Over the course of his career, he penned lyrics for thousands of songs featured in Tamil films and published over 5,000 poems and numerous novels, religious-themed essays and works of dramatic literature. He is perhaps best remembered for an essay on Hinduism titled Arthamulla Indhumatham.
He became inspired to write poetry after reading an important Hindu mystical text known as the Thiruppavai. His decision to become a writer accompanied his conversion from atheism to Hinduism.
His song lyrics earned him a National Film Award, and his novel Cheraman Kadali won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. Known as Kaviarasu (or the "Poet King"), he spent his last years as the Tamil Nadu state's Poet Laureate.
Born A. L. Muthiah, he grew up in Sirukoodalpatti, Tamil Nadu, India. Over the course of his life, he fathered thirteen children.
He was a contemporary of fellow award-winning Indian poet Kamala Surayya.