For other uses, see Nagesh (disambiguation).

Nagesh in 2005
Born Cheyur Krishna Rao Nageshwaran
(1933-08-27)27 August 1933
or (1931-02-08)8 February 1931[1]
Dharapuram, Madras Presidency, India
Died January 31, 2009(2009-01-31)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Occupation Film actor
Years active 1958– 2009
Spouse(s) Regina (m. 1957-2002) (until her death) ([2]
Children Ramesh Babu (b.1959)
Rajesh Babu (b.1961)
Anand Babu (b.1963)
Awards 1974 Kalamamani
1994 Nammavar Tamil Nadu State Government Award

Nagesh (born Cheyur Krishna Rao Nageshwaran; (1933-2009)[1][3] was an Indian film actor, mostly remembered for his roles as a comedian during the 1960s. He is regarded as one of the most prolific comedians in Tamil cinema. He acted in over 1,000 films from 1958 to 2008, performing in a variety of roles as comedian, lead roles, supporting actor and antagonist. Nagesh's style of comedy was largely inspired by Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis. Similarities between Nagesh and Lewis earned Nagesh the sobriquet "Jerry Lewis of India".

Early life

Nagesh was born as Cheyur Krishna Rao Nageshwaran to Krishna Rao and Rukmaniamma. He was born in Dharapuram, now in Tiruppur district, Tamil Nadu.[4] While his school records give his date of birth as 8 February 1931, and his passport reads 27 August 1933, according to his elder brother’s wife he was born on Maha Navami (Saraswati Pooja).[1]

He left Dharapuram at an early age and moved to Madras city in search of a career. His roommates, the writer Vaali and director Sridhar, later became established themselves as prominent personalities in the Tamil cinema field. He worked as a clerk in the Indian Railways.

Film career

Early career

Early in his life, he saw a Tamil play, Kamba Ramayanam, enacted by his colleagues, and felt that he could do a good job. He persuaded the secretary of the railway's cultural association to give him the role of a man suffering from stomach pain. MGR, then chief guest, seeing this play, in his speech praised Nagesh for his performance. From then onwards, Nagesh played small roles in various drama troupes.[5]

In 1958, producer Balaji spotted Nagesh and gave him his first break in a film called Manamulla Marudhaaram. The film did not do well at the box office. Moreover, Nagesh had only a small role to play in the movie. In 1960, Nagesh made his debut in Kannada with Makkala Rajya.[6]

Nagesh won critical acclaim for his performance in the 1961 movie Thayilla Pillai. But it was his 1962 hit Nenjil Or Aalayam which launched his career in the Tamil film industry. Nagesh was seen playing the lead role in Server Sundaram (1964) directed by the legendary Krishnan Panju. The movie was a remarkable hit and proved to be a great turning point in his career.

The song from this film, "Avalukenna... Azhagiya Mugam..." written by Vaali was a big hit.

Rise to stardom

Server Sundaram marked Nagesh's rise to prominence. The film was about a restaurant waiter, "server" Sundaram, who struggles to make his ends meet. He is in love with Radha (K. R. Vijaya), the daughter of the owner of the hotel in which he is working. The film is about how with the aid of his rich friend Raghavan (R. Muthuraman), server Sundaram gets a chance to act in movies and eventually, emerges as a rich and prominent actor. However, he is heartbroken when he learns that Radha is actually in love with Raghavan. While Nagesh drove viewers to laughter with his comical antics in the early scenes, his sensitive portrayal of a failed lover in the second half of the movie too earned widespread appreciation. The rags-to-riches story in the movie was actually based on Nagesh's own life. With Server Sundaram, Nagesh earned critical acclaim for versatility.[7]

The success of Server Sundaram ensured that Nagesh was one of the most sought-after actors in the 1960s. At the height of his career, he acted in as much as 35 movies in a single calendar year, at one time shooting six movies simultaneously. He appeared in a cameo in the 1965 mythological Thiruvilayadal in which he portrayed the poor, simpleton temple priest Dharumi. The soliloquy which Dharmi indulges in, within the temple precincts, is regarded as one of the unforgettable scenes of Tamil cinema.[8] He followed the success with supporting roles in films as Kaadhalikka Neramillai where he wants to direct a film under his own production house, Oho Productions (but until the climax he does not make a film), Anbe Vaa, Shanthi Nilayam, Pattanathil Bhootham and Vietnam Veedu. He played the role of Mohan in Major Chandrakanth which was a popular hit and won for its lead actor Sundararajan the nickname "Major" Sundararajan. His portrayal of the detestable pimp Vaidhy in Thillana Mohanambal was noted for the way in which Nagesh blended humour with villainy. In most of his comic films, Nagesh paired with the actress Manorama. In 1967, Nagesh acted in his first Hindi movie, Farz

Apart from performing in supporting roles, Nagesh also acted as the main protagonist in a number of movies. Server Sundaram is one of them. Another performance which is well-remembered is his role as the poor struggling orphan Maadhu in Ethir Neechal. His sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of Maadhu evoked comparisons with top character actors of the day. Jayakanthan chose Nagesh to play the lead in the 1966 film Yaarukkaha Azhudhan, overlooking Sivaji Ganesan.

In the 1970 movie Navakiragam, K Balachandar wanted to have Nagesh along with Manorama as his sidekick, but Nagesh refused, preferring to act without Manorama. Manorama was offended by this decision and has refused to act with Nagesh ever since. In the movie Theepam in the late 1970s, there was a scene where they both were together, but there was no dialogue exchange between the two.

After ruining a great chance of Manorama's to be in K. Balachandar's movie Navagragam in 1970, and later some unintelligent annotations about MGR's womanising lifestyle, Nagesh became a charity case from 1972. His financial problems evolved and his acting chances declined; as producers feared to offer him parts in their movies he turned to drinking. So MGR offered him some comedy parts in his movies with the condition that he would have no contact with him: Ulaikum Karangal, Meenava Nanban and Urimai Kural. But after MGR became Chief Minister the producers again circumvented Nagesh circumspectly. But in 1977 after a convincement of MGR to Manorama [rumours have it] she agreed to have Nagesh in her movie with the same condition MGR once made: Deepam; but the producers took advantage of the situation and the director tried to put both in one scene but Manorama dodged Nagesh for entirety.

Financial stress and decline

Nagesh's career witnessed a decline from the mid-1970s onwards. He was plagued by personal problems. His marriage to a Christian woman named Regina had fractured his relationship with his mother and other relatives. From the relationship, he had three sons, Anand Babu, Ramesh Babu and Rajesh Babu, the first son going on to be an actor plagued by personal problems in his career. In 1973, his mother died causing him irreparable grief. At about the same time, he had a fallout with Tamil actor and politician MGR, whose fellow producers omitted Nagesh from most of his films. The Nagesh theatre he owned in Chennai was on the verge of being seized for non-payment of dues forcing Nagesh to patch up differences with MGR who subsequently bailed him out. But later in the 1970s and 1980s, when MGR was the chief minister, Nagesh and MGR resumed the age old friendship on stages and screens. To cope with the changing trends, Nagesh had to switch over to playing character roles full-time.

Nagesh acted in a few movies during this period, some of which were hits. One of his notable roles was a drunkard in the 1974 Kamal Hassan-starrer Apoorva Raagangal where he talks to his own shadow and hurls the empty glass upon it while saying "Cheers". In the theatres where the film was shown the audience imitated him and threw cups on the wall of the lobby during interval. He played the role of writer Jayakanthan in the 1977 movie Sila Nerangalil Sila Manitharkal. Nagesh appeared as himself in Thillu Mullu, a remake of Gol Maal (1979), a Hindi film.


Nagesh's career enjoyed a partial resurgence from the 1980s onwards when he acted in a number of movies, mostly in elderly roles, some of them as the villain. His most remembered role as a villain was in the 1989 hit Apoorva Sagodharargal. The movie was later dubbed into Hindi as Appu Raja. He also played the villain in Rajinikanth films Athisaya Piravi and Mounam Sammadham. His negative roles included sadistic schemers, then muscular giants.

In the comedy flick Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Nagesh played the role of the dishonest secretary Avinashi who commissions a look-alike Kameswaran to impersonate his boss, Madan, and lend him money from Madan's account. He even played a cadaver in the 1994 film Magalir Mattum. He won a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1994 film Nammavar.

Nagesh did a series of supporting roles in the 1990s and 2000s. Notable among them were those of make-up artist Joseph in Avvai Shanmugi in which he featured alongside another veteran Gemini Ganesan, Arjun's father in Rhythm, Pawan Kalyan's Uncle Peddhananna in Toli Prema, Madhavan's grandfather Subbuni in Minnale, Ajit's Grandfather in Poovellam Un Vasam, Father Rozario in Kadhal Kondain and Kamal Hassan's father in Vasool Raja MBBS. His handling of these roles gained him considerable appreciation from the public.

Nagesh had a good relationship with Kamal Hassan, with whom he had co-starred in a variety of movies from the 1970s to the 2000s. Kamal Hassan cast Nagesh in most of his self-productions.[9] He also won the National Award for his supporting role as the Principal of a college troubled by rowdies, in the movie "Nammavar". Kamal Hassan plays the role of a professor in this movie.

Later years

Nagesh acted in Tamil films till a few months before his death in 2009. Notable among some of his later movies were Panchathanthiram, Vasool Raja MBBS, Imsai Arasan 23m Pulikesi, and his last appearance, Dasavathaaram. However, an animated version of him was seen in the 2014 performance capture film Kochadaiiyaan.[10][11]


Nagesh was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker in his early days. However, he gradually gave up these habits when he was dangerously ill during the late 1970s and early 1980s. His health began to decline in late 2008 due to progressive heart ailments. He died on 31 January 2009 at the age of 75 due to diabetes and a heart ailment.[2]

Partial filmography


Year Film Role Notes
1959 Thamarai Kulam
1959 Uthami Petra Rathinam


Year Film Role Notes
1960 Makkala Rajya Kannada film
1961 Thayilla Pillai
1962 Deivathin Deivam
Nenjil Or Aalayam Ward boy
Annai cameo appearance
1963 Periya Idathu PennHotel servant
Naanum Oru Penn
Nenjam Marappathillai
1964 Server Sundaram Sundaram
Dheiva Thaai
Pachai Vilakku
Kaadhalikka Neramillai Chellappa
Panakkara Kudumbam Raman
1965Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum Sundaram
Enga Veettu Pillai
Neerkumizhi Sethu
Thiruvilayadal Dharumi
Aayirathil Oruvan Alagan
Anandhi (1965 film) Thambi Durai
Kalangarai Vilakkam Vasu
Kakkum Karangal (film) Soma Sundaram
Vaazhkai Padagu
1966 Nadodi
Naam Moovar
Motor Sundaram Pillai Saambu
Madras to Pondicherry Conductor
Anbe VaaRamaiah
Chitthi Widower's son
Sadhu Mirandal Kabali, Taxi driver
Saraswati Sabatham
Major Chandrakanth Mohan
Yaarukkukaha Azhudhan Joseph
Naan Aanaiyital
Thenmazhai Venu
1967 Jewel thief
Anubavi Raja Anubavi Dual role
Adhey Kangal
Bama Vijayam Krishnan
Engalukkum Kaalam Varum
Farz Hindi
Iru Malargal Principal
Pattanathil Bhootham cheenu
Ninaivil Nindraval (1967 film) Balu Tamil
1968 Andru Kanda Mugam Subbusamy Tamil
Ethir Neechal Maadhu
Jeevanaamsam (film) Advocate Ramanujam
Ragasiya Police 115
Soaappu Seeppu Kannadi Madhusudhanan a.k.a. Madhu
Thamarai Nenjam (film) Narayanan
Thillana Mohanambal Vaidhy
Kudiyiruntha Kovil
Pudhiya Boomi
Galatta Kalyanam Chandran
1969 Shanti Nilayam
Poova Thalaiya
Ther Thiruvizha
Kadhal Vahanam


Year Film Role Notes
1970 Vietnam Veedu
Enga Mama
Veetukku Veedu
1971 Nootrukku Nooru
Irulum Oliyum
Sabatham Shanmugam
Thirumaga Subbusamy
1972Papam PasivaduPilot
Pillaiyo Pillai
Vasantha Maaligai
Raman Thediya Seethai
1973 Ulagam Sutrum Valiban
1973 Komatha En Kulamatha
1975 Apoorva Raagangal
Soggadu Sanyasi Rao
1976Manushulanta Okkate Ganapathi
Vaanga Sambandhi Vaanga
Uzhaikkum Karangal
Unakkaaga Naan
Aatukaara Alamelu
Thaayilla Kuzhandhai
Naalai Namadhe
Aasai Manaivi
Sri Krishna leela kuselan
Meenava Nanban
Swargam naragam
1978Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkiraal
Sila nerangalil sila manithargal
Rudhra Thaandavam
Varuvaan Vadivelan
Raadhaiketha kannan
1979 Dhairiyalakshmi
Veettukku Veedu
Annai Oru Aalayam


Year Film Role Notes
1980 Natchathiram
Enga Vathiyaar
Bhama Rukmani
1981Valarthu Mirugangal(Malayalam Film) Naanu
Thillu Mullu As himself Cameo
Gadasari Attaha Sosagara Kodalu
Devudu Mamayya
Kadal Meengal
Kondaveeti Simham
1982 Justice Chowdhury
Vaa Kanna Vaa
1983 Thookumedai
Mohana Punnagai
1984 Magudi
1985 Padikkaadhavan
Priyamudan Prabhu
1986 Karu Diddina Kapuram
Paadum Vaanampaadi
1987 Kachchi Kali
1989 Apoorva Sagodharargal Dharmaraj
Indrudu Chandrudu
Raja Rajathaan
Mounam Sammadham


Year Film Role Notes
1990 Athisaya Piravi
Engal Swamy Ayyappan
Pudhu Pudhu Ragangal
Sathruvu Sambaya head constable Telugu
1991 Michael Madana Kama Rajan Avinashi
Raja Kaiya Vacha
Cheran Pandiyan
Gopura Vaasalile
Putham Pudhu Payanam
1992Allari Mogudu
Thambi Pondaatti
Purushan Enakku Arasan
Rickshaw Mama
Brundavanam Telugu
1993 Madam
Amma Ponnu Vathiyar
Gadibidi Ganda Singer Kannada
O' Faby Muthusaami Malayalam
1994 Magalir Mattum A dead body
Brahmachari Mogudu
1995 Marumagan
1996 Avvai Shanmugi Joseph
Swarnachamaram Unreleased
Aayudha Poojai
Poove Unakkaga
Kandaen Seethayae Unreleased
1997 Pagaivan
Poochooda Vaa
1998Tholi Prema Telugu
Desiya Geetham
Subhakankshalu Telugu
Kaadhala Kaadhala Chokkalingam


Year Film Role Notes
2000Rhythm Arjun's father
Maa Pelliki Randi Telugu
Preethsu Thappenilla Kannada film
2001Minnale Subramani
Poovellam Un VasamAjith's Grandfather
2002Panchathanthiram Parthasarathy
2003Kadhal Kondain Church Father
Indru Mudhal
2004Vasool Raja MBBS Sriman Venkatraman
Bose Srikanth's Grandfather
2006SaravanaSimbu's Grandfather
Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei Raja Mokkaiyappar Special Appearance
2007Pori Jeeva's father
Nenjai Thodu
2008Dasavathaaram Sheikh
2014Kochadaiiyaan Rana's maternal uncle Recreated via CGI


  1. 1 2 3 Mohan V. Raman (1–15 March 2009). "He made you weep while you laughed". Madras Musings. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  2. 1 2 Dinamalar. "Dinamalar". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  3. S.Theodore Bhaskaran (14–27 February 2009). "Tragic comedian". FrontLine. 26 (04). Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  4. "Nagesh is no more". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 1 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-03-07.
  5. "Actor Nagesh is no more". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 1 February 2009.
  6. "Tamil Cinema news - Tamil Movies - Cinema seithigal". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  7. "Tamil Cinema news - Tamil Movies - Cinema seithigal". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  8. "Tamil Cinema news - Tamil Movies - Cinema seithigal". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  9. "Nagesh – actor nonpareil". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 1 February 2009.
  10. V Lakshmi (5 March 2012). "Nagesh in Kochadaiyaan". The Times of India. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  11. "Movie review: Kochadaiiyaan - Bangalore Mirror". Retrieved 28 June 2016.
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