Prema was a famous theatre personality, who was known to be the first woman director of films in the Kannada language. B. V. Karanth was her husband. She was the film-maker of Phaniyamma, which was the first movie directed by a woman, based on M. K. Indira's novel. M. K. Indira was a famous Indian novelist in the Kannada language. She was born in the year 1936 to a poor family in Bhadravathi, an industrial city of Karnataka state in India. Her father died at a very early age. Kamalamma, her mother, was suffering from tuberculosis. Because of this, she was never given a chance even to touch her mother. In the early years of her life, till the death of her mother, she lived at Sidlaghatta, a town in the Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka. After the death of her mother, her grandparents took care of her. After her schooling, she started working as a teacher in the St. Teresa's convent in Bangalore. She used to teach in some primary schools also. She conducted stage plays of small time in the schools. Though she did not want to marry anyone, she fell in love with B. V. Karanth. She got married to him in 1958 and later moved to a North Indian city, Varanasi. She joined the Banaras Hindu University and continued her education. Later, her husband moved to Delhi and joined the National School of Drama.
He was accompanied by Prema, who decided to work as a teacher in the Aurobindo Ashram. She used to experiment drama in teaching using plays. On the persuasion of her husband, she joined him to complete her graduation in the subject of dramatics from the National School of Drama. She worked for two years with the NSD Repertory after her graduation. Her career in drama started as a dramatist and director of plays like Daithya, Heddayana, Giant Mama, and Banda Banda Gunavantha, which were children oriented. Most of her plays were in Kannada language or other languages, which were eventually translated to the Kannada language. Benaka Makkala Kendra, a children's repertory was started by her, which not only staged plays like Alilu Ramayana but also taught children about the art of costume designing, mime and props usage. The repertory's first stage play was Alibaba in the year 1979. She was also a costume designer for over 120 plays, which include Oedipus, Hayavadana, King Lear, etc. Prema's career in movies started when she was selected for designing costumes for the movie Hamsageethe, directed by G. V. Iyer. She was also selected as the art director in 1977 for the film named Kudre Motte. Prema tried to work as film-maker also in this phase of her career and directed the film Phaniyamma. She died in the year 2007.