Kalpana was a very popular Kannada cinema actress. Her epithet was Minugu taare ("shining star"). A versatile actress, she dominated the Kannada film industry during the late 1960s and 1970s and was critically acclaimed for her roles in movies like Sharapanjara, Gejje Pooje, Belli moda, Eradu Kanasu, Kappu Bilupu, bayalu dari and Bangarada hoovu.Initially she was the favored heroine of ace director Puttana Kanagal. Their association produced some of the finest movies in the history of kannada cinema.However they fell apart and Puttana Kanagal went on to groom other heroines like Aarthi and Padma Vasanti later on.
Kalpana hailed from South Canara district. Before films her name was Sharat. Her mothertongue was Tulu.
She had also acted in a few Tamil movies, like 'Madras To Pondicherry'. This film was later made in Hindi, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Aruna Irani in leading roles. Both the films were very successful at the box office. She also acted in 'Koti Channayya', a Tulu movie, directed by Dr K Shivarama Karanth.
She was the one of the well dressed star of her time. Not many heroines till date can match her elegance and her sophisticated tastes. The popularity of mega-sleeves blouses, frilled-sleeve blouses is attributed to her in Karnataka. Her signature combinations include big ear-rings and big ring in her left hand, Brocade silk sarees and top knot, Chiffon sarees and long necklaces.
Her career ended with her tragic suicide in 1979; apparently emulating her role in Gejje Pooje and swallowing a diamond, heart broken by a man who was supposed to marry her.