Samantha Akkineni: Star of the decade

Hyderabad: I woke up to a few posts on Twitter hailing 2019 as a phenomenal year for Samantha Akkineni and that she deserves all the awards next year. There’s no denying that fact. With films such as Super Deluxe, Majili and Oh! Baby showing her versatility in all its glory, 2019 has been good to her. However, that’s the thing with this talented star; she makes us reflect on almost every year gone past just the same way. Now that I think of it, at the end of 2018, I was in awe of the variety of roles she did that year with Rangasthalam, Mahanati, Irumbu Thirai, Seema Raja and U-Turn. Each one brought out the best in her.

I decided to go back and see what things have been like for her over the years and if there was even one year of her career calendar that I could point to like the one in which she “couldn’t hit the bull’s eye”. Ever since she made her debut in 2010 with Ye Maaya Chesave, she has managed a definite WOW act every year.

If 2010 was Ye Maaya Chesave, 2011 saw Dookudu, and 2012 confused me between Eega and Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu. Meanwhile, 2013 surely has Attarintiki Daaredi as the winner despite Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu being a serious contender. Manam and Thanga Magan were her trophies in 2014 and 2015. It’s not hard to give A Aa credit for making 2016 the one to look back to. On the other hand, 2017 is probably a year that didn’t do much for her despite an impressive performance in Raju Gari Gadhi 2. Finally, 2018 and 2019 have been by far her best so far as releases are concerned.

While some may not entirely agree with a few of the above choices, I loved her in each of the films. Dookudu and Attarintiki Daaredi are those in which she deserved better roles, but who’s to say that she didn’t do a good job? Moreover, that’s the beauty of art; people don’t have to agree on things because everyone has their view of what works. Therefore, this write-up is my thoughts alone.

Talking of which, as we end not just another year but a decade altogether, I have contemplated a lot and feel it’s safe to state that the best female actor in these ten years is Samantha Akkineni. After all, no one in South Indian cinema defines this decade like she does, especially since she began her journey right at the start of it. Here’s a brief lowdown on how things panned out for her over the years.

The graph

Surely, practice makes people perfect. However, one might say that practice has taken Samantha to an exceptional level of expertise. Because the way she portrayed Shravani in Majili would not have been an easy task for Samantha of the Ye Maaya Chesave days. Maybe she’d have pulled it off, but not with such brilliance.

It does surprise me sometimes as to why she takes up minuscule roles such as the one in Mersal and Janatha Garage, where she gives so much even in the little space she gets. On the other hand, her role in S/o Sathyamurthy seems to be a bit more of an accessory in a broader story that has not much to do with her. Then it’s imperative to understand that these films made it possible for her to reach a more general audience that now recognises her well that she can score a hit like Oh! Baby on her merit.

Her style

However, Samantha isn’t just all-acting talent. Her hard work translates into the effort she puts in to look presentable and to be ahead of her contemporaries when it comes to fashion. Chic yet creative, Samantha was probably one of the few actresses to introduce the Telugu audiences of the concept of a stylist. Interestingly, she consciously tries to pursue fashion, and we hear that she tries to make sustainable choices as often as possible, which is such a responsible thing for a star to do.

Charity

Samantha’s responsibility is way beyond doing things for herself. She runs a charity — Pratyusha Support — that has been actively working towards underprivileged children’s welfare since 2014. Conducting free medical camps for child vaccination, blood donation, awareness and regular check-ups alongside helping financially backward families with assistance, the organisation has earned a name for being a big help to several kids.

The marriage jinx

When Samantha’s engagement to actor Naga Chaitanya was announced, I remember reading a lot of articles talking about how offers are drying up for the star and that she may not do much after the wedding.

However, it’s exciting to note that Samantha has done some of her best works post marriage. It feels like she has become fearless of sorts when it comes to her decisions and is not hesitating to make choices that will challenge her.

It was only last week that I was raving to a friend that I am amazed by how well she’s doing post-marriage and that it’s a success in itself. Some people have pointed out to me that stating this would make me sound like a sexist gossip website that makes a big deal about an actress’ marriage. On the contrary, I think what Samantha has managed is something that wasn’t achieved in recent times in South Indian cinema, primarily because married actresses are often limited and pushed to a specific category of roles. I firmly believe that she is not just an achiever but also the harbinger of change in public opinion.

Owning the decade

It’s quite a statement to make when one calls her a star of the decade. To be fair, there may have been many who arrived before her and survived the hard blows just like she did. Many have come after her too. However, the period of 2010-2019 belongs only to Samantha, the talented, stylish and charitable woman who’s not letting anything stop her.

Pranita Jonnalagedda

A features journalist who started writing because of her love for newspapers, Pranita Jonnalagedda is now exploring the digital space where she writes extensively on Telugu cinema. After fulfilling a childhood dream of working in the newspapers with brief stints in The Times of India and The Deccan Chronicle, Pranita is now a freelancing journalist who has contributed to several leading news portals like Film Companion, The News Minute, DNA, Telugu 360 and The Hans India among several others. Exploring her joint love for films and writing, she covers cinema in a holistic style and covers all the related trends, news, and fashion developments. An alumnus of Osmania University College of Arts and Social Sciences from where she pursued her Post Graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism, she is travel blogging when she isn't writing.

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