Nagesh 2013 stamp of India.jpg
Nagesh on a 2013 stamp of India
Cheyur Krishna Nageshwaran

(1933-09-27)27 September 1933[1]
Died(2009-01-31)31 January 2009
(aged 75)
OccupationFilm actor
Years active1958– 2008
(m. 1957; died 2002)

Nagesh (born Cheyur Krishnarao Nageshwaran; (27 September 1933 – 31 January 2009)[1][3] was an Indian actor, mostly remembered for his roles as a comedian in Tamil films during the 1960s. Nagesh was born in Dharapuram. 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. He has also acted in Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada films. Nagesh's style of comedy was largely inspired by Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis. Similarities between Nagesh and Lewis earned Nagesh the sobriquet the "Jerry Lewis of India".[4] He was also nicknamed as the King of Comedy due to his impeccable comedy timing and body language.[5][6] He featured regularly in the film projects of M. G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan even at a time when there was a massive rift between the two leading actors in Tamil cinema at that time.[7]

He has a unique distinction of sharing screen space with lead actors belonging to three generations of Tamil film industry starring with MGR and Sivaji Ganesan in 1960s; Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth in 1980s: Vijay and Ajith in late 1990s.[8]

He was also a fantastic dancer. The song "Kanni Nathiyoram" in the movie Neerkumizhi shows some of his comic dance skills.

Early life

Nagesh was born as Cheyur Krishna Nageshwaran to Kannadiga Hindu parents.[9] His parents were Krishnan Rao and Rukmani Ammal. Nagesh Was born in Dharapuram. He completed his schooling in Dharapuram. He left Dharapuram at an early age and moved to Madras city in search of a career. His roommates, the writer Vaali and actor Srikanth, later established themselves as prominent personalities in the Tamil cinema field. He worked as a clerk in the Indian Railways.[10]

Film career

Early career

Early in his life, he saw the 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.[11]

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.[10] Moreover, Nagesh had only a small role to play in the movie.[12]

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.[13] Nagesh was seen playing the lead role in Server Sundaram (1964), directed by Krishnan–Panju, adapted from a 1963 play of the same name written by the legend K. Balachander. 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 prominence

Server Sundaram marked Nagesh's rise to prominence. The film was about a restaurant waiter, "server" Sundaram, who struggles to make ends meet.[14]

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.[15] He followed the success with supporting roles in films such 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 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.

Manorama was paired with Nagesh regularly in films with M.G. Ramachandran as lead between 1960 and 1970 such as Thaali Bagyam, Vettaikaran, En Kadamai, Kanni Thai, Thayin Madiyil, Kadhal Vaganam, Chandrodhyam, Anbe Vaa, Padagotti, Panathotaam, Kaavalkaran, Kadhal Vagahnam, Vivasaaye, Thaikku Thalaimagan, Ther Thiruvizha, Thanipiravi, Thazhampoo and Thozhilali.[16] Other directors cast the Nagesh-Manorama pair in memorable films beginning from 1962, such as Nenjil Or Aalayam, Kungumam, Rakta Thilagam, Panjavarnakilli, Navarathiri, Puthiya Paravai, Anbu Karangal, Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi, Saraswathi Sabadham, Gowri Kalyanam, Galatta Kalyanam, Ner Vazhi, Ninaivin Nindraval, Poojaikku Vandamalar, Deiva Thirumagal, Deivathin Deivam, Shanti, Thenmazhai, Aannavin Asai, Andru Kanda Mugam, Seetha, Mani Makutam, Nagamali Azhagi, Kandan Karunai, Saadu Mirandal, Thaimel Aanai, Kaalam Vellum, Annai Abirami, Thiruvarutchelvar, Karunthel Kannayiram, Kalangarai Vilakkam and Annamitta Kai.[17] Few films where they were not paired together include Server Sundaram, Madras to Pondicherry, Thillana Mohanambaal, Thiruvarul, Bommalattam and Nanbargal.

Nagesh rose to prominence through Server Sundaram (1964) for which he received praise for his evergreen comedy performances as a server in a hotel.[18] The film was helmed by director duo Krishnan-Panchu and the screenplay had been written by K. Balachander. It also marked the first collaboration between Nagesh and K. Balachander. Since then it led to many successful collaborations between the two.[19]


Kamal Haasan again gave a brilliant role for Nagesh in the comedy flick Michael Madana Kama Rajan. Nagesh played the dishonest secretary Avinashi, who commissions a look-alike, Kameswaran to impersonate his boss, Madan, and lend him money from Madan's account. During the shooting of Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Nagesh felt disappointed and unhappy over his role as Avinashi and had also argued with Kamal Haasan.[20][21]

Nagesh had a good relationship with Kamal Haasan, with whom he had co-starred in a variety of movies between 1975 and the 2000s. Kamal Haasan cast Nagesh in most of his self-productions regularly.[22]

Later years

Nagesh had a series of supporting roles in the 2000s. Notable among them were those of Vijay's grandfather in Poove Unakkaga, Arjun's father in Rhythm, Pawan Kalyan's Uncle Peddhananna in Toli Prema, Madhavan's grandfather Subbuni in Minnale, Ajith Kumar's Grandfather in Poovellam Un Vasam, Father Rozario in Kadhal Kondain, Srikanth's grandfather in Bose, Silambarasan's grandfather in Saravana, Jeeva's father in Pori and Kamal Haasan's father in Vasool Raja MBBS. His handling of these roles gained him considerable appreciation from the public.

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.[23][24] However, an animated version of him was seen in the 2014 performance capture film Kochadaiiyaan.[25][26][27]


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Nagesh was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker. However, he gradually gave up these habits when he was dangerously ill during the period 1978–1982. His health began to decline in late 2008 due to progressive heart ailments. In November 2008, his health conditions further deteriorated when he slipped and fell down at his home which also resulted in a severe head injury.[28] He died on 31 January 2009 at the age of 75 due to diabetes and a heart ailment.[2][29][30][24]

Partial filmography

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Year Film Role Notes
1958 Manamulla Maruthaaram
1959 Thamarai Kulam
1959 Uthami Petra Rathinam


Year Film Role Notes
1961 Thayilla Pillai
1962 Nenjil Or Aalayam Ward boy
Annai Cameo
Deivathin Deivam
1963 Panathottam Ramu
Periya Idathu Penn Arulappan alias Pitamdhi
Naanum Oru Penn
Nenjam Marappathillai
Naan Vanangum Deivam
1964 Vettaikkaran
Kaadhalikka Neramillai Chellappa
Pachai Vilakku
Panakkara Kudumbam Raman
Dheiva Thaai Vidwan Sargunam
Server Sundaram Sundaram Lead role
1965 Aayirathil Oruvan Alagan
Aasai Mugam Sankara
Anandi Thambi Durai
Enga Veettu Pillai Govindhan
Kakkum Karangal Soma Sundaram
Kalangarai Vilakkam Vasu
Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum Sundaram
Neerkumizhi Sethu Lead role
Thaayum Magalum
Poojaikku Vandha Malar Panju
Thiruvilayadal Dharumi
Vaazhkai Padagu
1966 Anbe Vaa Ramaiah
Chitthi Widower's son
Naam Moovar
Madras to Pondicherry Conductor
Major Chandrakanth Mohan Lead role
Motor Sundaram Pillai Saambu
Nadodi Valippu Manickam
Naan Aanaiyittal
Sadhu Mirandal Kabali, Taxi driver Lead role
Saraswati Sabatham
Thenmazhai Venu
Yaarukkukaha Azhudhan Joseph
1967 Aalayam
Adhey Kangal
Anubavi Raja Anubavi Thangamuthu and Manikkam
Bama Vijayam Krishnan
Engalukkum Kaalam Varum
Farz Hindi
Iru Malargal Principal
Arasa Kattalai
Jewel Thief Hindi
Ninaivil Nindraval Dr. Thirupathy
Ooty Varai Uravu Balu
Madi Veettu Mapillai Sankaran
Pattanathil Bhootham cheenu
Vivasayee Chokkan
1968 Andru Kanda Mugam Subbusamy
Ethir Neechal Maadhu Lead role
Deiveega Uravu Manikkam
Galatta Kalyanam Chandran
Jeevanaamsam Advocate Ramanujam
Kudiyiruntha Kovil
Panakkara Pillai Mani
Pudhiya Boomi
Ragasiya Police 115
Soaappu Seeppu Kannadi Madhusudhanan a.k.a. Madhu Lead role
Thamarai Nenjam Narayanan
Thillana Mohanambal Vaithi
Kadhal Vaaganam Doctor
En Thambi Sabapathy
1969 Thanga Surangam Mani
Poova Thalaiya Nagesh
Subha Dinam Raja bathar
Deiva Magan
Nam Naadu Govindha
Shanti Nilayam
Ponnu Mappillai


Year Film Role Notes
1970 Vietnam Veedu
Anadhai Anandhan
Kann Malar
Maanavan Ramu
Veetukku Veedu
1971 Uttharavindri Ulle Vaa
Nootrukku Nooru
Veguli Penn
Irulum Oliyum
Annai Velankanni Kannaiah
Sabatham Shanmugam
Thirumagal Subbusamy
Then Kinnam Mohan
1972 Papam Pasivadu Pilot Telugu
Pillaiyo Pillai
Vasantha Maligai
Raman Thediya Seethai
1973 Ulagam Sutrum Valiban
Manchi Vallaki Manchivadu Obaiah Telugu film
Doctor Babu Telugu film
Komatha En Kulamatha
1974 Paruva Kaalam
Gumasthavin Magal
1975 Pattampoochi Vadivelu
Apoorva Raagangal Suri / Hari
Soggadu Sanyasi Rao Telugu
1976 Manushulanta Okkate Ganapathi
Vaanga Sambandhi Vaanga
Uzhaikkum Karangal
Unakkaga Naan
Aattukara Alamelu
Thaayilla Kuzhandhai
Naalai Namadhe
1977 Indradhanusu
Aasai Manaivi
Sri Krishna Leela Kuselan
Meenava Nanban
Ilaya Thalaimurai Sharma
Swargam Naragam
Aparadhi Malayalam
Savasagallu Telugu
1978 Oru Nadigai Natakam Parkiral
Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal
Rudhra Thaandavam Ponnambalam
Varuvaan Vadivelan
Raadhaiketha Kannan
1979 Allari Vayasu Gopi Telugu Film
Sri Rama Bantu[31] Lord Hanuman Telugu Film
Vetagadu Ponnusamy Telugu Film
Azhage Unnai Aarathikkiren Victor
Urvasi Neeve Naa Preyasi Telugu film
Neela Malargal
Annai Oru Aalayam


Year Film Role Notes
1980 Natchathiram
Enga Vathiyaar
Bhama Rukmani
1981 Valarthu Mrigangal Naanu Malayalam film
Thillu Mullu As himself Cameo
Sreeman Sreemathi Subbaraman Malayalam film
Gadasari Attaha Sosagara Kodalu
Devudu Mamayya
Kadal Meengal
Kondaveeti Simham
1982 Justice Chowdhury
Vaa Kanna Vaa
Doctor Cine Actor Telugu
1983 Thookumedai
Mohana Punnagai
Sri Ranga Neethulu Dr. Sundara Murthy Telugu
1984 Magudi
Kanchu Kagada[32] Jaggu Telugu
1985 Padikkaadhavan
Priyamudan Prabhu
1986 Car Diddina Kapuram
Paadum Vaanampaadi
1987 Kachchi Kali
Cooliekkaran Velu
Ivargal Varungala Thoongal
Rowdy Babai Telugu
Thene Manasulu Seshu Telugu
1989 Apoorva Sagodharargal Dharmaraj Negative Role
Indrudu Chandrudu
Raja Rajathaan
Mounam Sammadham


Year Film Role Notes
1990 Athisaya Piravi
Engal Swamy Ayyappan
Pudhu Pudhu Ragangal
1991 Sathruvu Sambaya head constable Telugu
Michael Madana Kama Rajan Avinashi
Raja Kaiya Vacha
Cheran Pandiyan
Gopura Vasalile
Putham Pudhu Payanam
1992 Allari Mogudu
Thambi Pondatti
Purushan Enakku Arasan
Rickshaw Mama
Brundavanam Telugu
1993 Enga Thambi Muthu
Amma Ponnu Vathiyar
Gadibidi Ganda Singer Kannada
O' Faby Muthusaami Malayalam
1994 Magalir Mattum A dead body
Madam Telugu
Brahmachari Mogudu
Nammavar Prabhakar Rao Winner–National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
1995 Marumagan
Ayudha Poojai
1996 Poove Unakkaga Stephen
Swarnachamaram Unreleased
Kandaen Seethayae Unreleased
Avvai Shanmugi Joseph
1997 Raasi
1998 Tholi Prema Balu's uncle Telugu
Desiya Geetham
Subhakankshalu Telugu
Kaathala Kaathala Chokkalingam


Year Film Role Notes
2000 Rhythm Karthikeyan's father
Maa Pelliki Randi Telugu
Preethsu Thappenilla Kannada film
2001 Minnale Subramani
Poovellam Un Vasam Chinna's grandfather
2002 Panchathanthiram Parthasarathy
Bala Annachi
2003 Kadhal Kondain Church Father
Indru Mudhal
2004 Vasool Raja MBBS Sriman Venkatraman
Bose Bose's grandfather
2006 Saravana Saravana's grandfather
Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei Raja Mokkaiyappar Special Appearance
2007 Pori Hari's father
Nenjai Thodu
2008 Dasavathaaram Sheikh


Year Title Role Notes
2014 Kochadaiiyaan Uncle of Rana, Sena and Yamuna Animation – played by similar appearance person


Year Title Actors Notes
1985 Paartha Gnabagam Illayo Anand Babu, Ramya Krishnan


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