Notable for his comedic roles in numerous Tamil movies, he is perhaps most well known for his Tamil Nadu State Film Award-winning performances in Kathavarayan; Imsai Arasan 23m Pulikesi; Thavasi; Vetri Kodi Kattu; and Kaalam Maari Pochu. He is also famous for his Filmfare Award-winning performance in Chandramukhi.
Before making his cinematic debut in the 1991 feature En Rasavin Manasile, he worked in a frame shop and struggled to make ends meet.
A singer as well as an actor, he contributed to the soundtracks of films such as Manaivikku Mariyadhai, Bhagavathi, and Looty.
His marriage to Sarojini Vadivelu resulted in four children.
A vocal supporter of India's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party, Vadivelu spoke out harshly against opposing politician and fellow film actor Vijayakanth.