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Saranya Ponvannan (born April 1970), also known as Sheela Christina Raj[1], is a popular South Indian film actress who has predominantly appeared in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam language films and a few Kannada language films. Saranya made her debut in a lead role in Mani Ratnam's Nayakan (1987) and went on to play lead roles from 1987-1996. Following an eight-year sabbatical, she returned to films as a character actor, specializing in "mother of the hero" roles.

Saranya Ponvannan
Saranya Ponvannan at Saivam Audio Launch.jpg
Sheela Christina Raj

(1970-04-25) 25 April 1970 (age 48)
ResidenceChennai, Tamil Nadu
OccupationActress, Model, Fashion Designer, Playback Singer, Director of "DSOFT"
Years active1987–1996
Spouse(s)Ponvannan (m. 1995–present)
Parent(s)A. B. Raj (Father)




Saranya made her Tamil debut in Mani Ratnam's production Nayakan, as the female lead opposite Kamal Haasan in 1987.[2][3] She made her first Telugu appearance in 1988 film Neerajanam; her Malayalam debut was a year later in the 1989 film Artham starring opposite Mamooty.[4] In 1996 almost during the end of her career as a lead actress she debuted in Kannada cinema in Appaji.

Television workEdit

After marriage in 1995, she semi retired from acting. In 2000 she appeared playing the lead role in the comedy television series, Veettukku Veedu Lootty, and subsequently accepted some supporting roles in other projects.[2] During 2006 she appeared in family-drama serial Mugangal, which aired on Sun TV.

Comeback and critical acclaimEdit

After a break from films she made a comeback in 2003 Tamil film Alai opposite Raghuvaran as Silambarasan 's mother. Since then she has appeared in many films in supporting roles most notably Raam, Thavamai Thavamirundhu and Em Magan in the mid-2000s.[3]

Her performance as Veerayi, a widowed mother torn between love and possessiveness, in the 2010 film Thenmerku Paruvakaatru – her 100th release – earned her the National Film Award for Best Actress.[5] Her major breakthrough was 2005 Tamil film Thavamai Thavamirundhu after which she established herself as a prominent and leading actress in South India. As of 2017, she was one of the highest paid character actresses in the south Indian film industry.[5]

In 2014, she launched Design & School of Fashion Technology (DSOFT), a fashion institute at Virugamakkam, Chennai.[6][7]

She has also played the role of villain in Achamindri (2016).[8][9]


In 2017, she had only three releases. She starred in the sequel of 2014 Tamil film Velaiyilla Pattathari, reprising the role of Bhuvana, in an extended cameo appearance. The character had died in the original film, but the filmmakers wanted her to appear in the sequel, because of her part in the former's success. Her second venture was with Vishnu Vishal in the film Katha Nayagan, playing the mother of Vishnu Vishal.[10] Later she starred in Magalir Mattum, a women-centric film, in which she played alongside Jyothika, Oorvasi and Bhanupriya.[11]

In 2018, she was first seen in comedy-family drama Mannar Vagaiyara as Vemal's mother; her comedy timing was well received, however Itly was released and opened to negative reviews.[12] Later she was seen in Vijay Sethupathi's Junga and Nayanthara's Kolamavu Kokila as the mother of Kokila[4] who although affected by lung cancer, assists her daughter in smuggling cocaine. She signed to reprise the role of Lakshmi in Kalavani 2.

She took on the role of Vishalavva, mother to Shiva Rajkumar's character in Kannada movie The Villian directed by Prem in 2018.

Personal lifeEdit

Saranya is the daughter of Malayalam film director A. B. Raj[13] who directed over 75 films and a Tamil mother. She married actor-director Ponvannan in 1995,[14] and the couple have two daughters.


National Film Awards
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
Filmfare Awards
South Indian International Movie Awards
  • 2013 – Winner—Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Neerparavai
  • 2014 – Nominated–Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Kutti Puli
  • 2015 – Winner—Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Velaiyilla Pattathari
Ananda Vikatan Awards
Vijay Awards
Norway Tamil Film Festival Awards
Edison Awards
JFW Awards
  • 2014 - Women Achiever of the year
JFW Movie Awards


Year Film Role Language Notes
1987 Nayakan Neela Tamil Debut film
1988 Manasukkul Mathappu Dr.Geetha Tamil
En Jeevan Paduthu Narmada Tamil
Neerajanam Jaya Telugu
Melam Kottu Thaali Kattu Tamil
Sivapputhaali Keerthana Tamil
Dhaayam Onnu Tamil
1989 Andru Peytha Mazhaiyil Preethi Tamil
Sagalakala Sammandhi Uma Tamil
Karunguyil Kundram Tamil
Artham Manasa Malayalam
1990 Anjali Dr. Sheela Tamil
Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaga Tamil
1991 Vanakkam Vathiyare Sundari Tamil
Aakasha Kottayile Sultan Mallika Malayalam
Cheppukilukkana Changathi Manikutty Malayalam
Naan Pudicha Mappillai Tamil
Aanaval Mothiram Annie Malayalam
Ennum Nanmakal Indu Malayalam
1992 Agni Paarvai Seetha Tamil
Kottai Vaasal Rekha Tamil
Sahasam Rekha Telugu
1993 Dasarathan Tamil
Magrib Aarifa Malayalam
Journalist Ranjini Malayalam
Ente Sreekuttikku Nandhini Malayalam
Injakkadan Mathai & Sons Beena Malayalam
1994 Karuththamma Ponnatha Tamil
Dollar Lusie Malayalam
Seevalaperi Pandi Velammal Tamil
1995 Pasumpon Malar Tamil
1996 Meendum Savithri Uma Tamil
Appaji Kannada Debut film
Easwaramoorthy IN Lathika Malayalam
2003 Alai Nirmala Tamil
Chantigadu Telugu
2004 Chatrapathy Saravanan's sister Tamil
Arul Arul 's sister Tamil
Adhu Meera's mother Tamil
Meesai Madhavan Devi Tamil
Ramakrishna Tamil
Varnajalam Karthiga Tamil
2005 Ayodhya Jameela Tamil
Raam Saradha Tamil
Sivakasi Kayalvizhi Tamil
Thavamai Thavamirundhu Saradha Muthiah Tamil Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Tamil
Oru Naal Oru Kanavu Meera Tamil
2006 Em Magan Selvi Tamil Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress – Tamil
Tamil Nadu State Film Best Supporting Actress Award
Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam Thiru's mother Tamil
Adaikalam Kasthuri Tamil
Rakhi Charmee's Mother Telugu
2007 Thirumagan Jayakodi Tamil
Jagadam Telugu
Kireedam Rajeshwari Tamil
Pirappu Kaliamman Tamil
Vel Velu's & Vasu's Mother Tamil
Puli Varudhu Ramesh's Mother Tamil
2008 Pidichirukku Stella Tamil
Nenjadhai Killadhe Tamil
Singakutty Tamil
Vilaiyattu Tamil
Kuruvi Devi's sister-in-law /Koccha's Wife Tamil
Pandi Sivagami Tamil
Thenavattu Vazhuvanthal Tamil
Dindigul Sarathy Saradha Tamil
Ready Telugu
Ini Varum Kaalam Tamil
2009 Yavarum Nalam Manohar's Mother Tamil
Colours Dr. Rajalakshmi Malayalam
2010 Police Quarters Jayamma Kannada
Bayam Ariyaan Saraswathi Tamil
Pulliman Yashoda Panicker Malayalam
Kalavani Lakshmi Ramasamy Tamil Ananda Vikatan Awards for Best Supporting Actress
Guru Sishyan Mahalakshmi Tamil
Magane En Marumagane Ponnarasi's Mother Tamil
Thambikku Indha Ooru Mrs.Kumaraswamy Tamil
Vedam Padma Telugu
Puli Puli's mother Telugu Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Telugu
Naane Ennul Illai Janaki Tamil
Thenmerku Paruvakaatru Veerayi Tamil National Film Award for Best Actress
Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actress
Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Tamil
Norway Tamil Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
Edison Award for Best Supporting Actress
2011 Muthukku Muthaaga Pechi Tamil
Vaanam Lakshmi Tamil
Sadhurangam Tamil
Maharaja Seetha Tamil
2012 Oru Kal Oru Kannadi Shenbagam Tamil Norway Tamil Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Tamil
Nominated, Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actress
Chaarulatha Chaaru & Latha's Mother Tamil
Thaandavam Sivakumar's Mother Tamil
Neerparavai Mary Tamil Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Tamil
SIIMA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
2013 Vatthikuchi Sakthi's mother Tamil
Kutti Puli Deivanai Tamil Nominated, SIIMA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
All in All Azhagu Raja Meenakshi Tamil
2014 Idhu Kathirvelan Kadhal Yasothammal Tamil
Naan Sigappu Manithan Sumathi Tamil
Ennamo Nadakkudhu Vijay's mother Tamil Ananda Vikatan Awards for Best Supporting Actress
Manam Seetharamudu's mother Telugu
Pappali Tamil
Velaiyilla Pattathari Bhuvana Tamil SIIMA for Best Supporting Actress Tamil
Ananda Vikatan Awards for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Tamil
Nominated, Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated, Norway Tamil Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
2016 Bangalore Naatkal Kannan's mother Tamil
24 Sathyabhama Tamil
Brahmotsavam Ajay's Aunt Telugu
Remo Siva's & Remo's mother Tamil
Kodi Kodi's & Anbu's mother Tamil Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress - Tamil
Achamindri Rajalakhsmi Tamil
2017 Velaiyilla Pattathari 2 Bhuvana Tamil - Telugu (Bilingual) Extended Cameo
Katha Nayagan Thambidurai's mother Tamil
Magalir Mattum Subbulakshmi Tamil
2018 Mannar Vagaiyara Kalaiyarasi Tamil
Itly Inba Tamil Lead role
Junga Junga's mother/ Don amma Tamil
Marainthirunthu Paarkum Marmam Enna Japan's mother Tamil
Kolamavu Kokila Kokila's mother Tamil JFW Movie Awards Best Supporting Actress for Kolamavu Kokila
The Villain Vishalkshiavva Kannada
Oru Kuprasidha Payyan Chembammal Malayalam
2019 Kalavani 2 Lakshmi Tamil Completed
Kallapart TBA Tamil Completed
Gang Leader(2019) (Vikram Kumar film) TBA Telugu Pre-Production

As playback singerEdit

Year Film Song Language Composer Note
2014 Ennamo Nadakkudhu Meesa Kokku Tamil Premgi Amaren Debut as Singer[17]
2017 Magalir Mattum Time Passukkosaram Tamil Ghibran Also lead actor[18]


Year Television series Channel Role
2000-2003 Veetuku Veedu Looty Jaya TV Lead role
2006-2007 Mugangal Sun TV Lead role


  1. ^ "Distinguished Alumnae". Womens Christian College. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Back into form with a bang". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b Ashok Kumar, S.R. (15 December 2005). "An actress who plays her roles with aplomb". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Nair, Vidya (14 October 2018). "Screen-mother to Superstar". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Best actor – female: Saranya Ponvannan takes it in her stride – The Times of India". The Times Of India. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  6. ^ Subhakeerthana, S (14 May 2018). "Saranya Ponvannan: Nobody calls me 'madam' on the sets, I'm always their 'Amma'". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  7. ^ Anantharam, Chitra Deepa (16 October 2017). "Meet the multi-talented Amma". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  8. ^ Krishnakumar, Ranjani (13 August 2018). "Ms. En Scene: In Praise Of Saranya Ponvannan, The Mother That I Never Had". Silverscreen. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  9. ^ Subramamian, Anupama (23 December 2016). "Saranya Ponvannan: From adorable mom to angry woman". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Kathanayagan review: This Vishnu Vishal film produces intermittent smiles rather than laughs". The Indian Express. 9 September 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  11. ^ Kumar, Karthik (14 September 2017). "Magalir Mattum movie review: Not without flaws but a film made with a lot of heart". Hindustan times. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  12. ^ Subramanian, Anupama (30 June 2018). "Itly movie review: Potential riotous laugh let down by weak writing". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  13. ^ "National Film Awards: Malayalam film `Adaminte Makan Abu' Best feature film, Salim Kumar Best actor". Malayalam Movies. 11 June 2011. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  14. ^ "'I never expected the National Award'". Rediff. 21 June 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Nominees of Idea Filmfare Awards South". IndiaGlitz. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  16. ^ Dhananjayan, G (2014). PRIDE OF TAMIL CINEMA: 1931 TO 2013. Chennai: Blue Ocean Publishers. p. 511. ISBN 9789384301057.
  17. ^ Rinku, Gupta (25 October 2013). "Saranya croons for Ennamo Nadakuthu". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  18. ^ quintdaily (11 August 2017). "VIP 2 Review: Velaiilla Pattadhari 2 Theatrical Response & Rating – QuintDaily".

External linksEdit