Kanika (Kaniha) – the Spirit of Southern Cinema
Divya Venkatasubramaniam born 3 July 1982 , best known by her stage name Kanika (known in Malayalam film industry as Kaniha), is an Indian film actress, occasional dubbing artist, playback singer, and TV anchor. Making her debut in the 2002 Tamil film Five Star, she went on to work in other South Indian film industries, including Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada, as well. She is perhaps best known for her performances as Eashwari in her debut film Five Star, Gayathri in Varalaru – History of Godfather and Thenmozhi in Autograph. She made waves in the Malayalam film industry with back to back successful films Bhagyadevatha and Pazhassi Raja.
Divya was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India as the second daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Venkat Subramanian, both engineers. She studied at TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Madurai and also won accolades including the Tamil Nadu State Award for Educational Excellence in 1999.[ She then got admitted on merit to BITS (“Birla Institute of Technology and Science”), in Pilani, Rajasthan, from where she graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in high colours.
Having developed her singing talents from her childhood, by participating in pop music and light music shows, Divya was interested in singing and related performing arts. While she was still studying, she gave stage performances as a pop singer from time to time. When she was supposed to perform at the Miss Chennai event, a beauty pageant contest, in 2001, she got to participate at the contest, after a model had backed out at the last moment. Despite lack of experience, she emerged victorious at that contest, which would later pave her the way for a film career.
Susi Ganesan spotted her on a magazine cover page and insisted on her performing the lead female role in his second feature film. Divya eventually entered the Film industry, accepting the offer, while her name was changed to Kanika. Her debut film was the Mani Ratnam-produced Five Star (2002) with Prasanna, who made his acting debut as well, in which Kaniha portrayed a traditional village girl. She completed the entire film during her summer holidays, since she was a student.
Kanika turned down all projects that were subsequently offered to her, including films by S. Shankar and P. C. Sreeram, and went on to complete her graduation. Even before she finished her graduation, she completed her Telugu debut film Ottessi Chepputunna during her winter vacations, acting under another stage name Sravanthi. In regard to her performance, Idlebrain wrote: “Sravanthy looks homely in the film and suited the character. She performed well. She is good at dances as well”.
After completing her studies, Kanika decided to give herself a go at the Tinsel towns. She starred in the Kannada film Annavaru (2004), a remake of Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathi (1991), stepping into Kannada filmdom, too. She followed the movie with a neat, cameo role in Cheran’s Autograph, earning critical acclaim. Kanika next appeared in a comedy oriented role in a commercial film by K. S. Ravikumar, Aethiree along with Madhavan, Sada, in which she portrayed as a “naughty Brahmin girl”. Sify labelled her performance in the film as “outstanding”. She went on to play the female lead in Dancer opposite physically disabled Kutty, following which she returned to Telugu cinema, accepting to reprise her role in the Telugu remake of Autograph, Naa Autograph, playing the same role as in the original version. She proved to be an actress to reckon with in the Kannada film Sye, a remake of Tamil film Dhill. She finally ventured into Malayalam cinema as the heroine for the campus-based film Ennitum.
Later in 2006, she appeared in her biggest project till then, Varalaru, directed again by K. S. Ravikumar, in which she shared screen space with Ajith Kumar and Asin. She won plaudits for her role as a mentally disorded girl. After a two-years gap, her most recent Kannada film Rajakumari opposite Ravichandran got released, in which she again got to play the female lead role.
After her marriage, when she was supposed to have bid adieu to the film industry, Kaniha returned to the Malayalam cinema in 2009, with the films Bhagyadevatha, directed by veteran Sathyan Anthikkad and starring Jayaram and Narain as well, and Pazhassi Raja, directed by reputed director Hariharan and starring Mammootty, Sarath Kumar and Padmapriya among others. While the former one, in which she played the role of a homely Christian girl, was highly successful at the box office, the latter one, a biopic magnum opus historical film, in which she played the role of a queen opposite Mammootty. Pazhassi Raja is being considered the highest-grosser in the Malayalam film industry. Her performance in Bhagyadevatha led to her winning several awards. Her rising adulation in the Malayalam industry saw her eventually sign laudable roles in the film My Big Father and Christian Brothers before she took a maternity break.
Besides acting, Kanika has ventured into other fields as well, working as a dubbing artiste, playback singer and TV host, proving to be a versatile and talented person.
Even at the prime of her career, Kanika moved to “small screen”, hosting a couple of TV shows, which she believed were a “refreshing change from movies”. She had first hosted the second season of the popular comedy show Kalakka Povathu Yaaru on STAR Vijay in 2006, following which she had hosted the popular family based game show Mega Thanga Vettai, the annual Chutti Vikatan Children’s Quiz Show both on Sun TV. Besides, she also essayed a lead role in the television serial Thiruvilayadal on Sun TV.
Dubbing and Singing
Kanika’s sweet voice and perfect Tamil pronunciation made possible her venture into playback singing and dubbing. Having a vast experience and being a professional singer before turning actress, Kanika got the offer to sing the theme song of her debut film Five Star. She then turned dubbing artiste, dubbing for actresses Genelia D’Souza in Sachein, Sadha in Anniyan and Shriya Saran in Sivaji: The Boss.
Kanika has also featured in print and TV ads of some reputed corporates. Some of them are listed below.
The Chennai Silks
Kalyan Sarees and Jewellers
Rathna Thanga Maligai
Tata Gold Plus
SPP Silks, Erode
On 15 June 2008, Kanika married Shyam Radhakrishnan, a US-based software engineer. Initially she had decided to leave the film industry, finishing her career as an actress, and to settle down in the US, stating that she, however, would complete her hitherto signed films. In January 2009 then, Kanika, unexpectedly, announced her comeback with the Sathyan Anthikkad-directed Malayalam film Bhagyadevatha. She was blessed with a son, Sai Rishi in November 2010.
2009 Asianet Film Awards, Special Jury Award – Bhagyadevatha / Pazhassi Raja
2009 Annual Malayalam Movie Awards, Best Actress – Bhagyadevatha / Pazhassi Raja
2009 Kerala Film Critics Association’s Atlas Film Critics Award, Best Actress – Bhagyadevatha
2012-Vanitha film award,Best second actress-bavuttiyude namatil