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Better known by her stage name Priyamani (born 4 June 1984), is an Indian film actress and model, who appears mainly in South Indian cinema. She is best known for earning a National Film Award for Best Actress for her role as Muththazhagu in the 2006 Tamil film Paruthi Veeran and for her role as Malavika in the 2008 Malayalam film Thirakkatha, for which she won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. After her commercial successes in Kannada films like Raam, Ko Ko, Anna Bond and Only Vishnuvardhana, she established herself as a leading contemporary actress in Kannada cinema.
Priyamani was born in Palakkad, Kerala to Vasudeva Mani and Latha Mani. She grew up in Bangalore. After completing her schooling, Priyamani modeled for print advertisements. As a result of her extended modeling, she began to earn opportunities to star in films. After being approached by several directors and being considered, she finally starred in director Bharathiraja's Kangalal Kaidhu Sei, which was released in 2004.
She is currently pursuing a degree in B.A. in psychology. Bollywood actress Vidya Balan is her cousin.
After three years in search of a film that would get her noticed, Priyamani managed to prove her acting credentials and commercial appeal with 2007's Paruthiveeran, directed by the Tamil director Ameer Sultan, in which she was paired with debutant Karthi Sivakumar. A rural subject which told the story of a notorious young villager in Madurai, the film won tremendous critical acclaim and became a surprise box-office blockbuster. Priyamani's performance was unanimously praised: Indiaglitz cited "utterly cool and convincing" while another critic said "Priya Mani steals the show with her spontaneity and authenticity." She went on to win the National Film Award, followed by a South Filmfare Award, a Tamil Nadu State Film Award and an award at the Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema. She had another blockbuster in Telugu, opposite Jr. NTR in the 2007 film Yamadonga and opposite Vishal in the Tamil film Malaikottai. She again received critical acclaim in 2008 for her role in the Malayalam film Thirakkatha, in which she played a role based on the turbulent real-life story of late film actress Srividya. She won another Filmfare Award for her performance. In Tamil, she had only single release in 2008: Thotta where she played a glamourous role for the first time.
In 2009 she had two Tamil releases, the masala film Arumugam and the remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Classmates, titled Ninaithale Inikkum, in which she was paired for the third time with Prithviraj. The former was a commercial failure, while the latter was considered a moderate success. Her Kannada debut opposite actor Puneet Rajkumar in Raam was also a commercial success. All three of her Telugu releases that year, however, did not do well at the box office. In 2010 she acted opposite Mammootty in the satirical film Pranchiyettan & the Saint which became the longest-running Malayalam film since 2005. She won a Filmfare nomination for her role as a Mumbai-based interior decorator in the film.
She was subsequently signed by director Mani Ratnam for his bilingual film, titled Raavanan and Raavan in Tamil and Hindi respectively. Soon after, she was roped in by Bollywood director-producer Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) for his big-budget trilingual film Rakht Charitra starring Vivek Oberoi and Suriya Sivakumar. RGV decided to cast her after seeing her National Award-winning performance in Paruthiveeran. Her Kannada movie Only Vishnuvardhana with Sudeep became a blockbuster and later she starred in Anna Bond with Puneeth Rajkumar.