Priya Vasudev Mani Iyer (born 4 June 1983), better known by her stage name Priyamani, is an award-winning Indian film actress and model who has acted in several Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam language films. She is best known for earning a National Film Award for Best Actress for her role in the 2006 Tamil film Paruthi Veeran directed by Ameer Sultan. Priyamani is bollywood actress Vidya Balan's cousin.
Priyamani was born on 4 June 1983 in a Tamil Iyer family with roots in Palakkad and grew up in Bangalore. As a result of her dynamic exposure in different South Indian states, she speaks Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. After completing her schooling, Priyamani was roped in to model for print advertisements. As a subsequent result of her extended modelling, she began to earn opportunities to star in films. After being approached by several directors and being considered for roles, she finally starred in director Bharathiraja's film Kangalal Kaidhu Sei which was released in 2004. She is currently doing her final year of B.A. Psychology.
Her debut film Kangalal Kaidhu Sei in Tamil flopped when released in 2004, and her Telugu debut Evare Atagaadu too sank without a trace. Priyamani then made her debut in her native film industry, Malayalam, where she starred opposite another rising actor who would go on to establish himself as a popular actor in Tamil as well, Prithviraj Sukumaran, through the film Satyam but the film failed to do well in the box-office either. Despite the failures, she was hired by another revered Tamil film director and cinematographer Balu Mahendra to star opposite rising Tamil star Dhanush in the 2005 drama Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam. She won tremendous acclaim for her performance in the film, but the film's under-performance meant that box-office success still eluded her.
Success in Telugu
Priyamani found success coming for her finally in the year 2006, when she starred opposite veteran Telugu actor Jagapathi Babu in the film Pellaina Kothalo, a film about a newly-wed couple. The film was a surprise hit given its low budget and modest star cast and propelled Priyamani to fame in Tollywood.
Paruthi Veeran and the future
After three years in search of the elusive film that will make her get noticed, Priyamani managed to prove both her acting credentials and also fame appeal with the 2007 film Paruthi Veeran, directed by another respected Tamil director, Ameer Sultan. She was paired alongside debutant Karthi Sivakumar, who is the younger brother of popular Tamil star Surya Sivakumar. A rural subject which told the story of a notorious young villager in Tirunelveli, the film won tremendous critical acclaim and also became a surprise box-office blockbuster. Priyamani's performance was unanimously praised and she went on to win the Indian National Award for best actress, followed by the a Filmfare award, a Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress and also an award at the Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema.
She had another blockbuster in Telugu, starring opposite Jr. NTR in the 2007 film Yamadonga and found decent box-office success with the Tamil film Malaikottai opposite Vishal.
She again won huge critical acclaim in 2008 for her role in the Malayalam film Thirakkatha, in which she played a role based on the turbulent real life story of late film actress Srividya.
Priyamani is being paired for the third time with good friend and actor Prithviraj Sukumaran for her next Tamil film Ninaithale Inikkum, which is a remake of Malayalam blockbuster Classmates. This is the pair's first association in Tamil. She is also acting in a commercial entertainer opposite Bharath, in a film called Arumugam, apart from acting in a Telugu film called Drona opposite young actor Nitin.
However, her biggest project in the pipeline happened when she was hired by ace Indian director Mani Ratnam for his next bilingual film Raavana. Priyamani's co-stars in the film include Prithviraj Sukumaran, Vikram, Karthik Muthuraman, Prabhu Ganesan and also former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. She will also make her Kannada film debut in the film Raam opposite Kannada actor Puneet Rajkumar.