Cheran was born in Kolinjipatty near Madurai. His father Pandian was a Projector Operator in Vellalur touring theatre. His mother Kamala was a primary school teacher. He has two sisters. His childhood dreams were all about the celluloid world. During his school days he acted in dramas. He came to Chennai to pursue his career in films. Initially he started career as a Production manager in some movies. In the film Puriyaadha Pudhir, he worked as an assistant director to Director K. S. Ravikumar. He was promoted as an associate director from Cheran Pandiyan to Nattamai.

He also associated with Kamal Haasan in the movie Mahanadi as an associate director. He made his directorial debut in Bharathi Kannamma a break to his film career through Producer Henry. The film met many controversies. In spite of it, the film was a big box office hit and gave a break to the sinking career of actor Parthiban. With Porkkaalam, Pandavar Bhoomi, and Vetri Kodi Kattu, he gave a hat trick of successful films. He turned actor in director Thangar Bachan's film Solla Marandha Kadhai.

Cheran then prepared to work on Pokkisham in 2004, after the release of Autograph but postponed the film after falling out with the new lead actress Meera Jasmine. He re-started work on the film in December 2005, after completing Thavamai Thavamirundhu (2005), and approached Sandhya to play the lead role. Cheran turned publisher with the Tamil novel Porum Valiyum (War & Pain). The novel is an emotional account of a war-torn Sri Lanka. The author Savitri Advithanandhan account was so touching that he decided that the book should reach all people. And as a first step, he launched the publishing house Cheran Noolagam.

During an audio launch event of Tamil film, Cheran has said 'I feel ashamed that I fought for Sri Lankan Tamils'. His speech was accusing Sri Lankan Tamils for making unauthorized copies of Tamil films. It raised criticism against him. 2014 Cheran founded a new organization C2H (Cinema2Home), to curb out copyright infringement in the Tamil film industry. C2H would deliver official 5.1 HD Original DVDs on the day of a film's theatrical release, for which C2H signed a pact with DVD maker Moser Baer. Around 150 distributors and 3000 dealers were said to be involved in the process of bringing the DVDs to households across Tamil Nadu. JK Enum Nanbanin Vaazhkai would be the first film to release via C2H.

He is a four time National Film Award winner for Vetri Kodi Kattu (2000), Autograph (2004) and Thavamai Thavamirundhu (2005). He won four Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and five South Filmfare Awards.

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