Nayanthara (born Diana Mariam Kurian, 18 November 1984) is an Indian film actress who predominantly appears in Tamil films along with a few Malayalam and Telugu films. She is the recipient of numerous awards.
Nayanthara made her acting debut in the 2003 Malayalam film Manassinakkare with Jayaram and Vismayathumbathu with Mohanlal (2004). She also acted in a supporting role in the super hit Malayalam film Natturajavu before foraying into Tamil and Telugu cinema. She made her debut in Tamil cinema with Ayya (2005) and Telugu with Lakshmi (2006). Both were successful. After this she was the female lead in numerous commercially successful Tamil and Telugu films like Chandramukhi (2005), Dubai Seenu (2007), Tulasi (2007), Billa (2007), Yaaradi Nee Mohini (2008), Aadhavan (2009), Adhurs (2010), Simha (2010), Boss Engira Bhaskaran (2010), Sri Rama Rajyam (2011), Raja Rani (2013), Arrambam (2013), Thani Oruvan (2015), Maya (2015), Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015), Babu Bangaram (2016) and Iru Mugan (2016), making her the highest paid actress in South Indian cinema.
In 2010, she also made her Kannada film debut through the Kannada-Telugu bilingual film Super, her only appearance in a Kannada film to date. Her portrayal of Sita in Sri Rama Rajyam (2011) earned her the Filmfare Award for Best Telugu Actress and the Nandi Award for Best Actress. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actress for her performance in Raja Rani (2013). Kochi Times named her in its "List of 15 Most Desirable Women in 2014".
Nayanthara was born in Bengaluru, India Karnataka, India, to Malayali Orthodox Christian parents Kurian Kodiyattu and Omana Kurian who hail from an ancestral family Kodiyatt in Tiruvalla, Kerala. Her brother, Leno, who is nine years older, lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As her father was an Indian Air Force official, Nayanthara studied in various parts of India, mainly in North India. She did her schooling in Jamnagar, Gujarat and Delhi. In Tiruvalla, she studied at Balikamadom Girls Higher Secondary School and then attended Marthoma College for her bachelor's degree in English Literature.
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 high 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". She also acted in Thaskara Veeran and Rappakal.
Nayanthara subsequently started appearing in Tamil and Telugu films. In 2005, she was cast in Hari's Ayya, debuting in the Tamil film industry. 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. Later that year she appeared in A R 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.
Nayanthara regained her star billing in Kollywood acting in the Vishnuvardhan-directed gangster film Billa (2007). A remake of the same-titled 1980 Tamil film, it went on to become a success at the box office, while Nayanthara received many accolades for her performance as Sasha in her new glamour 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".
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: "Nayan 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, and was nominated for the Best Actress prize at the 56th Filmfare Awards South.
Her subsequent releases were Kuselan , Sathyam, Villu and Aegan . In 2009 she released Aadhavan.
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, Telugu). She won the Asianet Award for Best Actress for her performance in Bodyguard. The latter three, in particular, were particularly good 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 eventually fetched her nominations for the Filmfare Best Actress Award in the 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 by Bapu, in which she played the role of Sita. She received 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 the Nandi Award for Best Actress and the Filmfare Award for Best Telugu Actress. 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". The following year, she won critical acclaim for her performance in Atlee's romantic drama Raja Rani (2013), winning both the Filmfare and 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's 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". Both films performed well commercially and were amongst the highest grossing Tamil films of 2013.
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". In contrast, Rediff.com stated that her "performance is lacklustre in the first half".
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 and mute girl seeking revenge in Vignesh Shivan's black comedy Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015). About her performance, Sify.com's reviewer noted "Nayanthara's Kadambarai 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". Following the success of the film, Nayanthara was referred to in the media as the "Best Actresses".
In her first release of 2016, Nayanthara portrayed a rape victim in Puthiya Niyamam (2016) opposite Mammooty, with a critic from the IBTimes stating "Nayantara's role as Vasuki Iyer is one of her career's best until now and her decision to dub in her own voice for her character is worthy of appreciation". 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). In 2017, she will appear in a series of female-centric films, where she plays the main lead. Her first release is likely to be the horror film Dora, which will be followed by the social drama Aramm, where she portrays a district collector. She also plays the main character in Chakri Toleti's Kolaiyuthir Kaalam, the thriller Imaikkaa Nodigal and Bharath Krishnamachari's Ner Vazhi, amongst other upcoming releases.
Nayanthara was born and brought up as a Syrian Christian. On 7 August 2011, she converted to Hinduism at the Arya Samaj Temple in Chennai. She went through Shuddhi Karma, a procedure involving a Vedic purification and a Homam where Nayanthara chanted the hymns from Veda and Gayatri Mantra under the guidance of the priest. After the purification ceremony, a Certificate of Conversion to Hinduism was issued to her and her stage name, Nayanthara, became her official name. She also visited a number of holy places, including Haridwar and Rishikesh in May 2014.
Nayanthara started dating actor-director Prabhu Deva in 2008. In 2010, Prabhu Deva's wife Latha filed a petition at the family court, seeking directions against Deva from living in a relationship with Nayanthara and requesting a reunion with him. Furthermore, she threatened to go on hunger strike if Prabhu Deva married Nayanthara, while several women's organisations conducted protests against Nayanthara for bringing disrepute to the Tamil culture, burning an effigy of her. In 2012, Nayanthara confirmed that she had ended her relationship with Deva.