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Born12th June, 1932
Native PlaceThiruvananthapuram
CareerCast (21)
First MoviePrasanna (1950)
ChildrenPrem Anand

Padmini was one of the three famous dancers from Kerala in the 40's, 50's and 60's known as the Travancore Sisters. She was born as the second daughter of Thankappan Pillai and Saraswathiyamma in Poojappura, Thiruvananthapuram on the 12th of June, 1932. Together with her older sister Lalitha and younger sister Ragini, they were famous in India and abroad as the Travancore Sisters, performing dances and captivating audiences all over the world. All three sisters later acted in movies.

From a very young age Padmini learnt Kadhakali under the great Guru Gopinath, giving her first performance at the tender age of four. After that she learnt Bharathanatyam and had her arangettam in Victoria Jubilee Town Hall (VJT Hall) in Thiruvananthapuram. At the age of 17, she acted in her first movie, Kalpana (Hindi, 1949). Manamagal (1950) was her first movie in Tamil. Altogether she acted in around 250 movies, alongside all popular heroes of the time. Her first movie with Sivaji Ganesan was Panam (1950). She went on to act in a record 60 movies with him, making them the most popular pair. The presence of Padmini was a great drawcard for Indian movies of that era, and that was true especially for Malayalam movies. Her first movies in Malayalam were Prasanna and Chandrika, both released in 1950. Later she went on to act in almost all Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and also internationally in a Russian Film as well. She dubbed her own voice for all the movies she acted in, even though she had to learn all the different languages for that.

In 1940 Padmini performed a charity dance for tha Vanchi Poor Fund, Paarijaatha Pushpaapaharanam. This function was presided over by the legendary NS Krishnan, who was won over by Padmini's performance of Narada Maharshi. However, he was required to hand the first prize to the artist who portrayed Krishna. At that function NS Krishnan placed his hand on Padmini's forhead and blessed her, and said that one day she would become a very famous actor. After exactly 8 years, Padmini acted as heroine in Manamagal.

In 1957, Padmini and Ragini participated in an International Youth Festival in Russia. Altogether 120 countries participated. There Padmini and Ragini won the First prize for Classical Dance and Second Prize for Folk Dance. Padmini remembers that it was Nargis who recommended Padmini to act in a Russian movie. At that time Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor and their movies were very popular in Russia. Many Russian children were named after popular Hindi Movie stars, or the characters they played like Raj, Laxmi and also Padmini. The Russian Govrnmant released a postage stamp in her honour.

On 25 May 1961 she married Dr KT Ramachandran, and moved to the US in 1970. She has a son named Premanand who resides in the US. Padmini set up a dance school in New Jersey, US in 1977. Dr Ramachandran passed away in 1981.

After marriage, Padmini gave up movie acting, but in 1985 Fazil brought her back in the hugely popular Malayalam movie "Nokkethaa Doorathu Kannum Nattu". This movie was remade in Tamil as "Poove Poo Choodavaa". After that she acted in a few more Malayalam movies like "Chanthayil Choodi Vilkkunna Pennu", "Vaasthuhaara" and "Sabarimalayil Thanka Sooryodayam". Her last movie was Dollar (1994). She also produced TV serials and documentaries. Her son Premanand has also acted in a Malayalam movie and a few documentaries.

While in Chennai to attend a felicitation function to honour the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, not long after her return to India, she collapsed with a massive heart attack, and was taken to Apollo Hospital, where she sadly passed away the next day on 25 September 2006.

Several members of her family, other than her sisters Lalitha and Ragini, have acted in Malayalam and Tamil movies. Ambika, heroine in the 1960's, was her mother's older sister's daughter. Sukumari is the daughter of her mother's brother. Shobhana is her brother's daughter. Vineeth is her husband's brother's son. And her older sister Lalitha's grandson Krishna is also an actor.

Padmini, through her immense talent, hard work, dedication and meticulous execution of her roles on screen and on stage have left for us a treasure trove of visual enjoyment for the ages. She will never be forgotten.


Prepared by: Dr. Susie Pazhavarical