Savitri was born to Nissankara Rao Guruviah and Subhadramma in Chirravur (near Tenali) in Guntur, Madras Presidency, now part of Andhra Pradesh. She learned music and Indian classical dance under Sista Purnayya Sasthri. She performed stage shows during her childhood. She acted in 318 films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi languages, with ten to fifteen movies released per year.
She later directed some films. One day she went to meet the Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and donated all her jewelry she was wearing for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. She also built a high school in Andhra. Her favorite sports were cricket and chess. She used to play chess at home. She claimed that her favorite sports person was Gary Sobers. She participated in many celebrity cricket matches.
she was a great actress of her time and she loves acting movies . in an interview she admitted that she loves her daughter is very polite and kind towards her.
She gave some public performances as a child in Vijayawada. She worked in a theater company run by Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao. She also started her own company, the Navabharata Natya Mandali. Her best stage role was in Atma Vanchana written by Bucchi Babu.
Her first offer ‘Agni Pariksha’ at age twelve in 1949. However she looked too young after screen tests and was soon dropped. She was selected for main role in the film Samsaram by the banner ‘Sadhana Chitra’ in 1950. However she was replaced by Pushpavalli and she was given small role, as she was nervous to act with popular actor Nageswara Rao. She performed a dance in Pathala Bhairavi in 1951. Her first main roles was as a second heroine Pelli Chesi Choodu by L. V. Prasad in 1952. Her early popular roles are in Ardhangi and Missamma.
She later acted in memorable Telugu films like Chandra Haram (1953), Devadasu (1953), Ardhangi (1955), Missamma (1955), Donga Ramudu (1955), Amara Deepam (1956), Todikodallu (1957), Mayabazaar (1957), Abhimanam (1958), Mangalya Balam (1958), Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu (1959), Muripinche Muvvalu (1960), Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960), Manchi Manasulu (1961), Aradhana (1962), Gundamma Katha (1962), Rakta Tilakam (1963), Mooga Manasulu (1963), Doctor Chakravarthy (1964), Poojaphalam (1964), Devatha (1965), Pandava Vanavasam (1965), Kanya Sulkam, Naadi Aada Janme, Prana Mitrulu (1967), Varakatnam (1968), Maro Prapancham (1970), Manase Mandiram (1966) and Jagan Mohini (1978). These movies are testimony to her versatile action skills. She got national award for the magnum opus movie Chivaraku Migiledi.
Savitri was a legendary actress in Tamil. She has paired opposite leading actors like Sivaji Ganesan and M. G. Ramachandran. She married Gemini Ganesan, while acting in ‘Manam Pola Mangalyam’(1953) with him. Savithri's 100th film ‘Konjum Salangai’ (‘Muripinche Muvvalu’ in Telugu) also happened to be paired with Gemini Ganesan. She was fondly called 'Nadigaiyar Thilagam' in the Tamil film industry.
Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Pasamalar (1961), Pava Mannippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Kodutha Deivam, Navarathri (1964), Thiruvilaiyadal (1965), Yaar Paiyyan, and Padithal Mattum Podhuma are some of her memorable classics in Tamil cinema.
She acted in few Hindi films like Bahut Din Huwe, Ghar Basake Dekho, Balaram Sri Krishna and Ganga Ki Lahren.
She acted in few Kannada films towards the end of her career. She played the role of mother of Dr.Rajkumar in superhit films Thaayige Thakka Maga and Ravichandra. It was her longtime wish to act with Rajkumar. She also acted in Chandanada Gombe.
She had directed films like Chinnari Papalu (1968), ‘Chiranjeevi’, ‘Maathru Devatha’ and ‘Vintha Samsaram’ in Telugu. 'Kuzhanthai Ullam' and 'Praptham' in Tamil.