Arjun Sarja

Actor, director, producer, screen writer ,distributor

Srinivasa Sarja

born 15 August 1964, known professionally as Arjun, is an Indian actor, producer and director. Referred to by the media and his fans as “Action King” for his roles in action films, he works predominantly in Tamil cinema. He has also worked in Kannada and Telugu language films,while also performing in a few Malayalam and Hindi films. Arjun has acted in more than 150 movies, with most of them being lead roles. He is one of few South Indian actors to attract fan following from multiple states of India. He has directed 11 films and also produced and distributed a number of films.

In 1993, he starred in S. Shankar’s blockbuster Gentleman which opened to positive reviews, while Arjun went on to win the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor. During this time, he starred in hits such as Jai Hind (1994), Karnaa (1995), and the action thriller film Kurudhipunal (1995), for which Arjun won acclaim for his role while the film became India’s official entry for the 68th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. In 1999, he starred in the political action-thriller, Mudhalvan (1999), which earned him the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for his role as well as numerous other nominations. He was then featured in Vasanth’s romantic drama film Rhythm, where he played a photographer, who eventually falls in love with a widow. Featuring a popular soundtrack and opening to positive reviews, Rhythm also became a commercial success.

Arjun made appearances in the Telugu film Hanuman Junction (2001) and the Kannada film Sri Manjunatha (2001). In 2012, he appeared in the Kannada film Prasad, which screened at the Berlin Film Festival. He won the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor for his work in the film. The multilingual film Abhimanyu (2014) won the Karnataka State Film Award for Second Best Film.

Personal life

Arjun Sarja was born as Srinivasa Sarja on 15 August 1964, in Madhugiri, in the erstwhile Mysore State. His father was Shakthi Prasad, a Kannada film actor, and his mother was Lakshmi, an art teacher. He had one elder brother Kishore Sarja, who directed Kannada films. He is married to Niveditha Arjun a former actress who has appeared in the 1986 Kannada film Ratha Sapthami under the stage name of Asha Rani. Kannada actor Rajesh is his father-in-law. Sarja has two daughters, Aishwarya and Anjana. Aishwarya Arjun made her acting debut in 2013. His nephews Chiranjeevi Sarja and Dhruva Sarja both act in Kannada movies.Another nephew of Arjun, Bharat Sarja, will also be making his acting debut in 2013.

Sarja, inspired by Bruce Lee’s 1973 film Enter the Dragon, began training Karate at the age of 16 and now holds a black belt.

Desires and plans

Arjun had always thought and dreamt of becoming a police officer but his fate took him into an entirely different direction.

Arjun is an ardent devotee of Hanuman. He is building the Hanuman temple at the outskirts of Chennai. A 35-foot statue of the Lord Anjaneya was sculpted exclusively for the temple and the statue of the Hanuman is in a sitting posture and weighs around 140 tonnes. The sitting posture of the Hanuman statue is first of its kind in India. The single-stone statue is in 35 feet high and 12 feet wide and 7 feet thick.

Film career
1981-1988: Debut roles

Arjun’s father Shakti Prasad, a renowned actor of Kannada films, did not want his son to become an actor and turned down film offers that Arjun began to receive as a teenager. In a surprise move, film producer Rajendra Singh Babu managed to convince Arjun to begin shooting for a feature film for his production house without Shakti Prasad’s express permission and consequently, his father agreed to Arjun’s career choice. The film Simhada Mari Sainya (1981) featured him as a junior artiste and the director of the film gave him the stage name of Arjun, replacing his original name Ashok Babu. While he began to establish himself Kannada films, he received an offer from actor-producer A. V. M. Rajan and director Rama Narayanan to do a Tamil film Nandri. Simultaneously he was offered a Telugu film, Kodi Ramakrishna’s Maa Pallelo Gopaludu in Telugu too which went on to be a big success, running for a year in three centers.

1989-1999: Breakthrough

His career as an actor began to take off in the mid-1980s and he sometimes worked for up to seven shifts in a day to keep up with the films he had committed to do By 1990, his films lost box office value and he was out of work in Tamil and Telugu films for almost a year. He subsequently chose to direct his feature film Sevagan (1992), a crime story which opened to mixed reviews, but became a box office success. Soon after, Shankar cast him in the lead role in his first film, Gentleman, after much persuasion. Arjun had initially rejected the film without listening to Shankar’s narration but the director’s persistence prompted him to feature in the film as a vigilante against corruption. The film opened to positive reviews and went on to become a trendsetter in the Tamil film industry, as well as achieving significant box office success, while Arjun went on to win the State Award for Best Actor.His change of fortune at the box office continued and Arjun began to gain ground as a bankable lead star in action films after his films including his patriotic directorial venture Jai Hind (1994) and Karnaa (1995), where he played a dual role, went on to become blockbusters.Kamal Haasan approached Arjun to play a police officer in the drama film Kurudhipunal (1995), and the actor jumped at the opportunity and agreed to do the film even without hearing the narration. Arjun won positive acclaim for his role, while the film became India’s official entry for the 68th Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category.

In the late 1990s, his action films often carried a patriotic theme, though he was still able to attract prominent producers and directors. After a series of unsuccessful action films, including his own venture Thaayin Manikodi (1998). With the film Mannavaru Chinnavaru (1999), he acted his 100th film co-starred with Sivaji Ganesan and Soundarya in lead roles. Arjun then briefly experimented in softer roles, portraying critically acclaimed characters of businessman with “shades of grey” in Prabhu Solomon’s Kannodu Kanbathellam (1999). He teamed up again with Shankar in the political drama film Mudhalvan (1999). Portraying an ambitious TV journalist who receives the opportunity to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a day, Arjun offered bulk dates for filming the project to Shankar. The film subsequently won positive reviews with Arjun described as having “acquitted himself with aplomb in the challenging role”.Arjun received the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for his role as well as numerous other nominations.

2000-2009: Action films

He play in the action film Sudhandhiram (2000), directed by Raj Kapoor. It is remake of Hindi film Ghulam. Later he plays a role as an energetic civil service officer in Vaanavil (2000). He then featured in Vasanth’s romantic drama film Rhythm (2000), where he played a photographer, who eventually falls in love with another widower. Featuring a popular soundtrack and opening to positive reviews, Rhythm also became a commercial success, with a critic noting “Arjun is as polished as ever” and adding “who would have conceived this idea that the “Action King” could attempt a soft-natured role of this kind”. He carried on with a lighter theme in his next directorial venture, the love story Vedham (2001), while he ventured into Telugu cinema again by appearing in Raja’s Hanuman Junction and as a Hindu devotee in Sri Manjunatha (2001).

The image of “action king” made him popular with town and village centre audiences, who appreciate the actor’s fight and stunt scenes. He thus actively chose to specialise in action films, often collaborating with directors who specialised in them such as Sundar C, Venkatesh and Selva. In the mid 2000s, he appeared in several action films with the same premise, often portraying a police officer or a local do-gooder. He directed and featured in lead roles in both the action films Ezhumalai (2002) and Parasuram (2003), while also being involved in Maharajan’s Arasatchi (2004). Some of his films, Giri (2004) and Marudhamalai, were box office successes, with several of his projects were not, including Madrasi, Vathiyar (2006) and Durai, in all of which he was the story writer. Despite not achieving any significant hit films in the 2000s, producers often considered Arjun as a “minimum guarantee” actor and felt his sizable fan following the four Southern States of India would help recover money even through dubbed versions. In a rare experimental film for him in the decade, he portrayed the role of the Hindu deity Hanuman in Krishna Vamsi’s devotional film Sri Anjaneyam (2004) and worked on the film without receiving remuneration as a self-confessed worshipper of the deity. He was also cast for a change as a realistic police officer in Bharathiraja’s critically acclaimed Bommalattam (2008), where a reviewer felt his “showcase of the soft, subtle yet unrelenting cop was noteworthy”.

2010-2017: Various roles

Since the turn of the decade, Arjun has attempted to move away from his “action king” image and accepted to star in films where he would play the antagonist or a supporting role, with the move drawing praise from film critics. In 2011, Arjun accepted the opportunity to play an extended guest role alongside Ajith Kumar in Venkat Prabhu’s action thriller Mankatha, with critics praising his performance as a Police officer in the blockbuster. The following year he appeared in Kannada film Prasad, for which he won the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor. Portraying a middle-class father with a deaf and dumb son, Arjun noted it was a rewarding experience for him to break the monotony of his standard roles and attempt something different, admitting he was moved by the script. The film opened to unanimously positive reviews in March 2012 and then was selected to be screened at the Berlin Film Festival, with critics labelling Arjun’s portrayal as a “stunning performance” and his “career-best”. Arjun collaborated with Mani Ratnam with Kadal (2013), in which the actor portrayed a negative role of a smuggler in coastal Tamil Nadu. While the film opened to mixed reviews and became a box office failure, Arjun won rave reviews for his portrayal with Sify.com noting Arjun is “deliciously despicable in his career’s most memorable negative role” and The Hindu labelling him as “brilliant”. He then won acclaim for his portrayal of a real-life police officer K. Vijay Kumar in the bilingual film Vana Yuddham, the biopic of notorious forest brigand Veerappan, as well as for his role of a paralysed swimming coach in Vasanth’s romance film, Moondru Per Moondru Kadal.

His latest directorial venture, Jai Hind 2 contained a message about the declining state of the Indian education system. The film became a box office success in Kannada, while the Tamil version did not perform well at the box office. In 2016, he acted in Kannada film, Game. It was released in Tamil as Oru Melliya Kodu. The film has some good performances. Arjun and Shaam, both Bengaluru boys but doing Tamil films, are apt for their roles. The Kannada and Tamil version was a hit at the box office. In 2017, he marks in his 150th film Nibunan. It was simultaneously released in Kannada as Vismaya. Arjun looks stylish and suave as the fit and honest officer, and he excels in a couple of action blocks he gets. Varalaxmi and Prasanna have enough space for their roles and are as good as the protagonist’s aides. ‘Nibunan; is indeed worth your money and time for it retains the suspense element for a predominant part, there are a lot of interesting ideas and of course Arjun.These two versions are delivered on 28 July to positive reviews.


In 2018, he directed in the Kannada-Tamil movie Prema Baraha. The film stars Chandan Kumar and his daughter Aishwarya Arjun Prema Baraha has all the trademark elements of an Arjun Sarja film – stunts, patriotic fervor and a touch of devotion for Lord Hanuman. The movie was a success in Kannada. It was released in Tamil as Sollividava but did not have an impact in the audience. He acted in Telugu Naa Peru Surya, Naa Illu India with Allu Arjun, followed by Irumbu Thirai, a Tamil action movie co-starred with Vishal. Arjun plays in a negative role. The film was a Blockbuster at the box office.

Arjun’s upcoming project is the Malayalam film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham which stars an ensemble cast lead by Mohanlal.

Main article: Arjun Sarja filmography


State Film Awards – Won
1993 – Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for Gentleman
1999 – Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for Mudhalvan
2012 – Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor for Prasad
2014 – Karnataka State Film Award for Second Best Film for Abhimanyu
Other awards – Won
2011 – Silver Screen Sensational Actor Award
TSR-TV9 National Film Awards 2011-2012
2013 – Vijay Award for Best Villain – Kadal

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