Samantha Akkineni (née Ruth Prabhu) born on 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), Mersal (2017), and Rangasthalam (2018) 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 Telugu father and a Malayali mother from Alappuzha, Kerala, 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, she has cited herself as a Tamilian. 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.
Samantha Akkineni Career
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 Malayali Saint 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 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.
In 2018, she had a successful venture with Rangasthalam which went on to be the all-time Telugu Blockbuster only behind Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Baahubali: The Beginning. The Tamil film Irumbu Thirai in which she starred opposite Vishal and the Telugu-Tamil bilingual Mahanati were successful at the box-office and each had a run of 100 days at the box office. Her performances in Rangasthalam and Mahanati were highly praised. She also acted in the critically acclaimed film U Turn and the comedy film Seemaraja which had decent successes at the box office.
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 in Goa as per traditional Hindu customs on 6 October 2017 and then by Christian customs on 7 October 2017.
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 Telangana Handlooms by the government of Telangana and currently works to promote handloom textiles in the state of Telangana.
- Samantha Akkineni Biography (Wikipedia)