Nagesh in 2005
Cheyur Krishna Nageshwaran

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

Nagesh (born Cheyur Krishnarao Nageshwaran; (27 September 1933 – 31 January 2009)[1][3] was an Indian actor and comedian mostly remembered for his comic roles 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 with lead actors belonging to three generations of Tamil film industry, starring with MGR and Sivaji Ganesan in the 1960s; Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth in the 1980s: Vijay and Ajith and Silambarasan before his death.[8]

He was also a dancer. The song "Kanni Nathiyoram" in the movie Neerkumizhi shows some of his 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 in 2013 Stamp of India

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]



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.[31] He died on 31 January 2009 at the age of 75 due to diabetes and a heart ailment.[2][32][33][24]

Partial filmography

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Tamil films

Year Film Role Notes
1958 Manamulla Maruthaaram
1959 Thamarai Kulam
1959 Uthami Petra Rathinam
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
Iru Malargal Principal
Arasa Kattalai
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
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 Pillaiyo Pillai
Vasantha Maligai
Raman Thediya Seethai
1973 Ulagam Sutrum Valiban
Komatha En Kulamatha
1974 Paruva Kaalam
Gumasthavin Magal
1975 Pattampoochi Vadivelu
Apoorva Raagangal Suri / Hari
1976 Manushulanta Okkate Ganapathi
Vaanga Sambandhi Vaanga
Uzhaikkum Karangal
Unakkaga Naan
Aattukara Alamelu
Thaayilla Kuzhandhai
Naalai Namadhe
1977 Aasai Manaivi
Sri Krishna Leela Kuselan
Meenava Nanban
Ilaya Thalaimurai Sharma
Swargam Naragam
1978 Oru Nadigai Natakam Parkiral
Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal
Rudhra Thaandavam Ponnambalam
Varuvaan Vadivelan
Raadhaiketha Kannan
1979 Dhairiyalakshmi
Azhage Unnai Aarathikkiren Victor
Neela Malargal
Annai Oru Aalayam Himself
1980 Natchathiram
Enga Vathiyaar
Anbukku Naan Adimai
Bhama Rukmani
1981 Thillu Mullu Himself Cameo
Devudu Mamayya
Kadal Meengal
1982 Kalthoon
Vaa Kanna Vaa
1983 Thookumedai
Mohana Punnagai
1984 Magudi
1985 Padikkaadhavan
Priyamudan Prabhu
1986 Maaveeran Raja's mother
Paadum Vaanampaadi
1987 Cooliekkaran Velu
Ivargal Varungala Thoongal
1989 Apoorva Sagodharargal Dharmaraj
Raja Rajathaan
Mounam Sammadham
1990 Athisaya Piravi
Engal Swamy Ayyappan
Pudhu Pudhu Ragangal
1991 Michael Madana Kama Rajan Avinashi
Raja Kaiya Vacha
Cheran Pandiyan
Gopura Vasalile
Putham Pudhu Payanam
1992 Thambi Pondatti
Purushan Enakku Arasan
Rickshaw Mama
1993 Enga Thambi Muthu
Amma Ponnu Vathiyar
1994 Magalir Mattum A dead body
Nammavar Prabhakar Rao Winner–National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
1995 Marumagan
Ayudha Poojai
1996 Poove Unakkaga Stephen
Meendum Savithri
Kandaen Seethayae Unreleased
Avvai Shanmugi Joseph
1997 Raasi
1998 Desiya Geetham
Kaathala Kaathala Chokkalingam
2000 Rhythm Karthikeyan's father
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
2014 Kochadaiiyaan Uncle of Ranadheeran and Senadheeran Animation – played by similar appearance person

Telugu films

Year Film Role Ref.
1966 Mohini Bhasmasura Devotee of Vishnu [34]
1972 Papam Pasivadu Pilot
1973 Manchi Vallaki Manchivadu Obaiah
Doctor Babu Special appearance
1975 Soggadu Sanyasi Rao
1976 Aadavalu Apanindhalu
Thoorpu Padamara Shivaranjani's family doctor [35]
1977 Savasagallu
Gadusu Pillodu Kailasam [36]
1978 Indradhanussu Chakram [37]
Pottelu Punnamma Varadhachari [38]
1979 Allari Vayasu Gopi
Sri Rama Bantu Lord Hanuman [39]
Vetagadu Ponnusamy
Oka Challani Rathri Dr. Rao [40]
Urvasi Neeve Naa Preyasi Victor
1980 Mayadari Krishnudu
1981 Kondaveeti Simham Sitapati
Gadasari Attaha Sosagara Kodalu
1982 Justice Chowdhury
Doctor Cine Actor
Nivuru Gappina Nippu
1983 Muddula Mogudu Simham
Amarajeevi Babu
Sri Ranga Neethulu Dr. Sundara Murthy
1984 Kode Trachu Rambabu [41]
Koteeswarudu Little Boss
Sahasame Jeevitham Babu Rao
Anubandham Tata Rao
Kanchu Kagada Jaggu [42]
1985 Prachanda Bhairavi Kodandam [43]
Bhale Tammudu Siva Rao
1986 Car Diddina Kapuram Pulla Rao
1987 Rowdy Babai
Thene Manasulu Seshu
1989 Indrudu Chandrudu Minister
1991 Sathruvu Sambaya
Vidhata Somasundaram [44]
1993 Allari Mogudu Sivasamba Deekshutulu
Brundavanam Perumallu
1994 Madam Rayudu
Gandeevam Idea Appa Rao
Brahmachari Mogudu
1996 Sri Krishnarjuna Vijayam
Neti Savithri
1998 Tholi Prema Balu's uncle
Subhakankshalu Stephen
2000 Maa Pelliki Randi
Balaram Rao Bahadur Lakshmi Varaprasad [45]

Other language films

Year Film Role Language Notes
1967 Farz Hindi
Jewel Thief
1977 Aparadhi Malayalam
1981 Valarthu Mrigangal Naanu
Sreeman Sreemathi Subbaraman
1987 Kachchi Kali Hindi
1993 Gadibidi Ganda Singer Kannada
O' Faby Muthusaami Malayalam
1996 Swarnachamaram Unreleased
2000 Preethsu Thappenilla Kannada


Year Title Notes
1985 Paartha Gnabagam Illayo


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