An immensely talented actor, Manjula carved out a significant place for herself in Kannada cinema. Though her figure defied the dominant trends of the time for actresses, she became one of the most sought after actors to play romantic roles, and gained a huge fan following over the years. A member of the Prabhat Kalavidaru theatre group, she acted in more than 100 films and competed on par with all the star actresses of her times.
Manjula was born to the police sub-inspector M.H. Shivanna and Deveramma, a Lingayat couple on November 8 1951 in Honnenahalli village in the Tumkur district. She honed her acting skills in the Prabhat Kalavidaru theatre group for some time before she made her way into films with a small role in Mane Katti Nodu (1965).She debuted as a heroine six years later in Yaara Sakshi, helmed by the veteran M.R. Vittal. While she was paired with a number of leading actors of the time like Dr. Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Ashok and Shankar Nag, her most successful romantic pairing was with Pranaya Raja Srinath. The pair went on to act in almost 35 films together, with Manjula usually playing the role of a bossy village belle. By the late 1970s, she had polished the role to perfection and became a top heroine.
Manjula also acted in a few Tamil (as Kumari Manjula) and Telugu films. Her performance in the films Sampathige Savaal (1974) (Kannada), Eradu Kanasu (1974) (Kannada), Sose Thanda Sowbhagya (1977) (Kannada), Besuge (1976) (Kannada) and Seetharamu (1979) (Kannada) were widely appreciated. In Telugu, she acted with the actor Ramakrishna, while she shared the screen with greats like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth in Tamil language movies.
Following Manjula’s marriage to the film director Amrutham who worked with her in films like Hudugaatada Hudugu (1972), her popularity steadily declined. She started accepting small roles in films. The couple had a son Abhishek, and an adopted daughter Abhinaya. With film offers drying up, she soon ran into financial difficulties. Unfortunately, she passed away on September 12 1986 after an accident involving a kitchen stove.