Parthiban was born in 1957 near Thoothugudi. His father was Ratnavelu. After passing his HSC Exam in 1974, Parthiban went to Madras to become an Actor. Instead he was told that he did not look like actor material and was encouraged to make films. This led to him pursuing a D.F.E (Diploma in Film Editing) from the Film and Technology Institute in Tambaram (Not to be confused with the FTI in Pune).
After graduating in 1979, he briefly had a career writing short stories under the pen name of "Bharathi" in Tamil Magazines before in 1984- he became K.Bhagyaraj's personal assistant and later Assistant Director. The Bhagyaraj-Parthiban duo worked in over 40 films from 1984 to 1991. Parthiban also had small roles in several Bhagyaraj films. His movies Housefull (1999) and Pudhea Paadhai (1989) won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. His is known for having directed critically acclaimed films like Pudhiya Paadhai and Housefull and for his performances in films like Bharathi Kannamma, Vetri Kodi Kattu, Azhagi, Melvilasom and Aayirathil Oruvan. He won Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actor for Bharathi Kannamma. The film Aayirathil Oruvan in which he portrayed a Chola King won him the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor – Tamil. He wrote a book named "Kirukkkalgal" – Thamizh Kavithai Thoguppu which was released by M. Karunanidhi. He runs a charitable trust named 'R.Parthiepan Manithaneya Mandram'.
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