Kalpana was a veteran actress in South Indian Screen and had predominantly acted in Kannada films and was considered a style icon. She set a trend in dresses, jewels and even saris that she had worn on the screen which ultimately became a fashion in the consumer world. She was an actress who had dominated the screen with feminist characters that sent a message to the society and even film fraternity too. She made a successful pair with Dr Rajkumar and after getting huge success in Kannada films, she even had acted in Tulu, Tamil and Telugu languages too. She debuted in Kannada film industry and paired with Rajkumar in ‘Saaku Magalu’ which was an instant hit in 1963. Then, she emerged as a star in Sandalwood. Later on, she acted along with almost all leading heroes and under the top banners.
In her contract, she used to mention that only singers like S. Janaki or P. Susheela be allowed to sing, and she made a clause in the contract that she would not wear any dirty costumes if she did not like. Hence, full sleeve blouses trend followed in the film industry and became a huge acceptance even in the society. She also asked for author-backed roles from moviemakers, and it stood a stiff competition with other heroines like Jayanthi, Bharathi, Aarathi and Manjula. To retain her top position as an actress, she formed a good equation with prominent director Puttana Kanagal and their association made some milestone Kannada films. But when this association broke away, she got faded soon despite her films were hit but it did not contain the same magic that she provided in author-backed roles.
Her prominent co-stars include Udaya Kumar,
Anant Nag and Gangadhar too. Some notable films that remain highly acclaimed films in Kannada market include Sharapanjara, Gejje Pooje, Belli Moda,
Eradu Kanasu, Kappu Bilupu, etc. After her exit from the camp of Puttana Kannagal, she diverted her attention towards the stage, drama and even acted in Tamil and Telugu films. When her star image was diminishing, she met with financial debts that brought her lot of sufferings in her personal life. From a high-paid actress, her earning came down to mere Rs 800 during late 70’s. She wanted her brother to become a film cameraman but could not fulfill the dream as she was under debt. She even married an owner of a drama company Gudigeri Basavaraj and had committed suicide due to some misunderstanding. She was very much depressed before the night she committed suicide, and it is said that she consumed 14 sleeping pills and a diamond from her ring to end her life.
She passed away on May 12, 1979. Her death sent ripples of shock amidst the film fraternity. Now a Kannada film ‘
Abhinetri’ based on her life and tragic death was released in 2015 which succeeded in telling the story of this actress to the audiences.