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Kannada actress Leelavathi passes away: Remembering the iconic journey of a stalwart in Sandalwood

In a poignant moment for Sandalwood, the veteran actress Leelavathi bid farewell to this world at the age of 86. Leelavathi breathed her last on Friday at a hospital in Nelamangala, marking the end of an era in Sandalwood. The iconic actress, who had graced the silver screen for decades, succumbed to age-related ailments after being bedridden at her home.

Remembering the iconic journey of Leelavathi: A Stalwart in Sandalwood
First Published Dec 8, 2023, 6:53 PM IST

Leelavathi, born Leela Kiran in Belthangadi, Dakshina Kannada district, was not merely a cinematic presence but a force in South Indian cinema. With an impressive repertoire of approximately 600 films across Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and predominantly Kannada, as she appeared in 400 films in Kannada cinema alone.

Her cinematic journey commenced in 1949 with Shankar Singh's 'Nagakannika,' where she portrayed the character of Sakhi. From there, Leelavathi's career soared, encompassing roles from the charming heroine to the nurturing mother and the wise elderly figure. Her son, Vinod Raj, a renowned actor in the Kannada film industry, shared not just blood but also a passion for horticulture and agriculture with Leelavathi. Together, they were active in these pursuits, in addition to their contributions to the world of cinema.

Leelavathi's versatility was recognised and celebrated through numerous accolades. The Karnataka government honoured her with the prestigious Dr. Rajkumar Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999–2000. In 2008, Tumkur University conferred upon her an honorary doctorate, acknowledging her significant contributions to the world of entertainment.

Her cinematic career included notable films such as 'Mangalya Yoga,' and a significant moment was when she shared the screen with the legendary Dr. Rajkumar for the first time in 'Randhira Kantheerava.' Her performances in films like 'Gejjepooja,' 'Sepoy Ramu,' and 'Doctor Krishna' earned her the Best Supporting Actress Awards at the Karnataka State Film Awards during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, respectively.

Leelavathi's demise marks the end of an era in Sandalwood, leaving behind a legacy that will be cherished by fans and the film fraternity alike. Her ability to seamlessly transition between diverse roles and genres showcased her unparalleled talent and dedication to her craft.
As the news of her passing reverberates through Karnataka, her farm house in Nelamangala becomes a sombre venue for public darshan, allowing admirers to pay their respects to this cinematic luminary.

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