Nayanthara, whose star power has made her a household name in the southern states, is making her Hindi debut alongside Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan with Atlee’s upcoming movie ‘Jawan’.
Nearly 20 years into her acting career, Nayanthara — who has earned the moniker ‘Lady Superstar’ in film industries across the south — is making her Hindi debut alongside Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan with Atlee’s upcoming movie Jawan. The 38-year-old actor, who first appeared in the Malayalam film Manassinakkare with Jayaram in 2003, is no less than a household name in the southern states. The top-rated actor was crowned a ‘superstar’ due to her unrelenting commitment to female-centric films and her ability to single handedly pull audiences to theatres – a huge feat and testimony to her star power.
After acting in a handful of Malayalam films, Nayanthara found her big break in Tamil cinema with her role in Chandramukhi (2005), starring superstar Rajinikanth. She went on to appear in several successful Tamil films including Ghajini, Billa, Yaaradi Nee Mohini, Boss Engira Bhaskaran, Thani Oruvan, and Bigil among others. In Malayalam and Telugu, she has acted alongside superstars such as Mammootty, Mohanlal, Prithviraj, Nivin Pauly, Chiranjeevi, Jr NTR, Venkatesh, and Nagarjuna.
But beyond her status as a veritable star, Nayanthara has also delivered some fine performances over the past 20 years, displaying her acting chops with a unique filmography that blends both commercial and content-driven films. Here are some of our favourites:
Manassinakkare (2003): Nayanthara was a teenager when she made her film debut with Manassinakkare, in which she played an enterprising young woman earning money for her own wedding. Her character Gauri is a miserly girl next door to Jayaram’s Reji, and the duo exchange banter like siblings until an elderly woman (veteran actor Sheela in a comeback role) enters their life. The romantic comedy by director Sathyan Anthikad was a success at the time, and the industry duly took note of the new heroine. Sathyan has later shared in his interviews how Nayanthara was reluctant to become an actor when he first called her.
Vismayathumbathu (2004): Nayanthara plays a mysterious figure, almost ghost-like, in this thriller opposite Mohanlal. As Reetha Mathews, she suddenly appears before Mohanlal’s Sreekumar, her physical form visible only to him. Director Fazil, who has helmed psychological thrillers such as Manichithrathazhu, explains her presence as a wandering spirit of a living being. He has also peppered the film with a large dose of comedy, helped on by actors Mukesh, Kalpana, and Harisree Ashokan.
Adhurs (2010): In this Telugu film directed by VV Vinayak, Nayanthara plays Chandrakala, a woman who lives a double life, pretending to conform to her family’s orthodox and conventional expectations. Brahmanandam plays Bhattacharya (Bhattu), a middle-aged Brahmin priest who supports Chandrakala and her mother financially, with overreaching expectations of marrying her. Chandrakala, however, is interested in Chari (Jr NTR), Bhattu’s assistant.
Although Adhurs is a conventional commercial Telugu film with the female leads relegated to roles with little significance to the plot, the comedy scenes involving Brahmanandam, Nayanthara, Ramaprabha (who plays Chandrakala’s mother), and Jr NTR have garnered an iconic status over the years. In the limited screen time that she is given, Nayanthara is charming and funny, holding her own in scenes with comedy legend Brahmanandam, her repartees rendering his performance even funnier.
Raja Rani (2013): After taking a sabbatical from acting, Raja Rani was Nayanthara’s comeback film. In this Tamil film, she appears as a woman who suffers a terrible heartbreak and is forced to marry another man, only to be stuck in a seemingly loveless marriage. Nayanthara displays a wide range of emotions in the film, even overshadowing Arya and other supporting actors with her stunning performance.
Kolamaavu Kokila (2018): Headlined by Nayanthara alone, Kolamaavu Kokila was one of those films that completely relied on her star power to pull audiences to the cinemas. As a docile young girl who turns into a mule for drug-trafficking, Nayanthara does her part with great conviction in this dark comedy.
Read: Being Nayanthara: How the actor became the ‘lady superstar’ of Tamil cinema