Vishnuvardhan was born in Mysore. He attended high school and obtained degree at the National College, Bangalore. He adopted the name Vishnuvardhan at the insistence of
, who was like is godfather and mentor, who also directed his maiden film, Naagarahaavu. This gave him the recognition of the ‘angry young man of Kannada cinema. “Ramachaari”, the character Vishnuvardhan played in Nagarahaavu, is still considered as among the best roles that have donned in Kannada cinema to date. Vishnuvardhan did not look back since then and went on to win many state honors and five film fare awards. Vishnuvardhan was popularly called by his fans as Sahasa Simha and Abhinava Bhargava.
Vishnuvardhan, a versatile actor, made his debut into the industry through "Vamshavruksha", directed by
in 1972, who is also Janapeetha awardee. For this Movie Vishnuvardhan won the National Award.
and introduced Vishnuvardhan as the main actor in one of the episodes. In his long career, he played popular roles in more than 220 films. Apart from Kannada He has also acted in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi movies. The existence of three decades in Kannada cinema was itself an indication of his strong ability. There is nothing like a good film or a bad film but there is a good time or bad time Vishnuvardhan kept on saying from the beginning of his career.
He was married to Kannada actress Bharathi on 27 February 1975. He had 2 adopted daughters, Keerthi and Chandana. Vishnuvardhan started an organization called Sneha Loka to promote harmony and to help during calamities like floods. He was also known for his personal involvement in many charitable causes. Vishnuvardhan died of a massive Heart attack on 30 December 2009 in Mysore and was later cremated at Abhinay Studio with full state honors.