From being the most-loved pair in reel life to becoming the most-loved pair in real life, the journey for actor couple, Suriya and Jyothika, has been phenomenal. What’s making the personal journey even more exciting is their simple, yet effective style of parenting. In an exclusive interview with ParentCircle, Jyothika sets aside conversations related to the entertainment world and talks about being a mother, and the many facets of her parenting. As she speaks lovingly of her ten-year-old daughter Diya and seven-year-old son Dev, we realise how invested she is in raising compassionate, respectful and skilled children. When I started the conversation, I was given a schedule of around 20 minutes, but she got so involved talking about her parenting that by the end of it, we realised we had talked for no less than one hour. Here are the excerpts from our truly candid conversation.
Q: Do you believe there is a perfect parenting formula?
A: No, because no two children are alike. I follow the same style of parenting with both my children, but they are very different from each other. Having said that, it is important to model good behaviour and values, and most importantly, giving them time.
Q: So, was parenting instinctive for both Suriya and you, or did you both agree on a particular approach?
A: We did. We agreed. For instance, since we are in the movie line, we decided we will choose films that our children can proudly watch. And we take the effort to give them a sense of normalcy at home. We have a very good rapport with our parents' group at school from both my children’s classes. They are our very close friends. This makes our children feel that we are not different. At the end of the day, we are all professionals doing different jobs. We all are equal.
Q: When you parent as a team, who is the good cop and who is the bad cop?
A: I’m the bad cop(laughs). Suriya is the one who allows them to do whatever they like. It is always the mothers, right? I’m the one with the rulebook. He is the ‘good’ one.
Q: What are some things that you’d say no to and Suriya probably wouldn’t?
A: Everything. From ice-creams to homework, the list is endless. Their (the children’s) father is always more willing to work things out in an easy way for them. So, if any day I’m delayed at the shoot, they will happily have a story time at night with their father beyond 9:00 PM or 9:30 PM.
Q: So, is ‘early to bed’ the norm at your household?
A: Yes. By 9:00 PM we are in the bed unless there is some exception. Children wake up at 6:00 AM for their school and leave by 7:00 AM. So, we also sleep with them. My children are early to rise even on weekends to attend their piano classes, maybe not as early as 6.00 AM but they like to wake up early as they want to maximise their time during the weekends.
Q: How do you spend weekends and holidays with your children?
A: We travel. We are just back from a trek to the Himalayas. Trekking is their new interest now. We took them to this hill called Triund. It is about 9000 ft. above sea level. They climbed for 6 hours.
Q: They did?
A: Yes, even Dev(who is only seven-years-old) did the inclined climb for 6 hours. And it was a steep rocky terrain, so we camped there at night. Then, the next day, we were down in 4.5 hours. Suriya and I have planned to do a trek with them somewhere every year. We plan to show our children one good place in India every year.
Q: What are some other fun activities you do with your children?
A: As a family, we play a lot of games like taboo, strategy and other board games. The father and son spend a lot of time on their iPad together playing all those bad games (laughs).
Q: You are not fond of that.
A: Not at all. But the children are allowed to play for about 30 minutes a day, not more than that. My children go to multiple classes. They are into sports. My daughter plays badminton. She is also learning Bharatanatyam. My son does Karate and badminton. They take piano lessons during weekends. Apart from studies, they are busy doing several other activities.
Q: How important are these classes outside of school?
A: It gives them great exposure, which I did not have when I was young. It helps them use their time constructively. Plus, the routine gives them a sense of discipline. They see how others are working towards their goals. They meet children from different schools and understand how to mix with others. It is no longer safe to let children go out in the streets and play. That is something we used to enjoy when we were young.
One instrument and one sport is very important for any child to do. Also, parents today don’t have the entire day to spend with children. If they (children) are left to their own, they will definitely switch on the TV or take the iPad. Classes are a big diversion that way. Let’s not force children to do things against their will, but let us give them the exposure, maybe they will like it.
Q: Are there days when your children don’t want to go for these classes?
A: There are some days when they are tired from school. Those days they are allowed to give it a miss. As a matter of fact, my children are keen to go to the classes. I ensure I put them in classes along with their friends, so it is a good motivation for them. We have friends coming over to play every day after the classes. They all come here, play, have a quick early dinner and then, they leave.
Q: What does your daily routine look like?
A: Mornings start with the children getting dropped off at school. Then if I have a shoot, its off to work for me. Or I go out for coffee with my friends. If not, I’m in my room. I do things I want to do. Watch TV or listen to music or do Yoga. So, I have my own time till 1 PM. Then, once the children are back, it’s their time. Sitting with them, giving them lunch and sending them off for their extracurricular classes. Convincing them to do the homework is a one-hour job (laughs). Then, it is dinner and sleep-time. We are not late-night people, we don’t really go out in the night. Even if the both of us want to go out, we do a lunch in the afternoon. We are all off to bed very early. So, it is a very boring routine, the usual (laughs).
Q: Is Surya a hands-on dad?
A: When he isn’t at work, he very much is. He makes sure he doesn’t shoot on Sundays. He finishes his gym in the morning. He is also home by 6.30 PM or 7.00 PM. The time after that till 9.00 PM is our family time. He notes down important events at school to attend them. He has not missed even one sports or annual day. Other than the work time, he is always around for the children, puts them to sleep, cares for them… so you can call him that (laughs).
Q: What has been the most special moment for you as a parent?
A: Being a parent itself is very special, hearing the word Amma makes it even more so.
The most special moment so far was when they were born. Suriya and I holding the baby and seeing the baby look at us. That is something, which cannot be described in words! That was very special.
My most special part of the day is putting my children to sleep. That is when they really cuddle. Those 10 minutes before sleep is when they have stories to tell of what they dreamt the previous night, share with me what they want to do, or ask me to read them books of their choice. That’s the most special time of the day (hint of smile). That is also when a lot of ‘I love you Amma’ comes (laughs).
Q: You mention the night cuddles and bedtime stories, so you co-sleep with your children?
A: Yes, all four share a room. We are trying to get them to move to their own room. You know, we just shifted to a new house and we made this beautiful dreamy room for them. But the children don’t want to leave us now (laughs). Maybe in 2-3 years, they will.
Q: Who is the coolest parent according to your children?
A: (Laughs) Coolest? For my son maybe it’s his father and for my daughter, it's me!
Q: Wow. Yes?
A: Yes, she looks up at me. My son is in this ‘superhero’ stage, he is all into action and power, and the father is always supporting him. But, for my daughter, it is me. She loves me riding the ‘Bullet’ (bike). She actually asked me to pick her up from the school on the bike.
Q: You did?
A: Yes, I did. Twice or thrice I did. She asks me to do it every day which is something I do not want to (laughs).
Q: How do your children handle your celebrity status?
A: Everyone in our family is a celebrity, starting with my father-in-law. But, our children are not exposed to all our films. They are also not very much into films as such. We are very particular about the kind of films they watch. And, they have a great balance at school. My children also have friends who are North Indians, who don’t even know who we are. They are never made to feel the celebrity aura at home, at school or among their friends' group.
Q: How do you manage to restrict the kind of movies they watch?
A: They are still very young. So they are not yet very freely on the Internet. We prefer to put them on kiddle more than Google. It has all the restrictions. Our children’s computer is in the centre of the house where people are always around. When they want to watch something, they come and ask us. And movies are our choice. Sadly, 80% of the content today is not good. First-factor being, women are not dressed well. More than language, for me that’s the reason I don’t let my children watch every film.
Q: Do you have parental anxieties about their teenage?
A: I haven’t come to that stage. So we are still dealing with them as young children and it has so far been very nice. I think It has to do with the respect you hold as parents in their eyes. Certain things you have to listen to them, while they listen to you the other times. It’s about striking the perfect balance. Right now they are young so we are able to balance it out. Next stage hasn’t come, so when it comes I’ll be able to talk about it.
Q: What are the 3 things you think parents should do with their children?
A: 1. It is important to have at least one hour of quality time with children every day. Have dinner together, uninterrupted conversation, play a board game perhaps. This will help children open up and tell us about what they are thinking, what is going on with them really; the general stuff like who their best friend is, who they like, why they do not like one other child, what is going on with which teacher, etc.
2.Second is travelling. It creates a lot of family bonding when you travel together.
3.Be an example to them, do not advise them. I want my daughter to work for sure in the future. So, I will work.
Q: Fantastic. How much of an influence has your own upbringing been?
A: I have 2 sisters and a brother. All my siblings work. My parents treated us all equally. They gave us a lot of confidence. My mother taught us to be independent. Moreover, I feel that it is important to have a strong mother more than a strong father. If you take Suriya and Karthi, they have a lot of respect for women. And Surya always saw me as his equal even during my working days. He always backed me up. It speaks a lot about their upbringing. Equality and respect begin at home. It is important to be your own inspiration! I’ve done both - I’ve gone outside and worked for 10 years, I’ve also stayed at home and done home-ground work. And I feel it is easier to do work outside. The household work is neither recognized or appreciated. Women must understand that we are doing great by multi-tasking. We must feel proud about it. Even at the dining table, everyone should sit together and eat. When the child sees Amma and Appa eating together at the table, he understands we are all equal.
Q: And I have to say this. Thank you so much for a movie like Magalir Mattum. After so many years, you still manage to pull the crowd. What’s the secret?
A: Well, thank you. In fact, we should thank the Director for giving us such a movie. I’d say, as a society, we have always given the front seat to the boys. In many places, right from childhood, boys are encouraged to do things while girls are given household chores. Right there, we lose confidence that we cannot be out there. Personally, in our minds, we need to raise the bar that we are capable of much more. That is self-worth. With that, you come out confident and you can do whatever you want to achieve. For me, my mom taught me to be independent. My mother-in-law is very proud of the work I do. She takes care of my children when I go to work. And my husband is very supportive. So, this collective quality of people around – adds to my confidence. So, the secret is self-worth.
Q: And it naturally reflects on your personality. No wonder you are an inspiration to several women.
A: Thank you. But I request everyone to ‘please inspire yourself’. There is no special quality. We need to raise in our own eyes. This self-worth, self-realisation is important.
And you cannot wait for someone else to give validation. See, we all go to work, we know where we are in the world today. It is about time we realise our worth first. Even if you are a home-maker, that is work! You must be proud of managing the home. Your confidence will show and your children will be proud of you. It is important for them to have a strong mother any day.
Q: Would you say parenting changed you as a person?
Yes, parenting changes everything. When you are young, it is all about YOU. With every little sacrifice you make as a parent, you learn how to give. That makes you emotionally strong. This also makes you a better person. You are more confident, you are better in making choices. Also, the kind of movies I choose is also for my children, I want them to proudly sit and watch my movies. So, parenting has definitely brought a big change in my mind.
Q: How was the bounce back after your sabbatical?
Yes, I’m back after 7-8 years. God has blessed me as movies have always been coming home and for me luckily ’36 vayathinile’ ran. And because of that lots of scripts have started coming in. I’m being careful in choosing scripts that will spread a message to the society. It is a God-given nature of film starts - people like us, follow us, and people love movies. It is very important that we respect that and make positive use of it. As a socially responsible citizen, I want to take up meaningful scripts.
Q: Have your children seen you and Surya together in a movie as yet?
A: No. They’ve seen ‘Pasanga 2’ of Surya. They’ve seen my ‘36 Vayathinile’. They liked these movies. We don’t indulge in showing them all our movies. As I said, they are not very keen about movies as such. Apart from that, let them see us as Amma and Appa more than as Jyothika and Surya.
Q: Are celebrity lives really glamorous?
A: Well, it is balanced. We sure get paid. But it is a lot of hard work. Actors are out in the sun, in bad weathers. There are days when you are not well but you can’t just stay back home. Our timings are erratic. Especially for women, the work-life balance is very important after marriage. So, it is not as glamorous as it seems but it is worth everything because there is a lot of love that we get, from people. We always bring a smile to people’s face even when we walk by. So it is a job that gives a lot of inner happiness.
Q: What should parents do to raise happy and successful children?
A: I think parents themselves should be happy. They must not discuss problems in front of the child even if it is about the child. Also, we must parent as a team. We must agree with each other on the bigger decisions. Even if parents have contradicting opinions, it must be discussed behind closed doors. There should never be ‘Amma is letting me do this, you are not’. And again, don’t advice, stand as an example.
Thank you, Jo...
And that's' a wrap!
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Samantha Akkineni (née Ruth Prabhu, born 28 April 1987) is an Indian actress and model. She has established a career in the Telugu and Tamil film industries, and is a recipient of several awards including four Filmfare Awards. She has emerged as a leading actress in the South Indian film industry.
While pursuing a degree in commerce, Samantha worked part-time on modelling assignments. She soon received offers for film roles, and made her acting debut in Gautham Menon's critically acclaimed Telugu romance film, Ye Maaya Chesave (2010), which fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Debut Actress and a Nandi Award. Samantha then became the second actress ever to win both the Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actress and the Filmfare Award for Best Telugu Actress in the same year, for her performances in the films Neethaane En Ponvasantham (2012) and Eega (2012). Since then, she has primarily opted to appear in the leading female role in hero-centric Telugu and Tamil films, earning box office success with films including Dookudu (2011), the family dramas Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2012) and Attarintiki Daredi (2013) and AR Murugadoss's Tamil action film, Kaththi (2014). Her work in the film A Aa (2016) also won positive reviews and won Samantha her fourth Filmfare Award, while her next films Theri (2016), 24 (2016) and Mersal (2017) also were commercially successful.
Alongside her acting career, Samantha is a prominent celebrity endorser for brands and products, while she also started her own NGO, Pratyusha Support, to provide medical support for women and children in 2012. She donates her earnings from endorsements, product launches and inauguration events to support the foundation.
Early life and family
Born on 28 April 1987 to a Malayali mother and a Telugu father, Samantha was brought up in Pallavaram in Chennai, Tamil Nadu as the youngest child of the family to Prabhu and Ninette and two elder brothers Jonathan and David, whilst becoming fluent in the Tamil language. Despite her mixed regional background, Samantha has cited that she sees herself as a Tamilian, as she was brought up speaking Tamil and English at home. As a part of her education, Samantha was schooled at Holy Angels Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School and then completed a degree in commerce at Stella Maris College, Chennai. Towards the end of her undergraduate degree she became involved in modelling, notably working with Naidu Hall, through which she was first spotted by filmmaker Ravi Varman.
2010: Debut and breakthrough
Samantha began her professional film career with Gautham Menon's Telugu film, Ye Maaya Chesave (2010). The film, simultaneously made in Tamil as Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010), created much anticipation prior to release, due primarily to the first-time-collaboration between Gautham Menon and composer A. R. Rahman. The actress successfully auditioned and was signed up for the project in mid August 2009 and worked on the film in India and the United States, while the film was released on 26 February 2010. Post-release, she revealed that Menon played a "crucial part in moulding her as an actress", teaching her how to remain natural and comfortable in front of the screen, even if she had no dialogues in a scene. In the film, Samantha played the lead character Jessie, a MalayaliSaint Thomas Christian girl living in Hyderabad, with whom the male protagonist, played by Naga Chaitanya, falls in love. Upon release of the film, Samantha received very positive reviews for her portrayal, with the film itself garnering much critical acclaim. Critics at Sify praised Samantha as a "scene-stealer" and her beauty as "alluring", adding, "she was the girl to watch out for." Jeevi from Idlebrain.com, wrote that "Samantha's debut is one of the best heroine debuts in Telugu cinema" and noted that the "minute expressions she gave spoke volumes about her", whilst labelling the film as a "classic". Ye Maaya Chesave fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Debut Actress and a Nandi Award. Samantha appeared in a cameo role in the Tamil version of the film, portraying an assistant director who becomes an actress. Both the Telugu and the Tamil versions of the films proved to be grand successes, propelling Samantha to sign on for bigger projects. She followed up her collaborations with Gautham Menon and A. R. Rahman by appearing in the music video for the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010 promotional song, Semmozhiyaana Tamizh Mozhiyaam, which Menon directed and Rahman composed.
Samantha's next release was the romantic drama, Baana Kaathadi (2010), opposite Adharvaa. The film was actually the third Tamil project signed by the actress, but its release preceded the first two that she was contracted for due to delays in their completion. Samantha portrayed a student of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), the first such role in Tamil cinema. Her next release was Ravi Varman's Moscowin Kavery (2010), originally the first film she began work on. The shooting for the film began in August 2007, with Samantha, then briefly credited with the screen name Yasodha, joining the team later in the year. In an interview held in 2008, Ravi Varman mentioned that he had decided that Samantha would be the lead actress for his film within three minutes after viewing one of her commercial assignments. He went on to describe her as an actress with "intelligence" and "potential", whilst drawing comparisons with the noted actress, Revathi. However, due to Ravi Varman's prior commitments as cinematographer in other projects, the film languished in development hell, eventually releasing in August 2010. The film earned poor reviews from critics, though Samantha's performance was credited as one of the sole highlights that the film offered. In August 2008, while still completing her last three projects, Samantha also signed up to play the lead role of a modern girl in the Narain starrer, Pookada Ravi, which was later shelved. Samantha then went on to feature in Vamsi Paidipally's Telugu film Brindaavanam (2010) in which she had a supporting role alongside NTR Jr and Kajal Aggarwal. Her performance as Indu was well received despite the role having a shorter screen time than the ones she had played in her previous films, and the film became her second successful venture in Telugu.
2011–2012: Critical acclaim
Samantha featured in the big budget Telugu film, Dookudu (2012) alongside Mahesh Babu, which became one of the most successful Telugu films of all time. The film won positive reviews, while a critic from The Times of India said "Samantha looks beautiful and has done a great job, though her role as Prashanthi isn't too lengthy." She also subsequently made guest appearances in two of Gautham Menon's films, first in the psychological thriller film, Nadunisi Naaygal (2011) as a mental asylum inmate and then repeated her role from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa in the Hindi version of the film, Ekk Deewana Tha (2012). Her popularity in Telugu films meant that Nadunisi Naaygal was dubbed and released in Telugu as Eera Gulabeelu, with Samantha featured prominently on the film's posters, despite only having a guest appearance. During the period, Samantha had also been signed on two feature in two big budget projects in Tamil, Mani Ratnam's Kadal (2013) and Shankar's I (2015) but was forced to opt out from both films, since she was suffering from a skin disease and could not work for two months during mid 2012.
Samantha next featured in S. S. Rajamouli's live action Telugu-Tamil bilingual project Eega (2012), portraying a micro artist who runs a NGO and takes revenge for the murder of her lover. As the film featured a CGI-created housefly as the main character, Samantha noted that she had to use her imagination and act accordingly. She also revealed that lots of heavy lights were used for the shoot of the film and she subsequently suffered skin burns, calling the process "very stressful" but "satisfying". Titled Naan Ee (2012) in Tamil, the film opened to highly positive reviews and Samantha also won acclaim for her performance. A critic from The Hindu noted "Samantha blooms in the role given to her," while Jeevi of Idlebrain.com wrote her "run of success continues as she did extremely well as a bereaved lover". Sify.com also praised her performance in the film, citing her "subtle expressions of love, fear and anxiety work well for the film" and that she "looks beautiful and has done her role with consummate ease". The film went on to become a large commercial success, grossing more than ₹ 1.25 billion, and went on to be dubbed in several foreign and Indian languages.
Samantha then worked on Gautham Menon's trilingual romantic drama film, and played the leading female role of Nithya in the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions of the film, shooting scenes simultaneously back-to-back with three different actors. The Tamil version, Neethane En Ponvasantham (2012) featured her alongside Jiiva, while Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu (2012) paired her opposite Nani. A further Hindi version titled Assi Nabbe Poorey Sau with Aditya Roy Kapoor was simultaneously shot with the other two films and was "sixty percent" completed, before Menon shelved the venture after his other Hindi film, Ekk Deewana Tha, had failed at the box office. The film spanned three periods in the life of a couple, focusing on their romantic relationship at school, college and in their late twenties. Samantha revealed that she knew Gautham would want to work with her again and immediately accepted the opportunity to portray the roles when she was offered the film. She felt that she "could relate to the attributes and the circumstances the character goes through" and described Nithya's character as "close to her". To make her performance as authentic as possible, Samantha chose to dub for herself in the Tamil version of the film. The Tamil and Telugu versions of the film opened in December 2012, earning differing reactions. Neethane En Ponvasantham earned mixed reviews and performed averagely at the box office, though Samantha received highly positive acclaim for her portrayal. The critic from The Hindu noted she "comes up with possibly the best performance by a female lead in Tamil cinema this year" and "her transformation from a gawky teenager to an adult, unable to overcome her ego, is outstanding". Meanwhile, IBN stated "Samantha's transformation from a school kid to an adult is a treat to watch," while Rediff.com noted she is "pretty, graceful, and does an excellent job of conveying the emotions of a girl in love, especially during the school sequence, while concluding she carries the film on her slender shoulders." The Telugu version, Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu, won positive reviews and did well commercially, while Samantha's performance was equally well appreciated. The Hindu wrote she "goes a step further from her famous portrayal of Jessy (Ye Maaya Chesaave) and brings out the intricacy of her character well", while the Times of India wrote "Samantha has the author backed role and she creams it." At the Filmfare Awards ceremony celebrating South Indian films of 2012, the actress subsequently won the Best Actress awards for both the Tamil and Telugu film industries for her performances in Neethane En Ponvasantham and Eega. Samantha became the second ever actress to achieve the feat after Revathi had secured both awards in 1992. 2012 became her most prolific award-winning year and she secured further recognition for Best Actress at the Vijay Awards, Santosham Film Awards and the CineMAA Awards.
2013–2015: Roles in big-budget films
Although Samantha often portrayed strong character roles in her early films, post-2012, she has appeared increasingly in big-budget, hero-oriented films, which have comparatively smaller scope for actresses. Samantha next appeared in the Telugu multi-starrer film, Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2013) alongside Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu, which won positive reviews and was commercially successful. Though her role was comparatively minuscule to her co-stars, IBN Live noted it was "good to see Samantha shed her glamorous side and welcome performance-oriented roles, which she only handles with deftness and ease". The romantic comedy Jabardasth (2013), in which she portrayed a wedding planner, became a commercial failure, though critics noted Samantha is "getting better by the day and it's a delight to watch her on screen". Samantha then starred alongside Pawan Kalyan in the family drama, Attarintiki Daredi (2013), which emerged as the highest-grossing Telugu film upon release. A critic from Rediff.com noted Samantha "exudes confidence even though she has limited screen time and nothing much to do", and her performance saw her win Best Actress recognition at the SIIMA Awards and the Santosham Film Awards. Her final release of 2013 was in the unsuccessful Telugu masala film Ramayya Vasthavayya, where she had a small role, with a critic noting "we have seen Samantha in better roles and better films."
The year of 2014 saw Samantha appear in six films and make a return to the Tamil film industry. Her first release saw Samantha portray a dual role in the family drama film Manam (2014), where she featured alongside several members of the Akkineni film family. Featuring as a young mother and a college student in two different time eras, Samantha received positive reviews for her work, with the critic from Sify saying "she excels" and The Hindu's reviewer noting that she "emotes well and easily shifts between the roles". Her performance fetched Samantha a nomination for Best Actress from the Filmfare Awards, while she won Critics' Best Actress at the SIIMA Awards. Samantha subsequently featured alongside Naga Chaitanya again in the long-delayed Autonagar Surya (2014), before playing further minuscule roles in the Telugu action masala films Alludu Seenu (2014) and Rabhasa (2014). Critics lamented that she "signed to be a glam doll" for the ventures and has "previously shown us she is capable of doing much more, but of late, seems to be stuck with doing similar roles that require her to be an attractive prop". Samantha later revealed that she solely worked on Alludu Seenu as a favour to producer Bellamkonda Suresh, who had helped her delay the making of Jabardasth during her health problems.
Samantha worked simultaneously on two big budget Tamil films during early 2014, working with industry-leading actors and directors.Linguswamy's gangster masala film Anjaan (2014) opposite Suriya, received negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office. Portraying a small role, critics panned her character in the film, stating Samantha "gamely performs the requisite crazy girl duties". Her other release, AR Murugadoss's action drama Kaththi (2014) opposite Vijay won predominantly positive reviews and became the most profitable Tamil film of 2014. Again, reviewers criticised her character stating "all she had to do in the film is smile and look pretty," while The Hindu remarked she played "an emoticon" and "that covers her contribution to the proceedings". She subsequently featured in the Telugu film S/O Satyamurthy with Allu Arjun, as a part of another hero-orientated film, though critics noted she "enacts her part with grace" and that she "plays her role well".
She then featured in her second dual role as a part of Vijay Milton's road film, 10 Endrathukulla (2015), where she appeared alongside Vikram. Like Anjaan and Kaththi, critics lamented her role as a clumsy girl, with Sify.com stating "beyond a point Samantha's character is plainly annoying". She sported a different rural look for a particular role and her performance won mixed reviews, with a critic noting "Samantha doesn't make much of an impact in the film except towards the end." Samantha subsequently won positive reviews for her role and performance in Velraj's Thanga Magan, where she featured opposite Dhanush. Portraying a homely role of a wife for the first time in Tamil films, the actress noted it would be the first of many such performance-orientated roles, as she looked to move away from being typecast in glamorous characters. A critic from Sify.com labelled her performance as "impressive", while DNA.com stated Samantha "has given a very subdued and mature performance sans drama". Likewise, a reviewer from Silverscreen, suggested that she "delivers a performance that stands head and shoulders above her work in previous films".
2016–present: Commercial success
Samantha's first release of 2016 was in the Tamil romantic drama film Bangalore Naatkal, where she made a guest appearance and reprised Nithya Menen's small role from the film's Malayalam original. She then portrayed the lead female role in Atlee's Theri, and featured alongside Vijay for the second time in her career. Her performance received positive reviews, with a critic from DNA India stating "Samantha looks pretty as always" and that "she has done an incredible job in dubbing with a range of emotions in her numerous shades – doctor, lover, mother – and she shines". Likewise, Behindwoods.com stated that Theri "could be one of Samantha’s best roles; she plays a doctor and has given out a soulful performance". The film went on to become of the most profitable Tamil films of all time, upon release, and ended a barren spell for the actress in Tamil cinema, by becoming her first commercially successful film in Tamil cinema since Kaththi (2014). Samantha then worked for a second time with director Vikram Kumar and Suriya in the critically acclaimed, fantasy film 24. Featuring as the love interest of the film's lead character, Samantha won praise from critics for her small role in the film, with Sify.com stating that the actress "does well in the comedy scenes". The film also performed well at the box office, with The Hindu stating she was "at the top of the film industry", following her back-to-back commercial successes.
Samantha also featured in three high-profile Telugu films during 2016; while Srikanth Addala's family drama Brahmotsavam opposite Mahesh Babu was a box office failure, her role in Trivikram Srinivas's romantic comedy, A Aa alongside Nithiin, won her critical and commercial acclaim. Portraying Anasuya Ramalingam, a naive girl trying to escape from the controlling behaviour of her mother, Samantha received positive reviews for her portrayal of the character. A critic from The New Indian Express noted "A Aa undoubtedly is Samantha’s film" and that "right from her first frame till the last, she delivers a stellar performance and shows what she can do if given ample screen time", adding that she was "a joy to watch". Likewise, a reviewer from The Hindu noted "Samantha, after a long time, gets enough screen time and scope to shine", stating "she’s vulnerable as a 23-year-old reeling in her mother’s shadow and can also play the high maintenance, stubborn girl with ease", while concluding "this is a role she can be proud of". Similarly Bollywoodlife.com noted her "earnest performance was the life and soul of the romantic comedy", while DNA India's critic cited that "Samantha and Nithiin's performances in this movie will be what people would rave about for days to come". The film also performed well at the box office, doing exceptionally good business for a Telugu film released in the United States. Her performance subsequently fetched her the Best Telugu Actress Award at the Filmfare Awards, her fourth such recognition. She then featured in the commercially successful action film Janatha Garage directed by Koratala Siva, with a critic noting despite "a limited role, she gives a nice performance". She then portrayed the lead female role in Atlee's Mersal, and featured alongside Vijay for the third time in her career and her performance received positive reviews and the movie became one of the highest grossing Tamil films of 2017 and was a blockbuster. Mersal went on to join the ₹200 crore club.
Samantha is currently working on the production of three Tamil films, with the first release likely to be an untitled comedy film starring Sivakarthikeyan and directed by Ponram. She has also begun work on Irumbu Thirai starring Vishal and Arjun, Super Deluxe directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja starring Vijay Sethupathi.
Personal life and off-screen work
Samantha suffered from an extended period of illness in 2012, which saw her having to opt out of big film projects and take a two-month break from acting. She suffered from an immunity disorder and then had a further setback after her body did not respond well to antibiotics.
She began dating actor Naga Chaitanya in 2015 and the pair were engaged in a ceremony in Hyderabad during January 2017. She got married as per Hindu traditional customs on 6 October 2017 and then by Christian customs on 7 October 2017 in Goa.
Samantha has actively been involved in philanthropic activities and donates her earnings from endorsements, product launches and inauguration events to her charitable trust, Pratyusha Support, which was registered in 2012. She chose to begin the non-governmental organisation after being bed-ridden for 15 days during her documented illness in 2012, and wanted to give back to society. Samantha subsequently started the Pratyusha Support foundation to provide medical support for women and children with the help of three doctor friends, and provided the entire financial support for the programme. She held a fund raiser in August 2013 to raise awareness of her foundation, auctioning several of her personal items and memorabilia from films. A further initiative in 2014 saw the launch of a programme to fulfil the wishes of children with life-threatening diseases, with Samantha financing trips for children to fly on an aeroplane and travel to the Taj Mahal, while also organising opportunities for children to meet their favourite film actors. Samantha has also been involved in spreading awareness of haemophilia, regularly taking part in events creating awareness of the disease.
Through her charitable trust, Samantha entered into an agreement in January 2015 to pay a third of the hospital bills of one infant per week who required intensive care support at Andhra Hospitals. Under the arrangement, Samantha agreed to contribute towards a third of the bills, while Andhra Hospitals would also pay a third of the bill and the remaining third would be paid by the parents. In November 2015, Samantha entered into a further agreement with Andhra Hospitals to sponsor vaccination of all infants below six months for rotaviral infections free of cost. Later in the month, the actress took part in an organ donation pledge at Madhapur. During the 2015 Chennai floods, Samantha was situated in Hyderabad for the shoot of a film, and helped mobilise the Mana Madras Kosam initiative organised by the Telugu film industry. Through the initiative, she participated in gathering relief materials at Ramanaidu Studios and appealed to the Telugu-speaking public to help gather resources to send to Chennai. She later donated 30 lakh rupees for flood relief activities to take place in Pallavaram, the suburb in which the actress grew up. Samantha stood up for the cause of Handloom people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states by wearing them and making photoshoots for handloom made sarees and other items. Samantha to be brand Ambassador for Telangana Handlooms Samantha to start a store named Tweave along with handloom persons and a company named SVSpartnersLLP a cpmpany into handlooms.
Media image and artistry
The success of Ye Maaya Chesave (2010) and subsequent back-to-back successes prompted Rediff.com to label her "the most sought after actress in the Telugu film industry" during 2014. Her initial choice of films depicted her as an actress who actively selects to feature in strong female roles, with Times of India noting that "scripts are written around the characters she portrays" and that she held a place in the "wishlist of every top actor, director and producer". Her inclusion in Telugu film projects were also initially considered a "lucky charm" by producers, though Samantha acknowledged that though "destiny" played a role in her career, and that there were "many women out there who are more beautiful and more talented" than she was and that she hoped her name would instead be "synonymous with hard work". Samantha also stated that she was willing to forgo her salary demands to appear in good films, revealing that she worked on Gautham Menon's films for lower rates and that she had rejected more lucrative offers to feature in S. S. Rajamouli's Eega (2012).
After portraying strong characters in her first few films, Samantha chose to feature in increasingly hero-centric films in the mid 2010s. When questioned on her decision not to take up more heroine-orientated roles, Samantha lamented the lack of chances that the South Indian film industry presents for established female characters and described it as "simply male-dominated". She added that the market meant she was not going to "get roles similar to her characters in Ye Maaya Chesave or Eega every time" and accepted stories if it had "the potential to engage viewers". Talking about her glamorous role in her comeback Tamil film, Anjaan (2014), Samantha stated that she made a "thoughtful call" as "it was important to do these kind of films to get exposure into the market," and that regrettably "mass films" were "where the main audience" was in South Indian cinema. She also added that she did not want to be "typecast as the girl-next-door" and was keen to prove critics wrong, who said that she could not fit into glamorous roles. In an interview in 2015, Samantha suggested that she was unhappy with her work during the previous year and would no longer do any more films where she would be "required to do five songs and the scenes leading up to the songs" and made a promise to herself that "if she was not going to get good roles", she would quit acting.
Being able to speak both Tamil and Telugu, Samantha has often been cast in bilingual films and has juggled her commitments between the Tamil and Telugu film industries. Even though she had a brief foray into Hindi cinema with the shelved Assi Nabbe Poorey Sau, Samantha has distanced herself from working on Hindi language films stating that she has no incentive to move to Bollywood unlike actresses of North Indian origin and that audiences from South India would relate to her appearance more. Her popularity has led to the actress representing several brands on a pan-Indian scale. She has often been cast opposite the same actors more than once, featuring in two or more films with Vijay, Suriya, Dhanush, Naga Chaitanya, Jr NTR and Mahesh Babu, a feat Samantha revealed she takes "pride in". The actress has also regularly appreciated work by her contemporaries, and has in particular praised performances by Anushka Shetty and Nithya Menen.
Samantha has also been involved in a few controversies, primarily as a result of voicing her opinions through Twitter. Following the release of a promotional poster for the Telugu film, 1: Nenokkadine (2014) in December 2013, Samantha criticised the depiction of actress Kriti Sanon crawling behind actor Mahesh Babu on the beach, who looks back at Kriti disapprovingly. Samantha tweeted that the poster was "deeply regressive" and stated that it was offensive by the makers to depict women like animals. The tweet received an adversely storming response from Mahesh Babu's fans, who launched a scathing attack on her online and targeted abuse at the actress. Her opinions were later backed by actor Siddharth and directors Sekhar Kammula and Nandini Reddy, who also resultantly faced similar abuse, before Mahesh Babu apologised. Through her tweets, she was also criticised for revealing actor Akhil's presence in Manam (2014) and retweeting a pirated image from her film 10 Endrathukulla (2015). Her family home in Chennai was raided in late September 2015 by income tax officials, in a planned operation targeting film actors, though the actress and her father denied making any wrongful payments. In 2017, she was appointed as the ambassador for TelanganaHandlooms by the government of Telangana and currently works to promote handloom textiles in the state of Telangana.
Main article: Samantha Akkineni filmography