Vanisri was born as Rathna Kumari on 3 August 1948 to Venkadachalamoorthy and Radharani in Andhra Pradesh. She grabbed attention for her performances in a supporting role in the film titled Sukha Dukhalu, and Marapurani Kadha (1967).
Vanishri established herself as the lead actress in films like Krishnaveni, Prem Nagar, Dussehra Bullodu, Aradhana, Jeevitha Chakram, Rangula Ratnam, Sri Krishna Tulabharam, Bhakta Kannappa, Bobbili Raja, etc. She went on to play dual roles in Iddaru Ammayilu (1972) (Telugu remake of Kannada film Kappu Bilupu, 1969), Ganga Manga (1973 remake of the Hindi film Seeta Aur Geeta), Jeevana Jyothi (1975), and Chilipi Krishnudu (1978). She produced and featured in Shyam Benegal’s Telugu film Anugraham (1977). She also became a prominent face in Tamil films like Uyarntha Manithan (1968), Nirai Kudam (1969), Kannan En Kadhalan (1968), Thalaivan (1970) and more. She has been bestowed with several awards including Filmfare Best Actress Award for Jeevana Tarangalu (1973), Filmfare Best Actress Award for Krishnaveni (1974), Filmfare Best Actress Award for Jeevana Jyothi (1975), Kavignar Kannadasan Award in 2001, Meena Kumari award at the Vamsi Awards in 2004, Madhavapeddi Prabhavathi awards by the Siva Foundation in 2005 and Raghupathi Venkaiah Award in 2013.
Some of her notable films include:
- Lakshmi Nivasam
- Bhale Rangadu
- Dasara Bullodu
- Prema Nagar
Vanisri became a star heroine who was on par with the heroes in the Telugu film industry. She became the only actress who was paid more than her male co stars. In the late 1970s, she got married to Doctor Karunakaran. They have a son and a daughter. She took a sabbatical from films after her marriage, but later returned to the celluloid in the late 1980s and appeared in mother roles in films like Athaku Yamudu Ammayiki Mogudu (1989). She also featured in the 1999 Hindi film Main Tere Pyar Mein Pagal, helmed by Telugu director K. Raghavendra Rao.