Considered by most to be the most successful Tamil film actor ever, Mayavaram Krishnamurthy Thyagaraja Bhagvathar (M.K.T.) left his mark on Tamil films. He was widely known as a Tamil film actor, producer, as well as a singer. His first steps into fame included a career as a singer and stage artist in the 1920s. Later he entered into the film career as well, acting in six box-office hits in about 20 years of acting.
Chintamani proved to be M.K.T.’s first big success. He was cast in the role of Bilwamangal in the 1937 Tamil film directed by Y. V. Rao. The film proved to be a hit, breaking a record for the first Tamil film to run continuously for a year. The audience was enraptured by the vocal skills of Bilwamangal (M.K.T.’s role), even going so far as to inspire an esteemed Tamil writer and his wife to sing the beautiful songs to one another each morning.
Interested in M.K.T.’s exceptional acting skill, Ellis R. Dungan, an American film director, offered him the title role in Ambikapathy. This film also proved to be a huge hit, even going so far as to break the records that were set by Chintamani.
In Haridas, M.K.T. played a lead role. The film itself ran for three straight years at Madras’ Broadway Theatre, breaking records for the first film to run so long in the theater. This was yet another of M.K.T.’s many record-breaking performances in his successful career as an actor.
A shocking crime called the Lakshmikanthan Murder Case caused M.K.T.’s career to come to a crashing halt, as he spent three years in prison as a murder suspect. The murder was of C. N. Lakshmikanthan, a Tamil film journalist stabbed to death in Vepery, Madras in 1944. The trial was conducted in the Madras Presidency (November 1944 – April 1947). Many suspects were arrested for the case, including M.K.T., N.S. Krishnan and director S.M. Sreeramulu Naidu. The director was acquitted, but both actors were convicted and kept in jail. Later, both Krishnan and M.K.T. were found innocent, and Krishnan was released back into his successful career.
M.K.T.’s career, however, never seemed to gain footing again. After his tenure he turned down many of the films he had been planning on starring in. He continued to act in Tamil films, none of which did well in the box office, and his career as an influential star plummeted until his death in 1959.