Early and personal life
Venkatesh was born to film producer and former Member of Parliament, D. Ramanaidu and Rajeshwari at Karamchedu village of Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, India. He has an elder brother D. Suresh Babu, who runs Suresh Productions, and a younger sister Lakshmi. Venkatesh did his schooling in Don Bosco, Egmore, Chennai and graduated in commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. He got his MBA from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA. After his return to India, he wanted to get into film production but instead, became an actor in Telugu films.He married Neeraja Daggubati in 1985 and the couple has four children, three daughters and one son. His eldest daughter Aashritha Daggubati married Vinayak Reddy, the grandson of R. Surender Reddy, the chairman of Hyderabad Race Club.
Venkatesh acted as a child artist in the 1971 film Prema Nagar, where he played the role of the younger brother of the female lead Vanisri. He debuted as a full-fledged lead in Kaliyuga Pandavulu in 1986 alongside Khushbu Sundar for whom, the film was a debut in South Indian film industry. It won him a Nandi Award in special jury award category.
During the early phase in his acting career, Venkatesh acted in one of the classics of Telugu film industry Swarnakamalam, which was directed by K Viswanath. The film was showcased at the 1989 International Film Festival of India and got him a Nandi Award in special jury category in 1988. He also acted in critically acclaimed musical romance film Prema, which fetched him a Nandi Award for best acting. In 1988, he had another successful film, Brahma Putrudu, which won him a Filmfare Award for best actor in Telugu films category.
The real turnaround for him as an actor came in 1990 with Bobbli Raja. In this movie, Venkatesh acted as a young man, who seeks to undo injustice done to her mother. The movie turned out to be one of big hits and proved to be a turning point of his career. It firmly placed him as the top four heroes of the Telugu film industry. A year later, his action in Ram Gopal Varma's Kshana Kshanam along with Sridevi won great accolades. His portrayal of an innocent village man in Chanti in 1992 opened up a new genre of films in the Telugu film industry and made him a family hero.
His In 1996, he starred in Dharma Chakram, which won him yet another Nandi Award and one more Filmfare Award for his performance. His role in Ganesh as a person fighting against the ills in the Indian public healthcare system won rave reviews and got him both Nandi and Filmfare awards (see the Awards table below).
1986–1989: Debut and early career
Venkatesh first appeared as a child actor in the 1971 film Prema Nagar, where he played the younger brother of Vanisri. His first film as a full-fledged lead was K. Raghavendra Rao-directed Kaliyuga Pandavulu (1986), alongside Khushbu Sundar which was a debut for both of them. The film won him a Nandi Special Jury Award.Early in his career, Venkatesh featured as the lead in Swarnakamalam (1988), directed by K. Viswanath. The film was showcased at the 1988 International Film Festival of India, Asia-Pacific Film Festival and Ann Arbor Film Festival and won several accolades including Nandi Award for Best Feature Film and Filmfare Award for Best Film – Telugu. The film also won him his first Nandi Award for Best Actor. In the following year, he starred in musical romance film Prema (1989).
1990–2012: Commercial success
In the 1990 film Bobbili Raja, he played a young man, who seeks to undo injustice done to her mother. The commercially successful film proved to be a turning point of his career. A year later, he starred in Ram Gopal Varma's road movie Kshana Kshanam alongside Sridevi. The film, where Venkatesh played a small time thief, is considered one of best thrillers of Telugu cinema. His portrayal of an innocent villager in Chanti (1992) is also considered a notable role. In 1993, Venkatesh made his debut in Hindi cinema with Anari, a remake of his own film Chanti (1992). Later, he also featured in Taqdeerwala (1995).In 1996, he portrayed an honest lawyer in Dharma Chakram, which won him both Nandi Award and Filmfare Award. Later that year, he played a husband struggling between two wives in E. V. V. Satyanarayana-directed comedy drama Intlo Illalu Vantintlo Priyuralu, which was also a successful venture. In Ganesh (1998), he played a person fighting against the ills in the Indian public healthcare system. The following year, Venkatesh starred in the romantic action film Preminchukundam Raa. The film, which was one of the first portrayals of factionalism in Rayalaseema region, was a big commercial success. His 1999 drama film Raja, where he plays a small time thief who is reformed by his love is also well received by the audience. Following this, he established himself as one of top actors in Telugu cinema.In 2003, Venkatesh starred in the romantic comedy film Nuvvu Naaku Nachav which was a critical and commercial success. The success continued with Malliswari (2004), in his second collaboration with director K. Vijaya Bhaskar after Nuvvu Naaku Nachav. In 2007, he starred in two films, Aadavari Matalaku Arthale Verule and Tulasi, both of which grossed over ₹30 crore at the box office. In the following years, Venkatesh starred in several films, including Chintakayala Ravi (2008), Namo Venkatesa (2010) and Bodyguard (2012).
2013–present: Seethamma Vakitlo and multi-starrers
In 2013, Venkatesh co-starred alongside Mahesh Babu in the critically acclaimed drama film, Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu. The film is considered to be the first Telugu multi-starrer film in recent decades, after which Venkatesh went on to feature in other multi-starrer films such as Masala (2013), Gopala Gopala (2015) and F2: Fun and Frustration (2019). F2 grossed over ₹127 crore and ended up as one of the highest-grossing Telugu film of that year.Venkatesh's performance in Drushyam (2014) received several accolades from the critics. His portrayal of a strict boxing coach in the Sudha Kongara-directed sports drama Guru (2017) is also considered one of his finest performances.Later in 2019, he starred in Venky Mama, alongside his nephew Naga Chaitanya. The film was a profitable venture, grossing more than ₹72 crore worldwide. He will be seen next in Naarappa, which is currently under production.
On 24 April 2010, he signed with Manappuram General Finance and Leasing Ltd as their brand ambassador for Andhra Pradesh.