, after suffering a heart attack.
Her son paid homage to his groundbreaking mother who was revered by all who follow Tollywood and Bollywood news. (Tollywood is the nickname for Bengali cinema, and the Bengali-language film industry based in Tollygunge, Kolkata, West Bengal). Social media has also been flooded with poignant tributes.
A terrible day for my family. A pioneer, a legend and
Painful to know that Smt. VijayanirmalaGaru has passed away. As an impactful filmmaker, she’s been an influencer for many women to take big strides into film industry as filmmakers!Her works like Meena will b everlasting. condolences to KrishnaGari Family. #RIPVijayaNirmalaGaru
— BVS Ravi (@BvsRavi) June 27, 2019
— Sudheer Babu (@isudheerbabu) June 27, 2019
— Pawan Kumar (@urstruelypawan1) June 27, 2019
— Cinejosh.com (@cinejosh) June 27, 2019
Nirmala’s body of work is impressive — she had directed 44 films in Telugu — and her work in cinema has been highly lauded.
In 2000, she was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the most prodigious female director in the world. She has also acted in over 200 films with 25 each in Malayalam and Tamil, and the remaining in Telugu.
She received many awards including the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award for her contributions to Telugu cinema.
Vijaya Nirmala was born to a family already established in the cinematic arts in Tamil Nadu. Her son Naresh, an actor, is from her first marriage to Krishna Murthy. After divorcing him she wed her second husband Krishna.
Vijaya Nirmala was only seven when she made her acting debut. She appeared in a Tamil movie titled Machcha Rekhai (1950).
Then she appeared in a Telugu film with the movie Panduranga Mahatmyam in 1957.
The 1960s saw her appear in many films including starring opposite of Prem Nazir in the Malayalam hit Bhargavi Nilayam.
It was in the 1960s that she met her second husband Krishna. They appeared in the 1967 film Saakshi and went on to star together in 47 films.
The film Saakshi was what she credited as giving her an interest in directing films.
Condolences to Vijaya Nirmala’s family and friends.