Karthikathirunal Utthara Unni Raja aka Utthara Unni is the one and only daughter to Urmila Unni and A R Unni. She graduated in Bsc. Visual Communication from SRM University and completed her master degree in MA. Communication from MOP Vaishnav College under Madras University. She also holds a degree in Bfa. Bharathanatyam from Sastra University under the special guidance of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam.
As an Actor
Utthara started her modelling career at the age of 16 where she represented Bhima jewelers, Emmanuval silks, SriKumarans, Dhathri real slim oil and many others. She moved to Chennai for her higher studies along with her family after school and did a couple of ad campaigns there. She followed her mother’s footsteps into the world of cinema and made her acting debut in the year 2012 through the Tamil film Vavwal Pasanga where she played the female lead. Utthara made her Malayalam debut through the film Edavappaathy directed by National award winner Lenin Rajendran which also won her the Kerala State Film Critics award for best debut. The little Akkosotto of Yodha fame, Sidharth Lama played the main lead and Bollywood’s yesteryear heroine Manisha Koirala played Utthara’s mother. The film which was shot by Madhu Ambat was set in a periodic time frame.
As a Filmmaker
Utthara later developed a passion for filmmaking and made a documentary on Kathakali. She won five awards for her directorial debut through the short film Randaam Varavu:- K. P Ummer award, Monisha Unni award, Shantha Devi Puraskaram, Drishya award and Metro short film award. Her recent short film 9th Month starring Devan and Urmila Unni was also appreciated by major film critics.
As a Dancer
Utthara has learnt Bharathanatyam from major Gurus such as Kalamandalam Gopinath, Sunil Nellai, RLV Prashob Warrier, Kalamandalam Yamini and Saikripa Prasanna (Kalakshetra). She is currently learning intricasies of Nattuvangam from Kalakshetra Hari Padman. She has won several awards in the field of dance such as:-
- Natyamayuri title from Guntur dance fest held in Andhra Pradesh
- Natyavilasini award from Bilai Nrithyanrithyathi fest held in Chattisgarh
- Nrithyashiromani award from Theatre Olympiad, Odisha
- Sukumari Amma Memorial award from Tru Indian Federation, Mumbai
- Padmavati Pratibha Puraskar from Odisha
- Tarang Padma from Tarang Utsav festival, Thane
- N. P Abu Memorial award, Kerala
- The Guru Gopikrishna National award for excellence in Bharathanatyam
Utthara has performed in more than 100 stages throughout India and has given a few international performances. She has also performed in the Natyanjali dance festival held at Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Thirunallar, Nagapatinam, Thiruvarur, Mayavaram and Thanjavur. She is an internationally acclaimed Bharathanatyam dancer and a member of UNESCO World Dance Council. She also runs her own dance academies named Angopanga in Bahrain and Temple Steps in Mumbai.
As a Singer
Utthara was trained in Carnatic Music under the great maestro Shri Ochira Balakrishnan during her childhood. She has released a Malayalam/Arabic music video “Paathirapontheril” featuring herself. She has brought out a Hindi music video which will be released soon.
Utthara hails from the Royal family of Thiruvalla Nedumbarath Palace and is the niece of former Malayalam actor Samyuktha Varma and Mollywood's leading actor Biju Menon. Her mother Urmila Unni is also a famous dancer, actor, poetess and designer. Panchalika Collections is the brand opened by Urmila Unni and Utthara Unni.