After working behind the camera as an assistant cameraman and in small roles, he received his break in 2001 super-hit Majestic which marked the beginning of his successful career. After earning stability and fame in his acting career he forayed into film production and distribution. He established his own production house Thoogudeepa Productions in 2006, which has since been a successful commercial venture. Its first production was Jothe Jotheyali with Darshan in a special appearance. An avid animal lover, he is well known for his strong passion for pets, wild animals and owns a private stud in his farmhouse in the far east of Mysuru city.
Darshan was born to actor Thoogudeepa Srinivas and Meena on 16 February 1977 in Ponnampet, Kodagu district, in the Indian state of Karnataka. Thoogudeepa is a 1966 Kannada film in which Srinivas acted and gained fame following which the sobriquet stuck to his name. His father often played the roles of menacing villains in Kannada Cinema. Despite so, Darshan never had it easy since his father was reluctant towards the entry of Darshan into films. Against his wishes, Darshan got himself enrolled in Ninasam, a theatre training institute, in Shimoga, prior to his father's passing in 1995.
Darshan has a sister, Divya, and a younger brother, Dinakar, a film director, screenwriter and producer, running the production house, Thoogudeepa Productions. As a child, Darshan studied his primary and secondary education at Mysuru. Before entering into films, Darshan appeared in few tele-serials and tele-shows.
After graduating from Ninasam, Darshan worked as a lightboy in various films, before entering the mainstream filmmaking as an assistant cameraman to veteran cinematographer B. C. Gowrishankar. Then he was recognized by director S. Narayan who offered him a role in his television soap. Narayan then offered him a supporting role in his 1997 film Mahabharatha. Darshan consecutively was featured in films like Devara Maga (2000) as the son of Ambareesh, Ellara Mane Dosenoo (2000), Bhoothayyana Makkalu (2000) and Mr. Harishchandra (2001) mostly in insignificant supporting and uncredited roles. This period saw him play minor roles in television soaps as well.
Darshan's major break came in films came in 2000 with Majestic, directed by P. N. Satya and released in 2001, in which he played the role of Daasa, an innocent youth-turned-underworld don, for the first time. He then appeared in films such as Kitti, Ninagoskara and Neenandre Ishta, "Daasa" produced by Ramesh Yadav. He starred in Prem's directorial debut, the 2003 action film Kariya. The film was declared as a blockbuster and was one of the major grossers of 2003. His next ventures saw portraying diverse roles of a budding musician in Laali Haadu, a journalist in Lankesh Patrike and a blind poor man in Namma Preethiya Ramu.
In 2004 he starred in Kalasipalya directed by Om Prakash Rao and in P. N. Satya's Daasa, both of which were Blockbuster hits. In 2005, he acted in three more commercially successful films Annavru, Shashtri produced by his close friend Anaji Nagaraj and Ayya.
He starred again in Anaji Nagaraj's Swamy (2005). His subsequent hits include Suntaragaali (2006), Dattha (2006), Bhoopathi (2007), Snehana Preethina (2007) and Anatharu (2008), where he starred with Upendra.
In 2008, Gaja gave him a bigger break and became commercially success. This movie helped him to establish a niche for himself as a well built, rustic yet posh young man among the masses. This movie brought him a mass following pan Karnataka and Darshan became the highly paid, most sought after hero in Kannada cinema. After Gaja, his further movies include Indra (2008), Arjun (2008), Navagraha (2008), Yodha (2009), Abhay (2009).
In 2010, he acted as cop disguised as a rogue in Porki which was a remake of 2009 Telugu blockbuster Pokiri. His next movie was Shourya (2010). Boss (2011) and Prince (2011).
Darshan's next releases were Boss (2011) and Prince (2011). Next to them came the action drama Saarathi. It has since been the biggest blockbuster in his career. His 2012 release was Chingari. Next, he played a protagonist role in the historical movie Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna and got his maiden Karnataka State Film Awards and Filmfare Award for best actor. In 2013 he had two major releases, Bulbul (film) and Brindavana, both of which were much anticipated and declared as blockbusters.
His 2014 film Ambareesha received mixed responses though it was commercially successful. In Mr. Airavata, he played the role of a police officer. The Hindu wrote, "He sizzles on the screen in his tailor-made avatar as Mr. Airavata". In Viraat, his first release off 2016, he played a businessman wanting to provide a solution to the issue of irregular power supply by taking up a thermal power project, and gets pitted against an opportunist Surendra Singh (played P. Ravi Shankar). The Indian Express, in its review wrote that despite the loopholes, Darshan "cements them". The reviewer added, "He is seen in his signature style of action, dialogue delivery and mannerism. This time the actor breezes through some dance steps". Darshan's next film Jaggu Dada saw him play a gangster, and received largely negative reviews from critics.
Darshan's first film of 2017, Chakravarthy, is currently in its post-production stages.
Darshan married his relative Vijayalakshmi, who was then a student in Chemical engineering, in 2000 at Dharmasthala Temple. They have a son together, Vineesh. Darshan runs his own mini zoo privately in far east of Mysuru near Tirumakudal Narsipur. Darshan's other passions are cars and bikes.
Darshan was embroiled in a controversy in September 2011 when his wife complained to police against him accusing of domestic violence. He was subsequently arrested and spent 14 days in judicial custody at Parappana Agrahara. However the marital discord later reached in a happy compromise and was settled out of court due to the entry of industry veterans like Ambareesh, Jaggesh and others. He later issued a public apology to his fans for the controversy. Though this whole episode was expected to dent his image, his immediate release Saarathi (2011) became a blockbuster hit.
Below are the selected filmography of Darshan:
In 2006, After much success in his career he ventured into film production also. He established his own production house "Thoogudeepa productions" and its first film was "Jothe Jotheyali" starring Prem, Ramya and had Darshan in a special appearance. The film was a commercial hit running 150 days in theatres. In 2013, his family established a distribution company called Thoogudeepa Distributors. Bulbul (film) (2013), produced under the home banner became the first movie to be distributed. Its other notable projects include distribution of Brindavana (2013), Prakash Rai's Oggarane (2014), Sharan starrer Jai Lalitha (2014) and V. Ravichandran starrer Paramashiva (2014).