Here’s all you need to know about Atlee, who directed the action-packed entertainer Jawan featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, and Deepika Padukone.

The Jawan preview, with Shah Rukh Khan in an unseen avatar as a grey-shaded character and glimpses of Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, Deepika Padukone, Priyamani, and Sanya Malhotra, has caused chaos online. Promising an action-filled adventure, the preview has the potential to be a blockbuster. Jawan, directed by Atlee, will hit theaters on September 7. Here’s everything you need to know about him, who shares a special connection with 3 Idiots and has directed three consecutive blockbusters for Thalapathy Vijay.

Born as Arun Kumar in Madurai in 1986, he relocated to Chennai where he finished his schooling and pursued visual communications at Sathyabhama University, Chennai. Before entering the film industry, Arun Kumar adopted the unique name Atlee. At the age of 19, he began working as an assistant director with Shankar Shanmugam, known simply as Shankar, on the science fiction film Enthiran starring Rajinikanth in 2010.

Two years later, he once again assisted Shankar on his next film, Nanban, which was an official remake of Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots. In Nanban, Thalapathy Vijay, Jiiva, and Srikanth portrayed the three main protagonists, originally played by Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, and R. Madhavan in the Hindi film. During the filming, Atlee developed a strong bond with Vijay and subsequently directed him in three blockbusters.

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In 2013, Atlee made his directorial debut with the romantic comedy Raja Rani, starring Arya, Jai, Nayanthara, and Nazriya Nazim in the lead roles. It received widespread critical acclaim and achieved enormous commercial success. The filmmaker then shifted gears to create an action-thriller named Theri, featuring Vijay, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, and Amy Jackson. The film was a tremendous box office success, earning over Rs 150 crore worldwide.

The following year, the actor and director collaborated again on Mersal, with Vijay playing a triple role alongside a large ensemble cast including Sathyaraj, Vadivelu, Nithya Menen, Kajal Aggarwal, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Hareesh Peradi, Kovai Sarala, and Sathyan. The 2017 release grossed more than Rs 250 crore at the global box office. Vijay and Atlee reunited for their third film, Bigil, in 2019, where the actor portrayed a double role and Nayanthara, Jackie Shroff, Vivek, and Kathir appeared in supporting roles. Released during Diwali, the sports action film became the highest-grossing Tamil film of the year, earning over Rs 300 crore worldwide and becoming Vijay’s biggest blockbuster.

On a personal note, Atlee married actress Krishna Priya in 2014, and the couple welcomed a baby boy in January 2023. They named him Meer, which signifies ‘leader.’ Interestingly, Atlee’s son shares his name with Shah Rukh’s father, Meer Taj Mohammed Khan. Atlee and Priya also co-own a production house called A for Apple Production and have successfully produced two films under their banner, Sangili Bungili Kadhava Thorae (2017) and Andhaghaaram (2020).