In 2007, he launched a new political party All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) in Tamil Nadu claiming to carry out the ideals of K. Kamaraj. He is the former Member of Legislative Assembly of Tenkasi constituency. He served as the president of the Nadigar Sangam from 2006 to 2015 for three consecutive terms.
R. Sarathkumar was born on 14 July 1954 to Ramanathan and Pushpaleela a Tamil family in New Delhi. His father Ramanathan worked at the All India Radio before joining the Press Information Bureau of India while his mother Pushpaleela was a housewife. Sarathkumar is the youngest child in his family, he had two siblings; an elder brother, the late Sudarshan Ramanathan and an elder sister Mallika Kandaswamy. His mother Pushpaleela died on 26 October 2013.
Sarathkumar started his schooling at the Raja Muthiah High School, after his family relocated from Delhi to Chennai. He then moved on to the Central School in the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and finished at St. Patrick's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School. Being an avid sports enthusiast, he played football, cricket, and hockey, representing his school and college teams. He also joined the NCC, becoming an Air Wing Cadet. He was one of the cadets who marched in the Republic Day Parade of 1970. After completing his pre-university levels at Loyola College, he was subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from The New College.
He later became a bodybuilder and earned the ‘Mr. Madras’ title in 1974. He then moved to Bangalore to become a reporter for the Dinakaran News Daily. Soon afterwards, he shifted his energies towards running his own business, a travel agency, in Chennai.
Sarathkumar made his acting debut, in 1986, in the Telugu film Samajamlo Sthree at the behest of a producer friend. In 1988, while running his travel agency in Chennai, Sarathkumar got an opportunity to act as well as produce in the Tamil film Kan Simittum Neram. The film was directed by Kalaivanan Kannadasan, he co-starred with Karthik and Ambika. In 1989, R. Sarathkumar was spotted by Raju, the personal make-up man of actor Vijayakanth, and recommended him to the Pulan Visaranai's team. Finally, R. Sarathkumar acted as a villain in Pulan Visaranai and the film turned out to be a blockbuster. He won a Cinema Express Award for Best Villain for his role and created him more film offers. In 1990, he teamed up for the second time with Kalaivanan Kannadasan for the film Mr. Karthik which flopped at the box office. Thereafter, he appeared in antagonist roles in Tamil films of which Pudhu Padagan, Velai Kidaichuduchu, Raja Kaiya Vacha, Enkitta Mothathe, Jagathalaprathapan and in Telugu films such as Vishnu, Magaadu and Balachandrudu. He acted few Tamil films in supporting roles such as Salem Vishnu, Sirayil Sila Raagangal, Mounam Sammadham and Puriyaadha Pudhir. Puriyaadha Pudhir marked the first collaboration of Sarathkumar and the director K. S. Ravikumar. He also acted his first venture as hero in Palaivana Paravaigal under Senthilnathan's direction, who gave at that time consecutive hits. In 1991, he acted in twelve Tamil films and three Telugu films, mostly in supporting roles and four films in lead roles but he continued to act few films as villain. In the start of 1991, he acted in negative roles in the Telugu film Stuartpuram Police Station starring Chiranjeevi and Vijayashanti, Namma Ooru Mariamma, Vetri Padigal and Pudhu Manithan. He acted as a retired military officer in Chithirai Pookkal and played the second hero role in the blockbuster film Captain Prabhakaran. In May 1991, he appeared in lead roles in Senthilnathan's Kaaval Nilayam and K. S. Ravikumar's rural drama film Cheran Pandiyan, and starred as Chiranjeevi's brother in the Telugu film Gang Leader, the three were commercially successful. In July 1991, he acted in Archana IAS co-starring Sithara and acted the father role in Vaidehi Kalyanam. In the end of 1991, he played a small role in Telugu film Surya IPS, a negative role in Pavithran's Vasanthakala Paravai and starred in lead role in Senthinathan's Thangamana Thangachi.
In 1992, he has acted in 10 films as protagonist and 2 films as antagonist including the Telugu film Agreement directed by Manivannan and P. C. Sreeram's Meera. In start of 1992, he acted in Senthilnathan's Ilavarasan alongside Sukanya, Manivasagam's Periya Gounder Ponnu and Sivandha Malar. In the mid of 1992, he worked in K. S. Ravikumar's Oor Mariyadhai co-starring Sasikala and in Senthilnathan's Idhuthanda Sattam. He then starred in the action film Suriyan directed by Pavithran and it became his first big break. The film won positive reviews and became highly successful at the box office, he received a Cinema Express Award Best Actor Special Award for the role in which he shaved his head. Subsequently, Sarathkumar was catapulted to fame, his fan base was growing exponentially and he became selective in accepting new assignments. Soon, he was in competition with "Puratchi Kalaignar" Vijayakanth. In the end of 1992, he acted in the action film Thai Mozhi co-starring Vijayakanth and Mohini, Ellaichami, Manoj Kumar's Samundi and Senthilnathan's Natchathira Nayagan making their fifth and last collaboration. Thai Mozhi was released to mixed reviews and Samundi, despite unfavourable reviews, managed to run for more than 100 days. In the start of 1993, he acted in Aadhityan co-starring Sukanya and Pandiarajan and in Dasarathan, produced by Mani Ratnam and S. Sriram. Aadhityan was released to negative reviews, while the much-hyped Dasarathan failed at the box-office. In the mid of 1993, he starred in Suresh Krissna's Vedan co-starring Kushboo, Munarivippu alongside Heera Rajagopal and in his fourth collaboration with director K. S. Ravikumar Band Master with again Heera Rajagopal and Ranjitha. Vedan and Band Master was released to negative reviews, whereas Munarivippu was well received critically. In the end of 1993, he acted in the thriller film Moondravadhu Kann, he teamed up with Suriyan team (consists of director Pavithran, cinematographer Ashok Kumar, comedian Goundamani, villain Babu Antony and editor duo B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan) for the second time in I Love India and worked in the comedy film Kattabomman. Moondravadhu Kann was a hit at the box-office and Kattabomman was labelled as "disaster" but Malini Mannath of The New Indian Express stating that "Sarath seems to have improved on his expressions". His 1992's Telugu film Agreement was dubbed into Tamil as Idhayam Ullavan and fetched highly negative reviews upon release. Malini Mannath criticised his choice of scripts and films. That year, Sarathkumar could not accept the lead role in Shankar's Gentleman because he was busy with other projects and was subsequently replaced by Arjun Sarja. The film turned out be a blockbuster and Sarathkumar missed to consolidated his position.
In the start of 1994, he worked in Aranmanai Kaavalan and in the bilingual Tamil/Telugu film Captain directed by Kodi Ramakrishna. Aranmanai Kaavalan was released to positive reviews while Captain was released to largely negative reviews and failed at the box office. In the mid of 1994, he played three roles in Namma Annachi, in Manoj Kumar's masala film Raja Pandi, he played a cameo appearance as himself in the comedy film Killadi Mappillai and he appeared in a guest role for Pavithran's film Indhu. Namma Annachi and Rajapandi were released to unfavourable reviews. K. Vijiyan of New Straits Times stated for Namma Annachi : "to do all three roles is just to generate more publicity for Sarath and the movie". His next venture was K. S. Ravikumar's Nattamai alongside Meena and Kushboo, in which he played a dual role. The film became a blockbuster and achieved cult status. His performance was highly praised by critics and also fetched him several notable awards, including Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor, Filmfare Award for Best Actor and Cinema Express Award for Best Actor. It was followed by Magudikkaran. After the failure of Captain and the success of Nattamai, R. Sarathkumar decided to focus only on Tamil cinema. The next year, he worked in the village drama Veluchami, P. Vasu's Coolie, Nadodi Mannan and the crime film Ragasiya Police. Veluchami opened to favourable reviews with K. Vijiyan of New Straits Times claiming "Sarathkumar shows more maturity with his acting". The four films were commercial failures. In 1996, he acted in A. Venkatesh's first film Mahaprabhu. The film turned out to be a hit. He then starred in the action film Nethaji alongside Lisa Ray, the film was a failure at the box office.
In 1997, he acted in Aravindhan co-starring R. Parthiepan, Nagma and Urvashi. The film failed at the box office. His next venture Suryavamsam directed by Vikraman and produced by R. B. Choudary was a blockbuster. He played a dual role in the film. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor in Tamil and Cinema Express Award for Best Actor for the second time. In the end of 1997, he acted in Sundar C. comedy film Janakiraman which was a commercial hit. The next year, he played in Moovendhar directed by Suraj, Sundar C's assistant director. The film, released to negative reviews, failed at the box office. After Nattamai, he re-teamed with K. S. Ravikumar in Natpukkaga, the film was well received critically and turned to be a blockbuster. R. Sarathkumar won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for the third time and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for the second time. He made a cameo appearance in Vikraman's Unnidathil Ennai Koduthen. He then starred in the Telugu film Preminchanu Nene and in Simmarasi, directed by Erode Soundar, K. S. Ravikumar's former dialogue writer. Simmarasi was released to unfavourable reviews but Sarathkumar was praised for his role. In the start of 1999, he acted in R. Chandra's Chinna Durai co-starring with Roja. It was followed by Oruvan, the remake of the Telugu film Auto Driver, in which Sarathkumar paired with Pooja Batra and teamed up for the second time with the director Suresh Krissna. Usha Gopalakrishnan of indolink.com praised Sarathkumar's acting. In the end of 1999, he acted in K. S. Ravikumar's Paattali.
In 2000, he starred in Super Good Films' Maayi and made a guest appearance in Pennin Manathai Thottu. Despite facing controversy, Maayi proved to be successful at the box office with a reviewer citing that "In the title role of a totally underplayed character, Sarathkumar surely makes a mark". In the start of 2001, he acted in the action film Rishi and went on to appear as himself in Ullam Kollai Poguthae, both directed by Sundar C. He co-starred with Vikram in Vinnukum Mannukum, directed by Rajakumaran and produced by R. B. Choudary. The film, released after many troubles, eventually failed at the box office. He then acted in S. A. Chandrasekhar's Dosth. His next release was K. S. Ravikumar's family drama Samudhiram, he acted alongside Murali and Manoj Bharathiraja. Despite negative reviews, the film was a commercial success. The next year, he appeared in Thenkasi Pattanam alongside Napoleon and Samasthanam alongside Malayalam actor Suresh Gopi, both were two hero-subjects. Sarathkumar's first 2003 release was Arasu, directed by Suresh, and the film was a super-hit at the box office. However, his second film Paarai, remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Mahayanam, directed by K. S. Ravikumar was an average grosser. His third film was Diwan, directed by Suryaprakash who previously directed the successful Maayi. His performance was praised by critics. In the start of 2004, he acted in action films Chatrapathy and Gambeeram, both were average grosser. In the making for the last five years, Maanasthan was released to average reviews. His next venture Aai in which he co-starred with Namitha and Vadivelu, an action masala film, directed by A. Venkatesh, was a decent hit. He was also introduced as a playback singer in Aai.
In 2005, he starred in Hari's Ayya alongside newcomer Nayantara. The film was released on the Pongal weekend to positive reviews and was a super hit at the box office. Sarathkumar's performance fetched to very positive reviews with a reviewer citing that "another splendid performance from Sarathkumar". He appeared in guest appearances in the Telugu film Bunny and his wife's production Githan. The success of A. Venkatesh's Aai resulted in the film's team collaborating to make a film in a similar genre, Chanakya, which also featured Namitha and Vadivelu. The film was a hit at the box office, and marked A. Venkatesh and Sarathkumar's combination third hit in a row. He signed up for Khaki and shooting was in progress. Sarathkumar tonsured his head but the film was dropped for some reason. In 2006, he directed and acted in his 100th film Thalaimagan, produced by his wife Raadhika under "Radaan Media works" banner. The film failed at the box-office. The next year, he starred in Gautham Menon's Pachaikili Muthucharam released to positive reviews but it ended up as an average grosser. A critic stated his performance as "a next-door-family-man Sarathkumar has excelled". Sarathkumar signed up for a Malayalam film, Vaitheeswaran, 1977 and a film directed by K. S. Ravikumar. He then played a cameo appearance as himself in Cheran's Maya Kannadi. Sarathkumar's last 2007 release was Nam Naadu, remake of Malayalam hit Lion, marking his third collaboration with director Suresh. This was his first film after he launched his own political party in Tamil Nadu. The film, released to largely negative reviews, failed at the box office. In 2008, his only release was the supernatural film Vaitheeswaran which was released to negative reviews.
In the start of 2009, he acted in the film 1977, donning six different looks. The film, made with a whopping budget of 15 crores, was directed and produced by newcomer G. N. Dinesh Kumar. The film, released to negative reviews, took an average opening and was declared a flop at the box office. In October 2009, Sarathkumar made his debut in Malayalam through Pazhassi Raja, in which he co-starred with Mammootty and he played the role of Edachena Kunkan. The film, directed by Hariharan, became the highest-grossing film of the year in the Malayalam industry and Sarathkumar won the Vanitha Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor. After the success of Pazhassi Raja, Sarathkumar was flooded with offers in Malayalam. Jaggubhai was released on 29 January 2010, the film directed by K. S. Ravikumar, became the tenth collaboration between the director and the actor. The film, facing serious piracy problems before its release, bombed ultimately at the box office. He then made a guest appearance in Madhumitha's comedy film Kola Kolaya Mundhirika. In the end of 2010, he acted in the Malayalam film Oridathoru Postman which was a flop at the box office. In early 2010, he acted in his first Malayalam film The Metro as a solo hero, which bombed at the Kerala box office. He appeared in Christian Brothers directed by Joshiy, starring alongside Mohanlal, Dileep, and Suresh Gopi. The film was a blockbuster. In the mid of 2011, Sarathkumar played the role of a transgender in Raghava Lawrence's Muni 2: Kanchana. The film became a commercial success in both Tamil and Telugu, he won for his performance a Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actor. In early 2012, he accepted Soundarya's offer for an important role in the film Kochadaiiyaan starring Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone. He played in lead role in the Malayalam film Achante Aanmakkal as an IPS officer. He then starred in his first Kannada film Saarathi which was a blockbuster, followed by the Telugu film Genius. The next year, he played the role of a police officer in the Kannada film Myna. His next venture was Chennaiyil Oru Naal, remake of the Malayalam hit film Traffic and co-produced by his wife Raadhika Sarathkumar, in which he played the role of a traffic police commissioner. The film became a critical and commercial success. He then appeared in the Telugu film Chandee playing the role of a police officer. In the start of 2014, he played the role of a CBI officer in Nimirndhu Nil and Janda Pai Kapiraju, which were shot simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu. He then appeared in "India's first photorealistic performance capture film" Kochadaiiyaan co-starring Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone.
In his early days as an actor, R. Sarathkumar was considered to be close to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo Jayalalithaa. However, Sarath's proximity to Jayalalithaa landed him in deep trouble when the film Nattamai, which was still running in Tamil Nadu theatres, was aired by Jayalalithaa's television channel JJ TV, using a videotape, which Sarathkumar gave her for personal viewing at her residence. However, this caused a furore in the film industry as the producer R. B. Choudary threatened action against Sarathkumar for misusing a tape given to him for personal viewing. An embarrassed Sarathkumar explained that he was taken by surprise and that he never expected Jayalalithaa to give it to the channel for telecast. He sought an explanation from both Jayalalitha and JJ TV, but without success. The ruling party reacted predictably, using every forum to attack Sarathkumar. He, in turn, realising that the public was behind him, announced his decision to join hands with Rajinikanth who supported the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) – Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) alliance.
In 1996, Sarath Kumar entered politics joining the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). In 1998, the DMK's leader Karunanidhi asked Sarathkumar to contest Lok Sabha elections from Tirunelveli. In the election, DMK lost very badly and the alliance could muster only 9 seats compared to the 39 seats it swept in 1996. Even though DMK lost badly in many constituencies, Sarathkumar was defeated by the AIADMK candidate Kadambur R. Janarthanan by a margin of only 6904 votes. In July 2001, the party made him a Rajya Sabha member, but he resigned before the 2006 Assembly elections to join the AIADMK along with his wife Raadhika. His wife Radhika was dismissed from AIADMK for anti-party activities in October 2006. He also quit from AIADMK in November 2006 quoting his role as president of the South Indian Artists Association needed an "undivided attention".
Sarathkumar launched his own political party the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi on 31 August 2007. Sarathkumar said : "We are disillusioned by the Dravidian parties, which had done little to develop the state despite being in power for four decades". In just before 2011 Assembly elections, Sarathkumar joined in AIADMK alliance and his party was allotted two seats. His party contested as part of the AIADMK alliance and won in two assembly constituencies – Tenkasi and Nanguneri. Sarathkumar won from Tenkasi and Ernavur A. Narayanan won from Nanguneri. In January 2016 Ernavur A. Narayanan has been expelled from the party for not abiding by the party rules and indulging in anti-party activities. In 2016 Assembly elections, Sarath Kumar lost in Tiruchendur Constituency to DMK Candidate Anitha R. Radhakrishnan.
After finishing his studies, Sarathkumar started out as a newspaper boy, managing newspaper circulation before moving on to become a reporter. After establishing Dinakaran in Bangalore, he was called to Chennai to expand their business there.
Sarathkumar is now the founder and editor of Media Voice weekly magazine in Tamil. One of the key value propositions that Media Voice brings to the table is Sarath’s personal interview each month with a news-maker discussing current issues. "Although I am a politician and actor now, the journalist in me is still alive. I love multitasking,” said Sarath. From such humble beginnings, he has learnt to live an inspired life, and is the strong leader that society needs.
R. Sarathkumar has been married twice. His first marriage was to Chaya in 1984 and the couple had two daughters, Varalaxmi (born 1985) and Pooja (born 1987).
In the mid of 1990s, Sarathkumar was involved in a relationship with actress Nagma with whom he paired in films such as Ragasiya Police, Aravindhan and Janakiraman. After knowing their relationship, Chaya filed a divorce petition. Later, Sarathkumar and Nagma got separated with Nagma saying : "I called off my relationship with him because we had reached a dead end". Sarathkumar and Chaya got divorced in 2000.
Then Sarathkumar got married with actress Raadhika on 4 February 2001. They were friends when they worked together in Kargil, they also paired in two films : Namma Annachi and Suryavamsam. The couple has a son named Rahul born in 2004. He has also a stepdaughter named Rayanne Hardy born to his wife Raadhika with her ex-husband Richard Hardy in 1992.
His elder daughter, Varalaxmi, works in the South Indian cinema industry as actress. His stepdaughter Rayanne Hardy got married with cricketer Abhimanyu Mithun on 28 August 2016.Kan Simittum Neram (1988)
Kannamoochi Yenada (2007)
Chennaiyil Oru Naal (2013)
Idhu Enna Maayam (2015)
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
1994 – Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for Nattamai
1996 – M.G.R. Award
1998 – Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor – Natpukkaga / Simmarasi
Filmfare Awards South
1994 – Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actor – Nattamai
1997 – Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actor – Suryavamsam
1998 – Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Actor – Natpukkaga
Cinema Express Award
1990 – Cinema Express Award for Best Villain — Tamil – Pulan Visaranai
1992 – Cinema Express Award Special Prize for Best Actor – Suriyan
1994 – Cinema Express Award for Best Actor – Nattamai
1997 – Cinema Express Award for Best Actor – Suryavamsam
2000 – Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Award
1997 – Dinakaran Cinema Best Actor Award – Suryavamsam
1997 – Cinema Fans' Association Best Actor Award – Suryavamsam
2005 – Sivaji Ganesan Awards
2006 – MGR — Sivaji Awards – Thalaimagan
2009 – Asianet Film Awards Special Jury Award – Pazhassi Raja
2009 – Vanitha Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor – Pazhassi Raja
2009 – Sathyan Memorial Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor – Pazhassi Raja
2009 – Jai Hind Patriotic Pride Award – Pazhassi Raja
2009 – Mathrubhumi Amrita Special Jury Award – Pazhassi Raja
2011 – SIIMA Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Muni 2: Kanchana
2011 – Vijay Award for Best Supporting Actor – Muni 2: Kanchana
2013 – Rainbow Ambassador Award
2013 – Norway Tamil Film Festival Icon of Tamil Cinema Award
2016 – Incisive Charisma award by WE Magazine