Best known for work with Kamal Haasan in 'Anbe Sivam' (2002), and her moving performance in 'Mounaguru', which won her the Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2011, Uma started off with the popular television show 'Jodi No 1'.
Her upcoming movies 'Maryan' and 'Biryani' reestablish her as a versatile actor who pushes her own boundaries to try something new. An actress, a television personality, a socialite, a sportsperson, dancer, and a dog-lover — there are many facets to this diva.
Being a star’s daughter:
Uma Riyaz Khan is the only child of her artist parents. Her father, Kamesh, was a music director and her mother, Kamala Kamesh, was a famous actress who is well respected in the industry. After losing her father at a tender age of nine, she was single handedly brought up by her mother. Needless to say, her mother meant the world to her. Unlike other celebrity children, acting wasn’t her obvious choice of profession. “Cinema was in my blood but it was not ‘life’ for me then. That is why I got married to Riyaz at a young age.” She enjoyed sports and was a professional dancer during her school days.
In an industry where most women choose career over family, Uma chose to settle down early. Even after years of marriage and having two children, she doesn’t regret her decision. “I found the right man for me at a time when I looked for stability. So, there was no reason to waste time in decision making. I don’t believe in the popular notion that you miss out on many things, if you tie the knot early in life. Especially not when you have a supportive and inspiring husband like Riyaz.”
Entering the industry:
Uma describes her first movie, which was the Hindi film Muskurahat (1992) by director Priyadarshan, as a ‘superb’ experience. “In Muskurahat, which was also the director’s first Hindi venture, I played Bollywood actor Amrish Puri’s daughter.” Calling her work in the film Anbe Sivam as her magnum opus, Uma is all praise for the ‘legend’, Kamal Haasan. “I learnt many useful things by observing Kamal sir’s work. He brings out the best in the artists working with him. I salute him for that. I was also proud to exhibit my talent in Mounaguru (2011). I received a lot of appreciation in the form of awards that year for my portrayal of the role.”
On the small screen:
Uma finds her television experience very enriching and exciting. She took part in second season of the much talked about show, Jodi No 1, which aired on Vijay TV in 2007. “After that my second exposure was when I judged a show called Kalakka Povathu Yaaru. It was a huge hit with the public. I was especially famous for my laughter,” she adds with a smile. So which was a more challenging medium — TV or films? “I cannot compare television with cinema. They both come with their separate set of challenges and appeals.”
Uma will be playing Dhanush’s mother in her upcoming big budget movie, Maryan. “It was wonderful working with director Barathbala, Dhanush, Parvathy and AR.Rahman. With a combo like that, the movie is sure to be a hit. For this role I had to undergo a complete transformation — even including strands of grey in my hair for the first time.” However, Uma has already glammed up for her next film, Biryani, which features Karthi as the protagonist.
Significance of family
Uma is a confident mother of two boys, Shariq (18) and Sam (10). Bringing them up never felt like a task to her, even with a busy schedule. “I was not working when I had my first child. I started working on TV serials when he turned five. However, I was pregnant with my second son while working in Anbe Sivam. After my second son was born, I had to take a break to take care of him.” Both Uma and Riyaz make sure that they spend quality time with their children. “Riyaz is very attached with the kids. I believe he is the ideal father to them.”
When asked if she would encourage her children to work in films she said, “They are free to choose what they want to pursue in life. We have never forced them to do anything — be it religion or their career. Shariq, my elder son wants to do cinematography, while Sam the little one, is interested in cricket. He is acting as the lead in a children’s film called Suttapazhamum Sudathapazhamum.”
To Uma, her husband, her two sons and Rocky — the golden retriever, which Riyaz gifted Uma for her birthday — completes her family and existence.
I went to Fatima Convent School in Kodambakkam. Being a state level athlete in 100 meter, Javelin, and a professional dancer, I was quite the favourite of all the teachers at my school.
I was trained as a classical dancer, but later, after starting classes with Jeffrey (Vardon) I switched to salsa, and many other Latin American dance forms.
Riyaz is the perfect husband. He is very loving, caring and understanding. Isn’t that the perfect recipe for successful and happy marriage? I’m blessed — that’s all I can say.
I love dogs, sometimes even more than my family. I have rescued many puppies from the streets and have given them up for adoption. Our golden retriever Rocky is like my third son. He gets upset whenever I am not around.