Known for his 1972 National Film Award-winning performance as Selvam in the Tamil-language movie Rickshawkaran, this acclaimed actor also played starring roles in Malaikkallan, Nadodi Mannan, and numerous other Tamil films. Also a politician, he served for a decade as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
He made his on-screen debut in the 1936 movie Sathi Leelavathi. Around this time, he became affiliated with the Indian National Congress Party; he later founded his own political party, the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
In 1967, he was non-fatally shot by his long-time colleague, fellow actor and politician M.R. Radha.
His first two wives died young; he later married actress and political figure V. N. Janaki. His older brother, Marudur Gopala Chakrapani, also had a successful acting career.
He and fellow politician Jayalalithaa both held the office of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.