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Saranya Ponvannan (born April 1970), also known as Sheela Christina Raj, 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. After her marriage in 1995, she refused to take up any film offers. Following an eight-year sabbatical, she made comeback in 2003 as a character artiste, playing supporting roles, particularly playing mother roles lead artists.[2]

Saranya Ponvannan
Saranya Ponvannan at Saivam Audio Launch.jpg
Born Sheela Christina Raj[1]
(1970-04-25) 25 April 1970 (age 48)
Allappuzha, Kerala, India
Residence Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actress, Model, Fashion Designer, Playback Singer, Director of "DSOFT"
Years active 1987–1996
Spouse(s) Ponvannan (m. 1995–present)
Parent(s) A. B. Raj (Father)



Early Career (1987-1996)

Saranya made her Tamil debut in Mani Ratnam's Godfatheresque production, Nayakan opposite Kamal Haasan in 1987, in which she performed the lead female character. The film, which went on to become a huge success. She made her Telugu debut through 1988 film "Neerajanam". Subsequently, she debuted Malayalam through 1989 film Artham starring opposite Mamooty. In 1996 almost during the end of her career as a lead actress she debuted in Kannada cinema through Appaji. It must be noted that in her early career she turned down several film offers owing to glamorous roles, which ultimately lead to loss of many film offers.

Television Career

After marriage in 1995, she refused to take up any film offers. In 2000, however, she was offered the lead role in the comedy television series, Veettukku Veedu Lootty, which she has accepted. Subsequently, she decided to accept some good offers, enacting supporting roles.[3] She then appeared in another seriel named Mugangal, a family-drama in 2006 which aired in Sun TV.

Comeback and Success

After a long break from acting she made a comeback in 2003 Tamil film Alai opposite to 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.[4]

Critical Acclaim

Her performance as Veerayi, a widowed mother torn between love and possessiveness, in the 2010 film Thenmerku Paruvakaatru – incidentally her 100th release – ultimately fetched 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 2014, she was the only actress to be paid the highest salary for playing mother roles in south Indian film industry. Apart from her usual mother roles, she has also played a negative role in the film Achamindri (2016). She has made her mark as the Amma of Kollywood, predominantly playing mother roles with élan.

Present Career (2017–present)

In 2017, She only had three releases. First, she starred in the sequel of 2014 Tamil film Velaiyilla Pattathari. She respired the role of Bhuvana, but this time, an extended cameo appearance. Her role died in the first sequel of the film. Yet the filmmakers made her appear in this film, because of her part in the former's success. Her second venture was with Vishnu Vishal in the film Katha Nayagan. She played the mother role of Vishnu Vishal. In 2017 she starred in Magalir Mattum, women-centric film, in which she played the lead role alongside Jyothika, Oorvasi and Bhanupriya. In 2018, she was first seen in comedy-family drama Mannar Vagaiyara as Vemal's mother. Her humour was much received in the film. Her long-delayed project Itly was also released and opened to negative reviews. Later she was seen in Vijay Sethupathi's Junga and Nayanthara's Kolamavu Kokila as the mother of Kokila who was affected by lung cancer and accompany her daughters in smuggling cocaine. Her upcoming films include 1 Malayalam and 3 Tamil movies. She signed a Malayalam movie after a break of 10 years. Recently, she signed to respire the role of Lakshmi in the sequel of 'Kalavani'.

Personal lifeEdit

Saranya is the daughter of famous Malayalam film director A. B. Raj who had directed over 75 films starring big stars. He had also directed 2 Tamil films.[6] She is married to actor-director Ponvannan in 1995. The couple has 2 daughters - Priyadharshini and Chandhini.


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


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 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 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 Mrs.Thiruppathi/Arul 's sister Tamil
Adhu Meera's mother Tamil
Meesai Madhavan Tamil
Ramakrishna Tamil
Varnajalam Abhirami's Mother 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 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 Indhiran's mother 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 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
The Villain Kannada
Oru Kuprasidha Payyan Malayalam Filming
Kalavani 2 Lakshmi Tamil Filming

As playback singerEdit

Year Film Song Language Composer Note
2014 Ennamo Nadakkudhu Meesa Kokku Tamil Premgi Amaren Debut as Singer[8]
2017 Magalir Mattum Time Passukkosaram Tamil Ghibran Also lead actor[9]

Designing careerEdit

In 2014, she launched Design & School of Fashion Technology (DSOFT), a fashion institute at Virugamakkam, Chennai at her residence. In most of her interviews, she said that designing was her passion. She herself trained a number of students and housewives. She always told that all women must be self-supportive and independent of their actions.[citation needed]


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


  1. ^ "Distinguished Alumnae", WCC 
  2. ^ "Today's mothers are young: Saranya". The Times Of India. 7 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "Back into form with a bang". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  4. ^ "An actress who plays her roles with aplomb". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 15 December 2005. 
  5. ^ "Best actor – female: Saranya Ponvannan takes it in her stride – The Times of India". The Times Of India. 
  6. ^ "National Film Awards: Malayalam film `Adaminte Makan Abu' Best feature film, Salim Kumar Best actor". Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  7. ^ "Nominees of Idea Filmfare Awards South". IndiaGlitz. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Rinku, Gupta (25 October 2013). "Saranya croons for Ennamo Nadakuthu". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  9. ^ quintdaily (11 August 2017). "VIP 2 Review: Velaiilla Pattadhari 2 Theatrical Response & Rating – QuintDaily". 

External linksEdit