Diana Mariam Kurian
18 November 1984
|Alma mater||Mar Thoma College (BA)|
Nayanthara (born Diana Mariam Kurian; 18 November 1984) is an Indian actress who primarily works in Tamil film industry also works in Telugu, Malayalam ,Hindi, Kannada films. One of the highest-paid actresses in India, she was the only South Indian actress to be featured in the Forbes India "Celebrity 100" list of 2018. She has acted in more than 80 films in a career spanning over two decades and has won numerous awards, including five Filmfare Awards South. She has been called the "Lady Superstar" of South Indian cinema.
Nayanthara made her acting debut with the Malayalam film Manassinakkare (2003). She made her debut in Tamil cinema with Ayya (2005) and in Telugu cinema with Lakshmi (2006). Her portrayal of Goddess Sita in the mythological film Sri Rama Rajyam (2011) earned her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu and the Nandi Award for Best Actress. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil and Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress, for her performances in the romantic comedy Raja Rani (2013), the action comedy Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015) and the political drama Aramm (2017). She was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Malayalam for her performance in the crime drama Puthiya Niyamam (2016).
Nayanthara went on to establish herself as one of the leading actresses of South Indian cinema with such female-led films as Anaamika (2014), Maya (2015), Kolamavu Kokila (2018), Airaa (2019) and Netrikann (2022). Her other notable films include Chandramukhi, Ghajini (both 2005), Billa (2007), Yaaradi Nee Mohini (2008), Bodyguard (2010), Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum (2012), Thani Oruvan (2015), Kaashmora (2016), Viswasam, Bigil, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (all 2019), Darbar (2020), Annaatthe (2021) and Godfather (2022). She expanded into Hindi cinema with Jawan (2023).
In addition to her acting career, Nayanthara is a philanthropist and owns a production house called "Rowdy Pictures". Nayanthara is married to filmmaker Vignesh Shivan, with whom she has two children.
Early life and education
Nayanthara was born as Diana Mariam Kurian on 18 November 1984 in Bangalore, Karnataka, to Kurian Kodiyattu and Omana Kurian in a Syrian Christian family. Her elder brother, Leno, lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As her father was an Indian Air Force official, Nayanthara studied in various parts of India.
She did her schooling in Jamnagar, Gujarat and Delhi. In Thiruvalla, she studied at Balikamadom Girls Higher Secondary School, Thirumoolapuram and then attended Marthoma College, Thiruvalla for her bachelor's degree in English Literature.
Debut in Malayalam cinema (2003–2004)
She began her acting career in 2003 with the Malayalam film Manassinakkare.While studying at college, Nayanthara worked part-time as a model. She was spotted by director Sathyan Anthikkad, who had seen some of her modelling assignments and approached her to play a pivotal role in his film Manassinakkare (2003). Although she turned down the offer initially, as she was not interested in films, she gave in eventually and agreed to do "just that one film". Manassinakkare went on to become a big financial success and she continued to receive acting offers. Both her releases in 2004, Natturajavu by Shaji Kailas, and Fazil's psychological thriller Vismayathumbathu, saw her co-starring alongside Mohanlal; while she played the protagonist's adopted sister in the former, she portrayed a ghost in the latter. Her performance in Vismayathumbathu, in particular, was lauded, with critics claiming that she had "stolen the thunder with her author-backed role", and was "the revelation of the film".
Early work in Tamil and Telugu cinema (2005–2007)
Nayanthara subsequently started appearing in Tamil and Telugu films. In 2005, she was cast in Hari's Ayya, debuting in the Tamil film industry as lead heroine of the movie. Behindwoods.com stated that she had made a "sensational debut in Tamil", while a reviewer from Nowrunning.com said that her "presence with her beautiful smile is crowd winning". While still shooting for Ayya, she was selected for the comedy horror film Chandramukhi, after its director P. Vasu's wife had seen Manassinakkare and recommended her. The film ran for over 800 days in theatres, eventually turning Nayanthara into one of the most-sought after actresses in Tamil. She also acted in Malayalam, Thaskara Veeran and Rappakal. Later that year she appeared in AR Murugadoss' Ghajini, in which she played a secondary female character. Nayanthara then accepted to appear in an item number as herself in the Perarasu-directed masala film Sivakasi.
Nayanthara's first release in 2006 was Kalvanin Kadhali. Indiaglitz.com stated her performance was the "strength of the film". She next made her debut in Telugu, starring in the film Lakshmi, following which she performed in Boss, I Love You. Three Tamil films in which she enacted the lead female characters – Vallavan, Thalaimagan and E – were released simultaneously during Deepavali 2006. All three films opened to mixed reviews. In Vallavan, she portrayed a lecturer who falls in love with a student younger than her. Sify wrote: "Nayanthara virtually walks away with the film and has never looked so beautiful. She looks gorgeous especially in songs and does justice to her well-etched out role". The science fiction thriller E featured Nayanthara in the role of a bar dancer. Reviewers from Rediff stated that she made an impact. Indiaglitz said she was "very adequate and impressive in a slightly complicated role", and that she had "come up with a good performance". In Thalaimagan, she played a news reporter, with critics agreeing that she did not have much to do in the film.
Public recognition and widespread success (2007–2013)
Nayanthara regained her status in Tamil cinema by starring in the Vishnuvardhan-directed gangster film Billa (2007). A remake of the 1980 Tamil film of the same name, it went on to become a success at the box office,[vague] with Nayanthara receiving critical and popular acclaim for her performance as Sasha in her new glamorous look. Sify heaped praise on her, describing her as a "show-stopper". The reviewer further wrote: "Nayanthara has gone full throttle to look her sexiest best [...] She has a beautiful body which she flaunts daringly [...] and is also able to bring out the cold aloofness and bitterness of her character. Similarly a critic from Nowrunning.com noted that she looked "great in mini-skirts, jacket, dark glasses and tall boots". Her performance in Billa earned her first nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil, in addition to winning the Vijay Award for Favourite Heroine. The same year, she also starred in the Telugu action drama Tulasi alongside Venkatesh, which proved to be a commercial success and her performance earned her first nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu.
In 2008, she had five releases, four of which were in Tamil. Her first release was the family entertainer Yaaradi Nee Mohini. Behindwoods.com wrote: "Nayanthara dispels her bombshell act and proves that she can more than just that. She breaks into tears when needed, shows vicious contempt when rubbed the wrong way in the name of love, and looks endearing in songs". Nowrunning.com stated that she "exhibits her acting skills in full measure [and] gives a moving performance in emotional scenes", while Sify's critic wrote that she looked "sensational and has done a great job in perhaps the meatiest role she has done so far". She won the Vijay Award for Favourite Heroine for the second consecutive year, in addition to her second nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil.
In 2010, all her releases, which featured her as the female lead, turned out to be commercial successes: she had five box office hits in the four Southern languages – Adhurs (Telugu), Bodyguard (Malayalam), Simha (Telugu), Boss Engira Bhaskaran (Tamil) and Super (Kannada). She won the Asianet Award for Best Actress for her performance in Bodyguard. The latter three, in particular, were particularly notable for Nayanthara, with Simha becoming one of the highest-grossing Telugu films of the year and Boss Engira Bhaskaran releasing to positive reviews and becoming a financial success. Upendra's Super, which marked her debut into the Kannada film industry, opened to rave reviews, while her performance was also praised by critics. Her performances in Simha, Boss Engira Bhaskaran and Super earned her nominations for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress in their respective languages. She also starred in Shyamaprasad's critically acclaimed Malayalam film Elektra. Her performance was well appreciated by critics when it was screened at the International Film Festival of India. The film was also screened at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Her only release in 2011 was the mythological film Sri Rama Rajyam (2011) by Bapu, in which she played the role of Sita. She received high critical acclaim for her performance in the film, with Rediff.com noting, "Nayanthara is the surprise package of the film. As Sita, she too has played the role of her lifetime. She gave a fine understated performance conveying a kaleidoscope of emotions." Sify commented "Nayanthara gave a fitting answer to all, unleashing grace and accomplishing the assignment with absolute perfection." Subsequently, she was awarded her first Filmfare Award - Telugu and Nandi Award for her performance. The film was dubbed in the media as her swan song and considered to be her last release before her marriage as she was reported to quit acting thereafter.
Choosing to make a comeback, Nayanthara began shooting for Krish's Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum (2012) after an eleven-month sabbatical. She portrayed the role of a journalist and her performance was praised, with a reviewer from Sify stating that "Nayanthara does not play the normal commercial glam-doll for a change and she is good" and "her chemistry with Rana is perfect". This is the only Telugu film where Nayanthara has dubbed for her character. She received her fourth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu for her performance in the film. The following year, she won widespread critical acclaim for her performance in Atlee's romantic comedy-drama Raja Rani (2013), winning her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil and the Vijay Award for Best Actress. Playing the role of a wife in an unhappy marriage, a critic from Sify.com noted, "Nayanthara gets a well-written role and she couldn't ask for a better character than Regina for her return after a three-year hiatus... she looks good, throws herself into the role, approaches her part with restraint and minimalist fuss, and turns in a sincere performance." Sify.com also said her role was "unquestionably the film's biggest strength". Likewise, another reviewer from Behindwoods.com stated the role was "Nayanthara's career best performance till date" and it was a "great comeback by the actress with a role which gave her ample scope".
Her next release, Vishnuvardhan's Arrambam (2013), featuring Ajith Kumar in the lead, also won acclaim with a reviewer from Rediff stating that "Nayanthara looks gorgeous and does full justice to her character", while Behindwoods critic stated that "Nayanthara puts out a fiery face when required and also showcase her oomph and style in many scenes, adding "this superstar continues to shine".
Stardom and further expansion (2014-2022)
Nayanthara's rising popularity as an actress led to her being cast in female-centric films, a genre considered a rarity in South Indian cinema. Sekhar Kammula cast her in the titular role of his bilingual Anaamika (2014), a remake of the Hindi film Kahaani (2012), in which Nayanthara portrayed an IT professional who moves to Hyderabad to look for her missing husband. Sify.com labelled her performance in the film "a one-woman show by her in a difficult role... she nails the character perfectly whether it in the initial scenes showing her anguish or in the stunning climax, where she takes a brave decision".
While Anaamika did middling business, her next female-centric project, the horror film Maya (2015), emerged as a profitable venture commercially. Portraying a single mother with a mysterious past, Nayanthara won acclaim for her performance and her decision to portray an unconventional character, with Sify.com saying, "Nayanthara is just fabulous and her classier side has been perfectly unleashed in Maya... it's a treat to watch Nayanthara re-inventing herself by performing in an author backed role".
Along with strong character roles, Nayanthara continued to appear in action and comedy films, including the successful Bhaskar the Rascal (2015) and Thani Oruvan (2015), during the same period. She then went on to win her second Filmfare Award for her role of a deaf girl seeking revenge in Vignesh Shivan's black comedy Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015). About her performance, Sify.com's reviewer noted "Nayanthara's Kadambari is a well-etched out role, the actress is effortlessly charming and she does full justice", and "infuses the part with the right portions of vulnerability, restraint, and quiet strength, delivering a performance that is nothing short of perfect". A video clip from the film Naanum Rowdy Dhaan went viral on social media where Nayanthara was seen buying liquor from a shop. The Hindu Makkal Katchi demanded the scene to be removed and garlanded her picture with beer bottles and even after she made a statement that it was a film scene, the Hindu Munnani burned her effigy in protest. Despite controversy, she earned her second Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil for her performance in the film.
In her first release of 2016, Nayanthara portrayed a rape victim in Puthiya Niyamam (2016) opposite Mammootty, with a critic from the IBTimes stating "Nayantara's portrayal as Vasuki Iyer is one of her career-best roles till date and her decision to dub in her own voice for her character is worthy of appreciation". She earned her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Malayalam for her performance in the film. She continued to play diverse roles, appearing as a village-based school teacher in Thirunaal (2016), a spy in the commercially successful Vikram-starrer Iru Mugan (2016) and the queen of a fantasy kingdom in Kaashmora (2016). Her performance in the former fetched her a sixth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil.
In 2017, she played the main lead in the horror thriller Dora and the critically acclaimed social drama Aramm. Her portrayal of a district collector in Aramm won her a third Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil. She also played the female lead in the action thriller Velaikkaran. Her first release in 2018 was a Telugu-language film Jai Simha in which she played the female lead. She went on to portray the main lead in Nelson Dilipkumar's directorial Kolamaavu Kokila and the thriller Imaikkaa Nodigal alongside actor Atharvaa. Both emerged huge successes and attained highest opening figures for a female led film across the country. Her performance in Kolamaavu Kokila fetched her an eighth nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Tamil.
In 2019, she played lead roles in Viswasam, Airaa, Kolaiyuthir Kaalam and Bigil, the latter in which she collaborated with Vijay for the third time. She also appeared in the Malayalam film Love Action Drama, alongside Nivin Pauly where she attained an equal pay as that of male lead; for the first ever time in Malayalam cinema. She was also seen in Telugu biographical film, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, alongside Chiranjeevi and Tamannaah. In 2020, she was seen in a supporting role in Darbar along with Rajinikanth. Her film Mookuthi Amman marked her second entry into Hindu mythological and devotional cinema after her portrayal of Goddess Sita in 2011.
2021 saw her fifth collaboration with Rajinikanth with the film Annaatthe where she was seen as a lawyer. She starred in Netrikann, a remake of the 2011 South Korean film Blind. She received critical acclaim for her portrayal of blind Durga CBI in the film. She also starred in the Malayalam film Nizhal and the much delayed Telugu film Aaradugula Bullet.
Her first release of 2022 was the romcom-drama Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal, where she was seen alongside Vijay Sethupathi and Samantha Ruth Prabhu. She later starred in G.S. Viknesh's survival-thriller O2, where she played a single mother trying to shield her son suffering from cystic fibrosis from the effects of low oxygen. She was later seen in the Malayalam film Gold, alongside Prithviraj Sukumaran, in the Telugu film Godfather, the Tamil horror film Connect.
Expansion to Hindi cinema and further projects in the South Indian film industry (2023)
Nayanthara marked her Hindi film debut with the action thriller film Jawan opposite Shah Rukh Khan. She portrayed a NSG officer Narmada Rai. Her performance received positive reviews, but her chemistry with Khan was criticised. Monika Rawal Kukreja of Hindustan Times noted, "Nayanthara brings freshness and is greeted with a slo-mo shot each time she comes on screen. Sadly though, her chemistry with Khan fails to ignite any sparks and it's quite bland." Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama stated "Nayanthara looks stunning and delivers a first-rate performance. The chemistry between her and Khan, however, is not as electrifying as intended."
Nayanthara will be next seen in the Tamil film Iraivan; for which she will get a remuneration of Rs 10 Crore, making her the only South Indian actress to get a double digit crore remuneration. She is also set to star two untitled films, tentatively titled as Lady Superstar 75 and NT-81. Netflix has documented her illustrious journey in cinema, titled as "Nayanthara beyond the fairytale" which is yet to release.
She was brought up as a Christian to Malayali parents. On 7 August 2011, she embraced Hinduism at the Arya Samaj Temple in Chennai. After that, a certificate of conversion to Hinduism was issued to her, and her stage name, Nayanthara, became her official name. She is a polydactyl, with a rudimentary finger on her left hand.
Nayanthara and director Vignesh Shivan have been in a relationship ever since they worked together on Naanum Rowdy Dhaan in 2015. The couple got married on 9 June 2022 in Mahabalipuram. In October 2022, the couple announced the birth of their twin children named Uyir and Ulagam, via surrogacy.
Nayanthara is a humanitarian and lends support to a number of social causes. She donated a sum of Rs. 5 lakhs to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund during the 2012 cyclonic storm Thane, in Tamil Nadu. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she donated Rs 20 lakh to Film Employees Federation of South India to help daily wagers. Apart from these she has been involved in various charitable activities. She is also a pro Indian culture enthusiast and had participated in the 2017 pro-jallikattu protests in Chennai along with husband Vignesh Shivan.
In 2021, Nayanthara, along with renowned dermatologist Dr Renita Rajan, launched The Lip Balm Company, a gender-neutral lip care company. She is about to venture into skincare range with her brand named 9Skin. In addition to this, she has endorsed brands and products including Tanishq, Seafood brand Fipola and GRT Jewellers.
In 2021, Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan launched their film production venture Rowdy Pictures, which has produced the films Koozhangal (2021), which received numerous accloades, Netrikann (2021) and Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal (2022).
Screen persona and legacy
Nayanthara is considered among the most popular actor of Tamil and Telugu cinema. She is one of the highest paid actresses in South Indian cinema, according to various media reports. In March 2022, according to a report by The Times of India, Nayanthara became the highest-paid South Indian actress.
Nayanthara is known for her strong and powerful performances. She is credited for a change in South industry, with her strong role in women-centric films such as Aramm, Maya, Anaamika, Kolamavu Kokila and Netrikann. She is widely praised for her impactful roles in Sri Rama Rajyam, Raja Rani, Puthiya Niyamam, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy and much more. She is among the few South Indian actresses who have taken over the male dominated film industry with her strong films.
Divya J Shekar of Forbes India noted, "What sets Nayanthara apart from most male stars is her presence and popularity across all the five South Indian states." Saradha U of The News Minute credit her "unique filmography" – a blend of commercial and content-driven films, as a reason of her success. Kayalvizhi Arivalan of Femina said that Nayanthara made women-centric films "the new norm". India Today's Janani K finds her to be "capable of pulling in the crowd even without a male star in the film". Nandini Ramnath of Vogue stated that Nayanthara is "southern cinema's brightest stars". She received the Kalaimamani award, for her "Contribution in Tamil Cinema", in 2010. The Hindu referred her as one of the Superstar women in Indian Cinema.
Nayanthara became the only South Indian actress to be featured in the Forbes India "Celebrity 100" list of 2018, with her total annual earning credited at ₹15.17 crore. In Rediff.com's "Top 5 Tamil Actresses" list, she ranked 5th in 2013 and 1st in 2016. In "Top Telugu Actresses" list of 2007, she was placed 1st. In the "Top 5 Malayalam Actresses" list of 2016, she ranked 4th. Nayanthara ranked 3rd in "Hottest Tamil Actresses" list. Femina included Nayanthara in its "Femina Fab 40" list of 2021 and said that she is "hands-down the Lady Superstar". Nayanthara became Chennai Times Most Desirable Woman in 2015 and 2016. In 2023, Nayanthara opened her Instagram account, and broke Katrina Kaif’s record to become the fastest female actor to reach a million followers.
In popular culture
- In 2021, a television series named Lady Superstar Nayanthara, was telecast on Star Vijay. The host conversed with Nayanthara, about her personal and professional life and provided a chance to her fans to interact with her.
- Netflix has documented her remarkable journey in Indian cinema in Nayanthara: Beyond the Fairytale which is yet to release. The documentary focuses on Nayanthara's work in the film industry and her relationship with Vignesh Shivan.
Nayanthara has won five Filmfare Awards South. She won the one Best Actress Telugu for Sri Rama Rajyam (2011), three Best Actress Tamil for - Raja Rani (2013), Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015), and Aramm (2018) and one Best Actress Malayalam for Puthiya Niyamam (2016).
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