Sharada was born as Saraswati Devi on 25 June 1945 to Venkateswar Rao and Satyavathi Devi in Andhra Pradesh, India. Saraswati started learning dance at the age of six. She took up dancing because it was her mother’s desire to see her as a “big star in cine field”. Although, Saraswati’s father was not too keen with her career interest, he did not stop her. She was a performer at festivals in other temples.
Saraswati began her acting career in Telugu theatre. She debuted in a minor role in the Telugu film Kanyasulkam. She returned to theatre with a major role in the Telugu version of a Tamil drama Rakta Kanneeru. She changed her name to Sharada in 1959, as few other actresses in the industry had their name as Saraswati. She got a formal training into acting under the tutelage of a Telugu producer L.V. Prasad. She got her first break in the Akkineni Nageswara Rao starrer Iddaru Mitrulu, which became a blockbuster hit. She then featured in films like Tandrulu Kodukulu, Atma Bandhuvu, Valmiki, Murali Krishna, Manushulu Marali, Chelleli Kapuram, Jeevitha Chakram and many more. She later forayed in Malayalam films and played few roles in other languages. Her performances in Malayalam films like Shakuntala, Murappennu, Udhyogastha Kattu Thulasi, Inapravukal and Iruttinte Athmavu were highly acclaimed. Among her other accolades, she won National Film Award for Best Actress : Thulabharam (Malayalam) in 1968, National Film Award for Best Actress : Swayamvaram (Malayalam) in 1972 and National Film Award for Best Actress : Nimajjanam (Telugu) in 1977. She was conferred with Kerala State Film Award for Best Actress – Thriveni & Thara (1970 film), Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Malayalam : Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam in 1987, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, Nandi Award for Best Supporting Actress – Bobbili Brahmanna in 1984 and NTR National Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.
Some of her notable films include:
- Iddaru Mitrulu
- Tandrulu Kodukulu
- Atma Bandhuvu
- Murali Krishna
- Bhakta Potana
Sharada married Telugu actor Chalam, but the marriage didn’t last and the couple got divorced. She is currently living with her brother’s family in Chennai. She is the founder of a chocolate factory named Lotus Chocolates. She was elected from the town of Tenali as the Member of Parliament on Telugu Desam Party.