Tamil superstar from a poor family in Tamil Nadu, India. His father worked on the railways.
On the day of his birth his father, Chiniah Pillai, follower of Mahatma Gandhi, was jailed for participating in the Independence movement in Nellikuppam (Tamil Nadu, India). He was frequently in and out of jail, and was raised by his mother, Rajamani Ammal.
He joined theatre groups when he was young. He earned his screen name ‘Sivaji’ after acting in C.N. Annadurai’s play ‘Sivaji Kanda Indhu Rajyam’, a historical play on the Maratha Emperor Shivaji.
He made his film debut in Parasakthi (1952) as Gunasekharan. He became an icon of the DMK party who made DMK films (founded by C.M. Annadurai).
He entered politics in the mid-50s where he joined the Congress party and then defected to support the opposition Janata Dal.
He is most well know for his mythological and patriotic portrayals, like in his most famous films like Karnan(mythological) and Veerapandiya Kattabomman (patriotic).
His main rival was MGR (M.G. Ramachandran) and together they dominated the Tamil film industry in the 1960s and 70s.