Nayanthara and Vignesh for HELLO! April 2024 issue© HelloIndia

Lights! Camera! Love: Nayanthara And Vignesh

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Nayare Ali

On a sultry day, team HELLO! descends upon Chennai for their first-ever cover shoot featuring the powerhouse duo of superstar Nayanthara and her director husband, Vignesh Shivan. Despite their status as two of South India’s biggest film personalities, there’s no hint of ego or diva behaviour. Rather, what shines through is the subtle and touching bond between the couple, a genuine display of tenderness that warms the hearts of all who witness it.

Vignesh, a man of few words, holds his partner in high regard. “She does not bring her stardom home,” he observes about Nayanthara, whose long-awaited Bollywood debut alongside Shah Rukh Khan in 2023’s blockbuster Jawan surpassed ₹1,148 crore worldwide. The actress fondly reminisces about her first encounter with her husband on the set of his Tamil film Naanum Rowdy Dhaan in 2015. “We liked each other as people and not the star factor,” she reflects with a smile.

Nearly a decade later, after tying the knot and welcoming twins, the chemistry between them ignites against a backdrop of vibrant bougainvillea trees in the gardens of the Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa in Chennai. Yet, as they share with HELLO!, it’s their deep trust and shared values that keep their bond strong.

How They Went From Sets To Soulmates

Earlier on that Sunday morning, Nayanthara and Vignesh arrived in their ultra-luxurious SUV with their adorable twin boys, Uyir and Ulag, in tow. The boys quickly captured the hearts of everyone present with their playful chatter and energetic antics as they darted around the venue, closely followed by their nannies.

The star, who has experienced remarkable success since her debut in the Malayalam film Manassinakkare at the tender age of 18, is a consummate professional on set, as is her husband too. They swiftly take charge, seamlessly diving into the task of selecting their outfits for the first look, exuding confidence in knowing what works best for them.

Their natural rapport with each other was what initially sparked their relationship. “It was very organic,” recalls Nayanthara of their journey from the sets of Naanum Rowdy Dhaan to becoming a couple.

South superstar Dhanush indirectly played a role in bringing them together. Vignesh, who made his directorial debut with Podaa Podi at the age of 22, reveals, “Dhanush sir made me narrate the story to Nayan. She liked it. Once she came on board, I was able to cast actor Vijay Sethupathy, who was initially not keen to do this film. He was not convinced about the script. But he agreed after Nayan said yes.” There was another upside to this. “The movie paved the way for me to spend a lot of time around her. We got involved within a year.”

The actress reflects on their beginnings, noting that initially, they were testing the waters to see if a relationship could develop and if they were compatible beyond their professional lives. “We just went with the flow. After three months, we both knew that this was it,” she explains.

The Gift Of Parenthood

While the couple wanted to wed soonest, the unpredictable advent of COVID put a spoke in all their well-etched plans. But eventually they did get married, in a grand yet intimate ceremony in Chennai in June 2022. “The moment I think about that phase, it stresses me out. It was too much for us to handle. We couldn’t push the dates; we had done it too many times in the past. We literally planned everything in 10 days,” the actress reflects.

Vignesh was busy with his film release while she was juggling multiple shoots. “It became incredibly hectic, but we felt it was getting delayed for too long, and our families had been waiting for a very, very long time for the wedding,” she shares.

The birth of the two cuties, Uyir and Ulag, has introduced an entirely new dimension to their lives. Utilising a surrogate, the couple on the sets of his directorial film joyfully welcomed their babies home in September of that very year. The director tells HELLO! that he cherishes every moment he gets to spend with his boys. “I was supposed to start a film in 2023, but it didn’t materialise. The twins were just three months old at the time, and I felt disappointed about the movie not taking off. However, I ended up having a six to eight-month gap before my next film started. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I got to spend a lot of time with the babies,” he reveals, jokingly adding, “I can do anything now; I can be a good ‘manny’.”

Nayanthara is equally ecstatic about motherhood, echoing her husband’s sentiments wholeheartedly. “Motherhood has changed me completely. We always wanted to get married and have babies right away, but whatever unfolded was meant to be. We may have certain plans, but God makes the best plans, he decides the timing for everything,” she says philosophically.

Two Halves Of A Whole

The giggling twins toddle over and plop themselves onto their mother’s lap as the actress gets her make-up touched up. In that moment, you witness yet another facet of her: a multitasking mom skillfully dividing her attention throughout the day. “All women are multitaskers,” she says. “We have that in us, and you just need to know your strengths. By birth, we women are capable of doing many things at the same time. Time management is the key and a little bit of discipline.” It also helps to have a supportive partner by her side.

While Nayanthara poses for the camera during her solo shoots, Vignesh steps into the role of the devoted father, chasing after their boys, scooping them up in his arms, and indulging them with warm hugs. He serves as the perfect complement to his wife’s more dominant personality. Like yin and yang, two sides of the same coin, they are unstoppable as a power couple, overseeing two production houses, Rowdy Pixs and Wiki Flix (Vignesh’s nickname is Wiki).

Recently, they’ve also ventured into the beauty industry with their brand 9kin and launched a sanitary brand called Femi9. Nayanthara reveals they make business decisions together. “If we are both on the same page regarding a product or brand, we then move forward with it. After that, Vignesh takes over the business part as I don’t understand it. He is extremely good with numbers and identifying brands. I focus on the aesthetics and decide how to position the brand,” she says. Her husband concurs, adding, “We make joint decisions together.”

As Vignesh watches his wife from the sidelines, we ask him what makes this marriage between the actress and the director work. He believes their shared roots and similar family backgrounds — both being first-generation film people and outsiders in the industry — have played a significant role. “I had a huge respect for Nayan. She has been a superstar from her first film. My film Naanum Rowdy Dhaan happened because she came on board,” he says.

Initially, when theirs was strictly a professional association, he was awestruck by her dedication. “It is very inspiring. Even her aura on set is unmatched,” he says, his admiration evident in his voice.

Leading Lady, On Sets And Off

In the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, where it’s customary to bestow grand titles upon popular icons, Nayanthara is respectfully referred to as Thalaivi (leader), a term previously reserved for the late former Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa.

Ironically, the actress has also been hailed as the female Shah Rukh Khan in South India, boasting over 70 films to her credit. She laughs at the comparison, but clearly has good memories of her shoot days with the Bollywood superstar. “My friend Atlee, the director of the film, is like family to me. One day he called and asked if I would do Jawan,” she recalls.

The actress, who demonstrated her proficiency in multiple languages with consecutive hits in films like Ayya (Tamil) in 2005 and Lakshmi (Telugu) in 2006, had long harboured plans to venture into Bollywood.

However, she was patiently awaiting the right opportunity to present itself. “I was looking for a film like Jawan which is a commercial venture with a huge star. At the same time, I was also keen on a meaty role where I get to kick some ass,” she shares.

Admittedly, SRK was the big draw. “Who is not his fan? We have all grown up watching his films and we all love them. Apart from being the huge star that he is, I really admire the fact that he respects women a lot,” she says.

If you expect the actress to exhibit unbridled enthusiasm at the film’s extraordinary success, you’re in for a surprise. Nayanthara remains unfazed by the phenomenal box office numbers.

“I was pretty sure that Jawan would create a huge impact. After working so many years in the industry you know when a film is going to work and vice versa,” she explains.

It’s All Destiny And Blessings

As the day draws to a close, it’s time for the final shot, against the backdrop of the almost setting sun with the soothing sounds of the sea waves in the background. The atmosphere is romantic, and the mood is serene. Nayanthara swiftly settles herself on Vignesh’s lap, and being the gentleman husband, he patiently poses with his leg supporting her for the duration of the shot, his arm protectively wrapped around her waist. After the shoot, he assists her in navigating the rocky path.

Reflecting on their union, Vignesh says, “It’s all destiny and blessings.” There was a time when the duo simply enjoyed sitting together and watching movies. “Now, with the babies, we can’t even remember our lives before. Life feels so complete,” he adds with a contented smile.

As for the year ahead, there’s a lot in store. Nayanthara, who is superstitious about attracting the evil eye, prefers not to discuss her various projects. Vignesh, becoming more talkative as the interview winds down, shares, “We are working hard to consistently give time to our various verticals that have grown over the last three years. We have a lot of people working with us, which enables us to accomplish so much.” Both of them aspire for a peaceful, prosperous and joyful year ahead, hoping to spend more time with their family.

Don’t we all yearn for the same? Clearly, stars are no different from us ordinary mortals. And we hope all their dreams come true.

Photos: Prabhat Shetty; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair: Archana Rubesh; Make-Up: Prakruti Anath; Location Courtesy: Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa, Chennai

This article has been adapted for the website from the April 2024 cover story. Grab your copies here.