Mahalakshmi Menon, best known by her stagename Shobha (23 September 1962 – 1 May 1980), was an Indian actress best known for her work in Malayalam and Tamil films. At the age of 17, she won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1979 Tamil film Pasi. She also received three Kerala State Film Awards: for Best Actress (1978), Best Supporting Actress (1977) and Best Child Artist (1971); and two Filmfare Awards South for Best Actress in Kannada (1978) and Tamil (1979) films. Considered one of the finest talents to have emerged in the Indian film world, her promising career was unexpectedly cut short as she committed suicide in 1980, due to unknown reasons. Her popularity resulted in considerable public scrutiny of the events that led to her death and also various conspiracy theories. The 1983 Malayalam film Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback is supposedly based on her life and death.
23 September 1962
|Died||1 May 1980 (aged 17)|
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Other names||Shoba Mahendra, Urvashi Shoba, Baby Mahalakshmi, Baby Shoba|
(m. 1978; died 1980)
|Parent(s)||K. P. Menon (Father)|
Born to Malayali parents in Madras, she started her career in the Tamil film industry, making her debut as a child artist in Thattungal Thirakkappadum (1966). Her first film as the main lead actress was in the 1978 Malayalam film Uthrada Rathri.
In 1966, Shoba made her screen debut in Tamil Thriller film Thattungal Thirakkappadum directed by actor J. P. Chandrababu. In the film she was credited as Baby Mahalakshmi where she played the role of Lakshmi opposite actress Savitri, K. R. Vijaya, R. S. Manohar and Chandrababu himself. The following year she made her debut in Malayalam cinema through Udhyogastha by P. Venu where she was named as Baby Shoba. Touted as the first "multi-starrer", with five top actors, in Malayalam cinema, the film had Sathyan, Prem Nazir, K. P. Ummer, Padmini, Sharada, Sheela and Rajasree in the lead along with Shobha. The film was a big hit and gained Shoba recognition as a child actor in South Indian cinema.
In 1978 she was cast as a heroine in Uthrada Rathri, a film directed by Balachandra Menon. She received the Kerala government's Best Actress award for the 1978 films Bandhanam and Ente Neelakaasham. The same year she earned the Best Actress award by Filmfare for the Kannada-language film Aparichita. In 1979 she was recipient of the National Award for Best Actress for the Tamil film Pasi, which was produced by Lalitha, the eldest of the Travancore sisters. She also received the Filmfare Best Actress award for Pasi and received the Second Best Actress award from the Kerala government in 1977 for the film Ormakal Marikkumo.
Shobha committed suicide at the age of 17. She was married to Balu Mahendra. In an interview to Anu Haasan in Koffee with Anu, Balu Mahendra has said that the tragedy of how Shoba was suddenly snatched away from his life by destiny, as quickly as she came, formed the plot for his next movie Moondram Pirai. The 1983 Malayalam film Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback directed by K. G. George is loosely based on her life and death.
- Jeevithayaathra (1965)
- Karuna (1966)
- Penmakkal (1966)
- Ollathu Mathi (1967)
- Pareeksha (1967)
- Kadal (1968)
- Adyapika (1968)
- Aparadhini (1968)
- Kuruthikkalam (1969)
- Vettamrigam (1969)
- Udhyogastha (1967) – child artist
- Aval Alpam Vaikipoyi (1971)
- Yogammullaval (1971)
- Sindooracheppu (1971) – Ammalu
- Makane Ninakku Vendi (1971) – Young Sophia
- Taxi Car (1972)
- Gandharavakshetram (1972) – Young Lakshmi
- Aradimanninte Janmi (1972) – Minikutty
- Udayam (1973) – Young Geetha
- Badradeepam (1973) – Lekha
- Ayalathe Sundari (1974) – Shobha
- Night Duty (1974) – Ammini
- Ayodhya (1975) – Shanthi
- Chottanikkara Amma (1976)
- Amruthavahini (1976) – Rani
- Dweep (1977)
- Ormakal Marikkumo (1977) – Ammini/Parvathi
- Nurayum Pathayum (1977)
- Rajaparambara (1977)
- Pad–aram (1978) – Shoba
- Randu Penkuttikal (1978)
- Wayanadan Thampan (1978)
- Utradaraatri (1978)
- Ulkkadal (1978)
- Ekakini (1978)
- Bandhanam (1978)
- Lillyppookkal (1979)
- Ishta Praneshwari (1979)
- Ente Neelakasham (1979)
- Shalini Ente Koottukaari (1980)
- Daliapookkal (1980)
- Aniyatha Valakal (1980)
- Soorya Daham (1980)
- Yovvanam Daham (1980)
- Manju Moodal Manju (1980)
- Naanal (1965) – child artist
- Thattungal Thirakkappadum (1966) – child artist
- Iru Kodugal (1969) – child artist
- Punnagai (1971)
- Vairam (1974)
- Achchani (1978)
- Nizhal Nijamagiradhu (1978)
- Oru Veedu Oru Ulagam (1978)
- Mullum Malarum (1978)
- Veetuku Veedu Vasappadi (1979)
- Oru Vidukadhai Oru Thodarkadhai (1979)
- Enippadigal (1979)
- Chakkalathi (1979)
- Agal Vilakku (1979)
- Azhiyatha Kolangal (1979)
- Pasi (1979)
- Veli Thandiya Velladu (1980)
- Moodu Pani (1980)
- Ponnagaram (1980)
- Saamanthippoo (1980)
- Mayil (1981) – Released posthumously
- Vaadagai Veedu (1981) – Released posthumously
- Anbulla Athan (1981) – Released posthumously
- Tharam Marindi (1977)
- Manavoori Pandavulu (1978)
- 1978 – Filmfare Best Kannada Actress Award for Aparichita
- 1979 – Filmfare Best Tamil Actress Award for Pasi
- "Top Indian actress found hanged". The Gazette (Montreal). United Press International. 2 May 1980. p. 10.
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- Randor Guy (2 October 2009). "A voice that mesmerised". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
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- "Why South Indian heroines are embracing death". Mid-Day. 20 April 2002. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
- S. R., Ashok Kumar (3 May 2002). "It's a heavy price to pay". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 10 February 2003. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
- "State Film Awards". Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2015.