Thengai Srinivasan was born to Rajavel Mudaliar (Chennai) and Subammal (Srivaikuntam in Tuticorin district) on 21 October 1937. He had two sisters. When he was aged seven years old, his family moved to Chennai. Srinivasan was married to Lakshmi. The couple have two daughters, Geethalakshmi and Rajeshwari, and a son, Shivshankar. Geetha's son Yogi, and Shivshankar's daughter Shrutika have also appeared in a few Tamil films during the 2000s. When Thengai Srinivasan went to Bangalore, Karnataka to attend the rituals following his aunt's death, he suffered a brain haemorrhage. Despite intensive treatment, he died at the age of 51 on 9 November 1988. His body was brought to his house at Ramasamy Street in Gopalapuram, Chennai. His death was marked by tributes from film fans and industry insiders alike.
He was given the title Thengai (coconut) after his role as a coconut-seller in the drama Kal Manam, staged by actor K. Kannan. Later he has been associated with numerous movies of both the leading actors – MGR and Sivaji Ganesan. He produced a film with Sivaji, ‘Krishnan vandhaan’. His dream project with MGR didn’t flourish. With 1980’s, he worked with new rising stars of Tamil cinema - Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan.