Prior to his film career, the son of Ranganathan, a former army personnel, and his wife Saroja played in Hindi television series and commercials. For breakthrough in his feature film (2000) helped his starring role in Mani Ratnam's Tamil film Alaipayuthey. Already in 2001, he rose after Minnale Gautham Menon on from the first division of the actors of the Tamil film industry. The Hindi remake of this film, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein Diya Mirza and with Saif Ali Khan, but was a box office flop.
For his role in Run ( 2002) he was awarded Best Actor at the Filmfare Awards South. After the success with the public in Mani Ratnam in war-torn Sri Lanka Kannathil Muthamittal playing Madhavan tried a second time to gain a foothold in the Bollywood film industry. Dil Vil Pyar Vyar The strip brought him back but no breakthrough. His next Tamil films were not successful.
It was not until the success of director Mani Ratnam brought him Aayitha Ezhuthu again in the spotlight. Given the negative role of a gangster he won Best Supporting Actor again a Filmfare Award South. In the Hindi remake Yuva the role has been filled by Abhishek Bachchan. Meanwhile, Madhavan had played with his role in Rang De Basanti in a Bollywoodhit. In his latest movie Rendu he plays for the first time a dual role.
R. Madhavan moderated by the end of 2005 to January 2006, the game show Deal Ya No Deal for Doordarshan. After his simultaneous work became too much for film and television, took over from February 2006 Mandira Bedi for the second season of the game show the post. The third season from the end of 2006 was again presented by Madhavan.
With his wife Sarita he has a son and a daughter. Madhavan is how many Tamils vegetarian and started operations in India in the PETA campaign. He also starred in the short film Herova Zerova alongside Surya, Jothika and Vijay with his wife to raise awareness of child labor.
- 2009: 3 Idiots