Soundarya Raghu (born Sowmya Satyanarayan) (18 July 1972 – 17 April 2004) was an Indian film actress and producer known for her works predominantly in Telugu cinema. She was also starred in few Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, and Bollywood films in lead roles.
In 2002, she has received the National Film Award for Best Feature Film as producer for the Kannada film, Dweepa. She received two Karnataka State Film Awards for Best Actress, several Filmfare Awards South, and the Nandi Awards, for her performances in films, such as Ammoru (1994), Anthapuram (1998), Raja (1999), Dweepa (2002), Aaptamitra (2004).During the peak of her career, Soundarya died in an aircraft crash near Bangalore on April 17, 2004 when she was on her way to Andhra Pradesh to campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Soundarya, was born to industrialist, and Kannada film writer K. S. Satyanarayan in Kolar, Karnataka, India. She discontinued her M.B.B.S., and then married to G. S. Raghu, who is a Software Engineer. She had wide popularity and tremendous goodwill among Andhra pradesh and Telangana and probably the most successful actress after Savitri in the history of telugu cinema and is often called “Savitri of modern telugu cinema”.She died in the 2004 aircraft crash, which happened in Bangalore, during an election campaign.
Soundarya is regarded as the second most populous heroine in the 80 year old history of Telugu cinema only to stand after Mahanati Savitri. She is a versatile actress of her time with strictly No-glamour show, the strong, positive and responsible characters she enacted in each of her movies. These unique features worked out completely in her favor and stroked a chord with wide base of audience and earned her immense popularity in the state of Andhra Pradesh (undivided state). She took a light-stand on glamour and preferred performance oriented roles throughout her career and had done 102 telugu movies besides 20 another kannada, tamil and malayalam movies. Her brilliant performances made her a critically and commercially the successful heroine in modern times. Telugu Superstar Venkatesh once described her as “She is a thorough actress”.The legendary Akkineni Nageshwara Rao regarded Soundarya as the finest actress and the only fit replacement to Savitri’s role in Mayabazar if remade.
Her first hit in telugu she acted as a protagonist alongside Rajendra Prasad Rajendrudu Gajendrudu in 1993 directed by S.V.Krishna Reddy. She had a decent start with a pair of another releases in the same year.The real commercial recognition came by Hello Brother(1994) starring alongside Nagarjuna and Ramyakrishna. The film became the biggest blockbuster of 1994. Most of her other releases in 1994 had a decent run. In 1995, she had acted in Pedarayudu, a tamil remake of Nattamai alongside Mohanbabu for the first time, and the movie was critically appreciated and highly successful. Following the success, She starred with all tollywood’s biggest stars like Chiranjeevi in Rikshavodu, with Venkatesh in Superpolice, with Balakrishna in Tophero. These movies did not clicked well at the boxoffice. Her award winning role in Ammoru, where she played the pivotal role of a selfless devotee to Goddess Ammoru and the film was a big success and it specially showcased her acting skills. She stood ahead with 11 movie releases in 1995.
In 1996, Soundarya had another critical and commercial success through Pavitra Bandham alongside Venkatesh where she acted as a woman who signs for a contract marriage for supporting her family. Intlo Illalu Vantintlo priyuralu, Ramudochadu have given her a credit of golden hand.These continuous success and popularity made Soundarya, the reigning Queen of Telugu cinema and was called popularly as NUMERO UNO by the telugu media and magazines.
Soundarya paved a way for strong performances and led the change in the framing of characterizations of heroines.Though her contemparary Ramyakrishnan too displayed versatility in genres besides glamour, Soundarya continued her strong,positive,nextdoor woman performances and emerged out with continuous string of successes and wide popularity than her rival.
In 1997,She continued her success with Pelli chesukundam, Maa Aayana Bangaram, Osi na maradala,Aaro pranam winning acclaims from all over the industry for her performances.She also starred alongside South Indian Superstar Rajinikanth in Arunachalam which made up as the highest grossing film of 1997 in tamil. Soundarya, apart from good performances and growing lady fanfollowing emerged out to be the golden hand with her continuous successes when her rivals faced constant debacles. This stardom made her come out of the shadow of mainstream heroine and chose scripts which had a wide potential of performance even alongsside biggest stars which clearly reflected later in her movies.Soundarya’s phenomenal success and humungous popularity made her the first choice for any performance role and made her act 10 films each following year till 2001 with biggest successes in her way.Though industry regarded her to be the golden hand, as a former director’s daughter,she always regarded the success not as a one man show but the team work between 36 departments.Besides roaring success of her films,.Soundarya’s intensity in performances,expressions,her beautiful face,her lady fanfollowing and phenomenal success were all in common with Savitri and she was able to earn fame as a replacement to Mahanati Savitri.The telugu media which is known for it’s critical attitude suprisingly was highly appreciative of her performances and was very positive throughout her career and magazines.
Furthur the critical success of Chudalani Vundi opposite Chiranjeevi in 1998 made her reach the pinnacle of her career.She also starred along Kamal Hassan in Kaathala Kaathala in tamil in the same year.Pelli Peetalu,Sri Ramulayya in telugu,Doni Saagali in kannada were commercially highly successful.Anthapuram directed by Krishnavamshi stood as one of the finest performances of Soundarya in her career winning her state Nandi award and also secong consecutive filmfare award.The producers and directors realized Soundarya’s ability to be a crowd puller and a biggest plus for the promotion of the movie.Her 1999 release Raja opposite Venkatesh was another blockbuster and won her third filmfare. Her other releases Padayappa opposite Rajinikanth,Azad opposite Nagarjuna,Premaku Velayera and Arundathi furthur solidified her position.In the same year she starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Suryavansham.The movie was not successful thus obstructing her to enter the fray of bollywood.
In 2000,she starred in yet another commercial success Annayya opposite Chiranjeevi,Jayam Manadera and Deviputrudu opposite Venkatesh, Ninne premista opposite Nagarjuna and several others and went on displaying her acting abilities continuing her successful journey with films like Eduruleni manishi, Sri manjunatha, Narasimha, Pelli peetalu, Dongata, Nagadevatha etc.
She had around 10 film releases each year most of them in telugu from 1993 to 2001 which reflect her path breaking success. After the entry of budding next generation, she slowed down but even later she went on acting 7 films each year till 2004. Besides being recognized for her talent, her directors and costars describe her as an honest, grounded and a friendly person.
In 2002, she has received the National Film Award for Best Feature Film (producer) for Dweepa. Her last film was the Kannada film Apthamitra, a run away hit with Vishnuvardhan. This film also won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress posthumously in 2004.
Soundarya acted in the Hindi film, Sooryavansham, alongside Amitabh Bachchan. She was also starred in Tamil super hits, such as Arunachalam, Padayappa alongside Rajinikanth, and Kaadhala Kaadhala alongside Kamal Haasan.
Soundarya died in an aircraft crash near Bangalore on April 17, 2004 when she was on her way to Andhra Pradesh to campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party for the upcoming elections.She was pregnent when she died.