- Worked in various jobs before becoming an actor, including working as a bus conductor.
- Debuted in the Tamil film Apoorva Raagangal (1975).
- Won the Filmfare Awards South Best Actor award for Nallavanukku Nallavan (1984).
- Four-time winner of the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor.
- Was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award, in 2000.