Riya Sen (born Riya Dev Varma; 24 January 1981) is an Indian film actress and model. Riya, who comes from a family of actors including her grandmother Suchitra Sen, mother Moon Moon Sen and sister Raima Sen, began her acting career in 1991 as a child actress in the film Vishkanya.
Her first commercial success in her film career was with Style, a 2001 Hindi low-budget sex comedy directed by N. Chandra. Some of her other notable films include producer Pritish Nandy's musical film, Jhankaar Beats (2003) in Hinglish, Shaadi No. 1 (2005) and Malayalam horror film Ananthabhadram (2005). Riya was first recognised as a model when she performed in Falguni Pathak's music video Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lagi at the age of eighteen.
Since then, she has appeared in music videos, television commercials, fashion shows, and on magazine covers. Riya has worked as an activist and appeared in an AIDS awareness music video with the aim of dispelling popular myths about the disease. She also helped raise funds for pediatric eye-care. Born on 24 January 1981 in Kolkata, West Bengal, Riya is the daughter of Moon Moon Sen, a former actress, and granddaughter of Suchitra Sen, a legend in Bengali cinema.
Before leaving for Mumbai, she lived in Kolkata with her parents and sister Raima Sen, also an actress. Her father Bharat Dev Varma is a member of the royal family of Tripura. Her paternal grandmother, Ila Devi, was the princess of Cooch Behar, whose younger sister Gayatri Devi was the Maharani of Jaipur. Her paternal great-grandmother Indira was the only daughter of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda.
Riya's maternal great-grandfather Adinath Sen was a prominent Kolkata businessman, whose father Dinanath Sen – a relative of former Union Law Minister Ashoke Kumar Sen- was the Diwan or a Minister of the Maharaja of Tripura. The sisters are credited on-screen under their mother's maiden name, although their official papers carry the surname Dev Varma. Riya completed her schooling at Loreto House and Rani Birla Girls' College (a University of Calcutta affiliate), both in Kolkata.
Thereafter, she studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, and she took up jewellery-designing as a hobby. She designs most of the clothes that she wears in films and commercials. Riya is trained in Kathak and is still pursuing it under Vijayshree Chaudhury. She is taking kickboxing lessons and has completed Level I of the 5 levels in belly dancing. Riya entered the film industry through small-time modelling assignments, commuting between Mumbai and Kolkata and travelling by public transport during her early career.
After breaking into the film industry, she shifted from her mother's house in Ballygunge Circular Road in south Kolkata to Mumbai. There she moved into the family house in Juhu, where she stays with her sister. During her stay in Mumbai, the media romantically linked her to model and actor. In the Bollywood press, she was, in 2008, speculatively linked to the novelist Salman Rushdie, although both stated that they were simply good friends. Riya has suffered a number of untimely incidents.
During the filming of Shaadi No. 1 in France, she was knocked unconscious after being accidentally run over by a stuntman's motorbike, but she was not seriously injured. Shortly before the release of Silsiilay, in which she starred opposite her boyfriend Ashmit Patel, a 90-second video clip was circulated through Multimedia Messaging Services and the internet, showing the pair in compromising situations in a hotel bedroom.
This was one of a number of controversies that erupted when celebrities were caught in similar situations using cameraphones. Following this incident, the couple split up, although Riya denied that she was the girl in the MMS clip. One commentator claimed that the footage was an orchestrated publicity stunt. In 2007, she underwent a brief detoxification session in Bangkok for addiction to chocolate.
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