Kanchana was born in a wealthy family originally from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. She learnt Bharata Natyam and Music. Her father suffered business losses, and she went to work as an air hostess to support her family, when she was discovered by the film director C. V. Sridhar on a plane where he was a passenger. He gave her the lead role in his film Kaadhalikka Neramillai in 1963 and changed her name to Kanchana. She was appropriately known as the Queen of the Seventies in South Indian film industry. Her performances in the movies Pavitra Bandham, Manchivaadu were well appreciated and recognised. She acted with Krishnam Raju in some glamorous roles in Neeti Nijayitee, Parivartana, Nenante Nene and Dharma Daata. Not only in social roles, she acted some mythological roles in pictures like Shri Krishnavataram. After retirement as heroine, she acted in some good films including Ananda Bhairavi and Shrimad Virat Veerabrahmendra Swami Charitra in 1984. In Tamil, she acted with R. Muthuraman in about 19 films including Kaadhalikka Neramillai, Kodimalar, Thulabharam, Thangai, Bama Vijayam and Avalukendru Oru Manam. She also acted with Sivaji Ganesan in Sivandha Mann, Vilayattu Pillai and Avan Oru Sarithiram. She did two films with MGR, Naan Yen Pirandhen and Parakkum Paavai. Apart from that, she was paired with many Tamil heroes like A. V. M. Rajan, S. S. Rajendran, Gemini Ganesan , Jaishankar, Ravichandran and Sivakumar. After her retirement as a heroine, she acted in some good films including Ananda Bhairavi, Shrimad Virat Veerabrahmendra Swami Charitra, Johnny, Sigappu Rojakkal, Mouna Ragam and more as a supporting role. Kanchana acted in over 150 films – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi, with a successful acting career. Kanchana along with her Sister Girija Pandey donated their property in Chennai worth then around Rs. 150 million to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) on 25 October 2010.