Padmini was born at Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram on 12, June 1932 as the second daughter of Thankappan Pillai, a landlord and Saraswathi Amma, a pious housewife. Her elder sister Lalitha and younger sister Ragini were also renowned film actresses and together were branded as "Travancore Sisters."
Padmini had her early education at Mahila Mandiram School and at Sea Shell convent in Thiruvananthapuram. Later she devoted her entire time and energy in pursuing classical dance and has been religiously doing it for the past 64 years.
She began learning classical dances at the age of four. In classical dance, Guru Gopinath and later TM Mahalingam Pillai were her teachers. In 1942, at the age of ten, she had her arangettam. At 14, she became a member of a dance troupe that toured various parts of India. She also composed songs for that troupe.
At the age of 17, Padmini became the heroine of the Hindi film "Kalpana," That was the beginning of her film career. She then went on to act in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam films.
In all the films acted, she herself gave the sound for the characters, which is something unique in film industry. She also speaks five languages, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, and Kannada.
Padmini has acted with all the leading heroes during that age, which include legendary stars like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sivaji Ganesan, MGR, Prem Nazir, and Raj Kumar.
She got married to Dr. KT Ramachandran in 1961. Following her marriage she left the soaring acting career and settled for family life.
1977, she started her own school 'Padmini School of Fine Arts' at the basement of her house in New Jersey with four students. It is now considered as one of the oldest and largest Indian dancing school in US.
More than 100 students now learn Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, and folk dances at the school. So far, more than 71 arangettams (graduations) were held. Late film actress Richa Sharma, Sanjay Dutt's wife was one of her students.
Padmini has performed dances on Christian themes also. Her "Mary Magdalene" was a very successful dance drama. In addition to her own dance school, she also teaches children at the Kerala Culture Forum in New Jersey. She also has plans to start a school to teach classical Indian Dance forms in Chennai.
She is a founder-member of the Hindu Temple Society of North American. She is also associated with many charities.
Padmini died of a heart attack in a hospital in the city of Chennai on September 24, 2006.