Udumalai Narayana was born on 25 September 1899 in Poolavadi, a small village in Udumalpet taluk, Tiruppur district, Tamil Nadu, India. His parents died at a very young age and poverty deprived him of school. With the help of his brother, he made a small living selling matchboxes to the nearby villages. Even when young he had a keen interest in play and music. He initially started off acting in plays at the local temple and then got connected with some leading play groups in Tamil Nadu. Today's Kollywood is an amalgamation of several of those play groups.
He is best known for writing several lyrics that were used in the freedom movement in his early days and between 1950 and 1972. He wrote lyrics for several Kollywood movies. Several of the movies that he wrote lyrics for were box office hits including Velaikari, Nallathambi, Poompuhar, Manohara. He was affectionately known as "Kaviraayar" in the movie industry. He was also associated with N. S. Krishnan the famous comedian in 1940's.
In respect for his contribution to Tamil and its people, the government of Tamil Nadu has erected a memorial for him at Udumalaipettai. What made Narayana Kavi very popular was his ability to use simple language that could be understood even by peasants. He died in 1981.
^Sundararaj Theodore Baskaran The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema 1996 Page 215 " Udumalai Narayana Kavi ... He entered films and wrote the dialogues and songs for Krishna Leela (1933). ... N.S.Krishnan invited him to work in his film Lost Love/Izhanda Kathal (1941). More of Krishnan's films followed. Narayana Kavi's atheistic and rationalistic ideas came to be expressed through songs. Through N.S. Krishnan, he got to know C.N. Annadurai."