indian cinema heritage foundation

K Bhagyaraj


Once declared by the legendary M G Ramachandran as his cinematic heir, Krishnaswamy Bhagyaraj carved a niche for himself in the actor-auteur vein. An actor, screenwriter, music director, producer, he is active mainly in Tamil films, as well as Telugu and Hindi films and TV serials. Acting in approximately 75 films, he has also directed more than 25 films. Dropping out of college in Coimbatore, he even worked as a rickshaw puller and a circus clown in Kakinada. Drawn towards film, in Madras he became an assistant to G Ramakrishna and Bharathirajaa, making his debut in the latter’s films as an actor. His first major acting role came with Puthiya Varpugal (1978). He also made his mark as a screenplay writer with Kizhakke Pokum Rayil (1978), Sigappu Rojakkal (1978), Niram Maratha Pookal (1979), and Oru Kaithiyin Diary (1985). He made his directorial debut with the hit Suvar Illatha Chitrangal (1979). He also scored the music for some of his films, many of which were also remade in Hindi, for example Bapu’s Andha 7 Naatkal (1981) remade as Woh Saat Din (1983), and Thooral Ninnu Pochchu (1982) which was remade as Mohabbat (1985), Mundhanai Mudichu as K Raghavendra Rao’s Masterji (1985), Enga Chinna Raja as Indra Kumar’s Beta (1992), and Oru Kaithiyin Diary as the Bhagyaraj directed Aakhri Raasta (1986). Making an abortive attempt to enter politics in 1989, he also edits and publishes the weekly tabloid journal Bhagya, and has also written several novels. Winning the Filmfare Best Actor Award for Mundhanai Mudichu (1983), he was also bestowed the Lifetime achievement award by the South Indian International Movie Awards in 2014. 

He was born on 7 January, 1953 in Vellankoil near Gobichettipalayam in Erode district in Tamil Nadu to parents Amaravathiamma and Krishnaswamy. A big fan of actors M G Ramachandran and Rajesh Khanna from childhood, he started his film career as an assistant to directors G Ramakrishnan and Bharathiraja. Even as his talent for scriptwriting garnered attention, he went on to appear on screen as well, making his debut as a junior artiste in minor supporting roles. He was seen in 16 Vayathinile (1977) and Sigappu Rojakkal (1978). Assisting Bharathiraja in 16 Vayathnile and Kizhakke Pogum Rail, he also wrote the script for the director’s Kizhake Pogum Rail (1978) and Tik Tik Tik (1981), as well as the dialogues for Sigappu Rojakkal

Bhagyaraj went on to make his directorial début with Suvarilladha Chiththirangal (1979); the same year he also debuted as leading man in Puthiya Varpugal (1979) directed by Bharathiraja. He also received the Tamil Nadu State film award for Best Dialogue for Puthiya Vaarpugal. In 1979 he also had another success with Kanni Paruvathile (1979), for which he wrote dialogues and screenplay and also acted in a negative role. It was followed by Oru Kai Osai (1980) for which he penned the screenplay, as well as directed and acted. 

Establishing his own company, Bhagyaraj launched into the production of several Tamil films, many of which he also starred in, besides scripting and directing. His films were known for their elaborate scripts with social themes enlivened by wit and double entendre. Onscreen, he played characters endowed with an ironic sense of humour and astute bravado. From the 80s, many of his successful Tamil films were remade in Hindi, starting with Mouna Geethangal (1981), which was remade as Ek Hi Bhool (1981). Bagging the Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Tamil in Mundhanai Mudichu (1983), the film was also remade in Hindi as Masterji, starring Rajesh Khanna. As Bhagyaraj had also penned the script for the film, and his fame grew across the country. His Telugu directorial Mayadari Mogudu (1984) was also a success.

With the exception of a few films such as Anbulla Rajinikanth (1984) and Naan Sigappu Manithan (1985), Bhagyaraj mainly acted only in the films he himself had written or directed. Among his successes are the super hit Enga Chinna Rasa (1987) which was a remake of the Kannada hit Mallammana Pavada (1969), the social issue-based Aararo Aaariraro (1989) which achieved critical and commercial success, and Idhu Namma Aalu(1988) which won the Best Film. Post the demise of M G Ramachandran in 1987, Bhagyaraj hit upon the idea of using the unfinished portion of the former’s 1977 film Anna Nee En Deivam to make Avasara Police 100 (1990) starring himself in the lead. Many of his films featured him playing a comic underdog character. 
The 90s saw Bhagyaraj increasingly accepting more films featuring him only in the capacity of lead actor in projects that were not scripted or directed by him. These include hits such as Rudhra (1991), Amma Vanthachu (1992), Gnanapazham (1996) and Suyamvaram (1999). While he penned and directed hits such as Pavunnu Pavunuthan (1991), Sundara Kandam (1992), Raasukutti (1992) and Veetla Visheshanga (1994), many successful Tamil films scripted by Bhagyaraj which were remade in Hindi include Raasukutti (1992) remade as Raja Babu, Sundara Kandam (1992) remade as Andaz (1994) and Avasara Police 100 (1990) remade into Gopi Kishan (1994), Thaikulame Thaikulame (1995) remade as Gharwali Baharwali (1998), which were all hits. 

There were also disappointments such as Vaettiya Madichu Kattu (1998) in which he had cast his son Shanthanu Bhagyaraj as child artist, Oru Oorla oru Rajakumari (1995), Gnanapazham (1996) and Mr. Bechara (1996). Taking a break from acting, he went on to direct TV shows Neenga Nenaicha Saadhikkalanga and Idhu Oru Kadhayin Kadhai, and also featured in Apapadi Podu on Jaya TV, while his serial Rules Rangachari became very popular, completing 390 episodes. The year 2003 saw him write and direct the film Chokka Thangam starring Vijayakanth, followed by Parijatham (2006) in which he launched his daughter Saranya Bhagyaraj. He faced the camera again with Something Something... Unakkum Enakkum (2006) and Rendu (2006) in supporting roles, followed by a lead role in Kasu Irukkanum (2007). He also directed his son Shanthanu Bhagyaraj in a leading role in Siddhu +2 (2010).

Bhagyaraj went on to feature in supporting roles in films like Appavi (2011) and Vaagai Sooda Vaa (2011), as well as the Malayalam film Mr. Marumakan (2012). He also appeared in action thrillers Kanithan (2016) and Thupparivaalan (2017), which became commercial hits. He also featured as the main judge on the show Junior Super Star (2016) and Junior Super Stars (season 2) (2017). Bhagyaraj also penned books such as Vaanga Cinemavai Pattri Pesalam, Neenga Nenaicha Saadikkalaam and Ungal Bhagyaraj in Kelvi Bhadhil. 

On the personal front, he married actress Praveena, in 1981, who passed away due to an acute case of jaundice in 1983. He remarried actress Poornima Jayaram, who had acted opposite him in Darling, Darling, Darling (1982). The couple has a daughter Saranya Bhagyaraj and a son Shanthnu Bhagyaraj.


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