College campuses, ramp shows and beauty contests have always been a happy hunting ground for talent scouts on the lookout for fresh faces for the silver screen.
Nayantara nee Diana Mariam Kurien was a beauty contest winner too and she attracted the attention of one of Malayalam cinema’s most promising directors, Sathyan Anthikad, who cast her in the lead role in Manasinakkare, starring Jayaram and the evergreen Sheela.
Impressed by her performance in her maiden film, director Fazil gave her a break in his psychological thriller Vismayathumbathu, where Nayantara was cast as a freewheeling spirit Reena Mathews, who faces an identity crisis. The young artiste rose to the director’s expectations and her performance also merited critical acclaim. Since then, the star has appeared in several Malayalam films and has been cast opposite both superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal.
Two years after she first faced the cameras, Nayantara was noticed by Tamil director Hari who cast her in the lead role opposite Sarath Kumar in his film Ayya, which however did little to give her career a fillip. Her innings in Tamil cinema has been punctuated by hits and flops and her roles opposite superstar Rajnikanth in films like Chandramukhi and Kuselan attracted attention. Chandramukhi, directed by P Vasu, a remake of the Malayalam hit Manichithrathaazhu, in which she had just a fleeting role, was a roaring hit, but Kuselan, where she had a better role, failed to rock the box-office. Some of her biggest hits have been comedies like Boss Engira Bhaskaran with Arya and Yaaradi Nee Mohini opposite Dhanush. In the latter film, Nayantara played a young Brahmin girl from an orthodox family who spurns the advances of a young suitor (Dhanush) who is besotted with her but eventually falls for him. In Boss, she donned the role of a stern professor.
Perhaps her biggest successes have been in Telugu, where Nayantara became a hot favourite with audiences with a string of hits like Lakshmi (her first Telugu film), Thulasi, and Boss, I love you. Simha, Lakshmi and Thulasi were women-oriented films and Nayantara had roles into which she could sink her teeth. The film which was to be her swansong was the mythological Sri Rama Rajyam, directed by veteran Bapu, where she played Sita opposite Ram, enacted by Balakrishna. Nayantara turned in a vintage performance revealing a whole gamut of emotions, using the role to prove that there was much more to her than mere glamour and pretty looks. Her latest Telugu films include Love Story with Nagarjuna and Krishnan Vande Jagathguram with upcoming star Rana Daggubatti.
Nayantara has confirmed her status as a multilingual actress by adding a lone Kannada film Super with Upendra to her filmography. The film was a smash hit but the actress is yet to sign more Kannada films. Nayantara has not been an automatic choice for female-centric films as yet and is still considered as a glam doll, but on the odd occasion that she has been entrusted with good roles, she has never failed to prove her mettle. Sri Rama Rajyam being a case in point. She has, however, a bright future in the South Indian film industry and leading directors have kept her in the loop for their future projects.