In 1996, Smitha was found dead in her Chennai apartment.
Her most respected film is 'Moondram Pirai' by Balu Mahendra.
Born Vijayalakshmi, Silk Smitha's youth was turbulent and hard.
She dropped out of school due to financial problems and got married early.
With the 'Dirty Picture' ready to hit the screens, here's the real Silk Smitha.
Some film critics, historians and journalists have referred to her as a 'soft porn' actress.
'Moondram Pirai' was remade in Hindi as 'Sadma', with Sridevi, Kamla Hassan, and Silk Smitha reprising their roles.
Her dance numbers, semi-nude scenes and bold performances in films like 'Moondru Mugam' made her the ultimate symbol of sensuality in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam cinema.
The previous year she had tried to become a film producer.
Financial problems, disillusionment in love and an alcohol dependency apparently led to depression.
It was suspected that Smitha committed suicide, but the circumstances of her death remain a mystery.
When her marriage failed she ran off to Chennai to make a life for herself.
Starting off as a make-up girl in the 1970s, she became an movie extra and then subsequently the most wanted heroine of the early 80s.
Silk Smitha went on to star in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and a few Hindi films.
In the rare non-sexual roles, she impressed critics and audiences, such as her role of a wife hurt by her husband's infidelity in 'Alaigal Oivathillai' (1981).
'Layanam' (1989), has earned a cult status in the Indian adult film industry, and was dubbed in numerous languages including, Hindi as 'Reshma Ki Jawani' (2002).
The biopic on Silk Smitha's life,'The Dirty Picture', is being produced in Hindi by Ekta Kapoor, directed by Milan Luthria starring Vidya Balan as Smitha, is slated to release on Smitha's birthday on December 2, 2011.
The name 'Silk' came in 1979, with her first Tamil film 'Vandi Chakkaram', in which she played a bar girl named Silk.
She was discovered by Indian director Vinu Chakravarthy at a flour mill.
He renamed her Smitha and his wife taught her English, while she learned dancing as well.
Smitha made her debut in the Malayalam film 'Inaye Thedi' in 1979.
But due to her overt sex appeal, she switched to roles of cabaret dancers and vamp roles and got type casted.