Thanjavur Ranganayaki Rajayee or T R Rajakumari as was her screen name, was born in Thanjavur in the year 1922. Born to a family which was steeped in Carnatic music, she was a trained Carnatic music singer, and also a dancer and Tamil movie actress.
Her first debut film was Kumara Kulothungan (1939). Her movie Kacha Devayani was released in 1941 and director K Subramaniam believed that he was the one who first spotted her as a potential heroine in Tamil films. Infact, Kacha Devayani can be credited as her first release and this movie was a super hit and the young actress had arrived as an actress to be reckoned with; on the Tamil film firmament. Thus began her long and eventful glamorous journey as the dream girl of the south. She looked good, she acted well with her charming smile and emotive eyes, she danced beautifully and thus a star was born.
Actually her third film Haridas, a block buster of the time, opposite the leading icon of the time M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, was the one that catapulted her image to greater fame. Smashing all the previous records of the time, this film ran continuously for more than a year with its dramatic story and melodious and popular songs which caught every one’s fancy. Its iconic song “manmathan leelayai” was on everyone’s lips and is still considered an all time favourite by many.
She starred in iconic films of the time including Chandralekha where she excellently portrayed the title role. This extravagant film was S S Vasan’s debut film. This super hit film is still remembered for its long and elaborate dance on drums and sword fight sequences. Various other films of hers also achieved stupendous success.
T R Rajakumari acted as the heroine opposite all the leading heroes of the time. Some of her famous co-stars included T R Mahalingam, M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, P U Chinnappa and K R Ramaswamy. She also acted with M G Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan.
She began her own production house with her brother T R Ramanna and was called R R Pictures. Several films, many of those which became hits of the time, were produced under this banner. She acted in over 60 films, mainly Tamil ones though she did act in a few Telugu and Hindi films mainly bilingual ones. The last film she acted in was Vaanampadi released in 1963.
On September 20, 1999, she breathed her last breath after a prolonged illness leaving behind a legacy of films and her popular title of the original dream girl of Tamil cinema. She remained single devoting her life to her family and her profession.