Sozhavanthan Varadharajan Venkatraman was born on 25 April 1911, to Varadharajan Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal. When he was three years old, his father died, and his uncle took responsibility for his upbringing. He displayed an aptitude for music from an early age, & his school education ended after the fourth standard.
To pursue his passion for music he went to Chintadripet, Madras. There the head of a drama troupe heard him singing, and offered Venkatraman a job as a stage artist/singer/musician. Venkatraman learnt to play the harmonium, but had no formal training in Carnatic music.
During his time in Madras, Venkatraman acted in five films. During a fight scene in one of the films he broke his left hand. While recuperating at Cubbon Park, Bangalore, A. V. Meiyappa Chettiar found Venkatraman and invited him back to Madras to work as the music director for Chettiar's next film, Nanda Kumar.
Venkatraman composed music for many films, including Nanda Kumar, Tahsildar, Valmiki, Manonmani, Kannagi, Nandanar, Meera (Tamil and Hindi), Naga Panchami, Sri Murugan, Manohara (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi), and Irumbu Thirai.
Venkatraman worked with actors such as C. N. Annadurai, M. G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, and N. T. Rama Rao. Many popular composers, including M. S. Viswanathan, T. K. Ramamoorthy, and G. K. Venkatesh worked with him.
All leading playback singers of the time from P. U. Chinnappa Bhagavathar and G. N. Balasubramaniam to M. M. Dandapani Desikar and T. M. Soundararajan lent their voices to Venkatraman's tunes. Carnatic music legends D. K. Pattammal and M. L. Vasanthakumari also came under his baton. Venkatraman himself also proved his prowess as a singer in a few films. Venkatraman's last assignment was Sri Krishna Leela.
Venkatraman scored the music for the famous "Bhaja Govindam", sung by M. S. Subbulakshmi and worked on songs that she made famous, such as "Vadavaraiyai Mathakki", "Mudiondrum Moolangalum", and a few Mahakavi Bharathiyar songs. He set to tune the Narayaneeyam and the Guruvayur Suprabhatam, rendered by Trichur Ramachandran and Papanasam Sivan's Sree Rama Charitha Geetham and sung by Sirkazhi Govindarajan. He tuned Mahakavi Bharathiyar songs and tuned Karpagambal Andhadi for M. M. Dandapani Desikar. He was the composer for All India Radio's Serndhisai, Vadhya Vrindha, and many other music ventures. Music for the Voice of India by Mahatma Gandhi's son had been scored by him.
Venkatraman worked with singers like T. M. Soundararajan, A. M. Rajah, Seerkazhi Govindarajan, Thiruchi Loganathan, V. N. Sundaram, T. A. Mothi, M. L. Vasanthakumari, P. Leela, Jikki, T. V. Rathinam, A. P. Komala, Radha Jayalakshmi, K. Jamuna Rani, P. Suseela, K. Rani, S. Janaki, and L. R. Eswari.
The singing actors M. M. Dandapani Desikar, G. N. Balasubramaniam, M. S. Subbulakshmi, D. K. Pattammal, P. U. Chinnappa, C. Honnappa Bhagavathar, U. R. Jeevarathinam, N. C. Vasanthakokilam, T. R. Mahalingam, T. R. Rajakumari, Chittor V. Nagaiah, N. S. Krishnan, T. A. Madhuram, T. S. Durairaj, and J. P. Chandrababu all sang songs under his compositions.
Venkatraman married Saraswathi at the age of 28 in 1939. The couple had four sons and four daughters. Venkatraman died in his sleep on 7 April 1998, at his residence in Palavakkam.