Known for his roles in numerous 1970s and 1980s Tollywood (Telugu cinema) films, he was the recipient of a Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, two Nandi Awards, and numerous other honors. Also a politician, he served in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) in the 1990s and early 2000s.
He made his film debut in the 1966, Kotayya Pratyagatma-directed feature, Chilaka Gorinka.
He won Filmfare Awards for his roles in Amaradeepam, Tandra Paparayudu, and several other movies.
His marriage to Shyamala Devi began in the mid 1990s. His brother, Suryanarayana Raju, had a career as a movie producer, and his nephew, Prabhas, became a popular film actor.
He starred in the 1994 film Palnaati Pourusham, which featured a soundtrack by Indian composer A.R. Rahman.