He was born as the eldest among four children in 1958 at Kollengode in Chittur taluk, Palakkad district, Kerala. He was the grandson of Mr. N. Radhakrishna Menon and son of Chunkamannathu Velayudhan and Kasthuri Chakkungal. When his father moved his hotel business from Mathur to Coimbatore and family shifted to Coimbatore. He had his primary education from St. Ann's Matric. Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore. He also learned piano from Trinity College London.
He discontinued his Bachelor of Arts in History from Coimbatore (Govt. Arts College) to pursue a career in acting. He landed a minor role in the Kannada film Swapna Thingalgal. He began acting in small minor roles in Telugu and Kannada films including a two-minute scene as a rapist in Udaya.
From 1979 to 1983, he was part of an acting drama troupe in Chennai, Chennai Kings, which also included the Kannada/Tamil supporting actor, Nassar. He was spotted and cast as the lead actor in Ezhavathu Manithan which was his biggest role to date.
He was married to Actress Rohini in 1996 and they have a son Rishi Varan born in 1998. The couple later got separated and divorced in 2004.
Following his beginnings on the stage, and a Diploma in acting from Adyar Film Institute in Chennai, Raghuvaran approached many Kollywood studios aiming for performance oriented roles and finally got selected one as hero. The offbeat film named Ezhavathu Manithan (Seventh Man). directed by Hariharan won many awards, but not many offers for him. A few more films followed as hero like Oru Odai Nadhiyagirathu and Nee Thodumbothu released, but did n't became a huge success. But the villain role in Silk Silk Silk was noticed and the film's success opened the gate of offers for him. The villain act continued in films like Kutravaaligal, Mr. Bharath, Mandhira Punnagai and Oorkavalan. He appeared as hero as well as supporting actor in between releases as well. The major ones are Mudivalla Arambam and Samsaram Adhu Minsaram.
In the mid 1980s Raghuvaran did many films as hero and most of them did good business as well. The films Michael Raj, Megam Karuththirukku, Kootu Puzhukkal and Kavithai Paada Neramillai helped to stabilize his career. The lawyer in Kaliyugam, the police officer in Thaimel Aanai, the rowdy with a golden heart in Kai Naattu, the honest Medical student turned Goonda in Kuttravali, the common man in En Vazhi Thani Vazhi helped Raghuvaran's market value as hero to reach greater heights. But his desire to try all types of roles, like supporting actor as well as villain simultaneously halted the progress as hero, even though he played hero roles in Vyooham, Kavacham and Anjali later. His supporting roles in Annanagar Mudhal Theru and Siva was well received too.
Raghuvaran was pitted against Dilip Kumar in his Bollywood debut Izzatdaar and his popularity further soared at national level with Ram Gopal Varma' s gangster flick Shiva, where he played the dreaded gangster Bhawani. Other Bollywood films include like Rakshak opposite Sunil Shetty (1996), Lal Baadshah opposite Amitabh Bachchan (1999), Hitler opposite Mithun Chakraborty (1998) and Grahan along with Jackie Shroff, where he replaced a busy Nana Patekar in 2001.
In a career span lasting for more than 26 years, Raghuvaran performed each roles with his trademark mannerisms, often stealing the thunder from more established stars and even heroes. His magnetic baritone voice was an advantage and he modulated it to suit his variety of roles. He also set his own style of mannerisms and brought a distinct dialogue delivery and even changed his gait in many films. All this dedication won him more fans and helped his popularity graph soaring more higher.
He has received several state and Filmfare Awards for his performances in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu films. He began his career as a supporting actor in a number of films in Tamil including Mani Rathnam's Anjali as the father of an autistic child. He later played villains in Baasha as Mark Anthony, Mudhalvan as Aranganathan (corrupt Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu), Shiva and Muthu as Ilaimaran. He later returned to supporting roles – sometimes as a father or as a mentor in films such as Alai, Yaaradi Nee Mohini, Thirumalai and Bala.
Raghuvaran died on 19 March 2008. cause of the death has been disclosed as organ failure caused by excessive alcohol consumption
His death occurred during the filming stages of several films, including the Tamil film, Kanthaswamy wherein Raghuvaran's performances were left unused and were replaced with Ashish Vidyarthi, which resulted in the film's delayed release.