Jayaram Subramaniyam was born into a Tamil speaking Kerala Iyer family in Perumbavoor, Kerala. He completed his bachelor’s degree from Sri Sankara College, Kaladi. When he was studying there, he won several awards in the state level for mimicry.
After college, he joined Kalabavan, a professional mimicry troupe in Kochi. At the age of 23, he was introduced into the cinema field by script writer and filmmaker Padmarajan who gave Jayaram his launching pad with the 1988 film Aparan. Jayaram subsequently acted in Padmarajan’s Moonnam Pakkam (1988) and Innale (1989). Padmarajan became his mentor in his film career till the former’s death in January 1991. He became one of the Reigning Super Star of malayalam film industry through the film Meleparambil Aanveedu(1993) which was directed by Rajasenan.It was the biggest hit of that time,which broke several records. He is noted for playing in Kamal’s films during the late 80s and early 90s, in films such as Pradeshika Vaarthakal (1989), Peruvannapurathe Visheshangal (1989), and Shubha Yathra (1990), where he co-starred with his wife Parvathy.
He has acted in several of Sathyan Anthikkad’s films. Their first film was Ponn Muttyidunna Tharavu (1988). Around that time Jayaram played a supporting role in Sathyan Anthikkad’s Ardham (1989). Thalayanamanthram (1990) and Sandesham (1991), were both written and co-starring Sreenivasan. Anthikkad and Jayaram later went on to make Thooval Kottaram (1996), Irattakuttikalude Achan (1997), Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal (1999), Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal (2000), Yathrakarude Sradhakku (2002), Manassinakkare (2003), ‘Bhagya Devatha’ and ‘Kadha Thudarunnu’.
He co-starred with Mammootty and Suresh Gopi in Joshi’s Dhruvam (1993). Other films with Gopi include Viji Thampi’s Nagarangalil Chennu Raparkam (1990), Thooval Sparsam (1990), Jayaraj’s Paithrukam (1993), and Sibi Malayil’s Summer in Bethlehem (1998). He co-starred with Mohanlal in Bharath Gopi’s Ulsavapittennu, Peruvannapurathe Visheshangal (1989) and Priyadarshan’s Advaitham (1991).
His association with director Rajasenan created many movies such as Kadinjool Kalyanam (1991), Ayalathe Addeham (1992), Meleparambil Aanveedu (1993), CID Unnikrishnan B.A., B.Ed. (1994), Aniyan Bava Chetan Bava (1995), Aadyathe Kanmani (1995), Swapna Lokathe Balabhaskaran (1996), and Kadhanayakan (1997). He also played Aravindan in Siddique’s Friends (1999) in which he co-starred with Sreenivasan and Mukesh. In the first decade of the 21st century his films include Yathrakarude Sradhakku (2002), Manassinakkare (2003), Veruthe Oru Bharya (2008), and Twenty:20 (2008). His roles include Karunakaran in B Kannan’s Theerthadanam (2001) and Lonappan in Rajeev Kumar’s Sesham (2002).
He also forayed into Tamil cinema including roles in Gokulam, Purushalakshanam, Priyanka, Kolangal, Murai Mamman and Pathini. He played the roles of Dr. Kailash and as Ayyappan Nair in Kamal Haasan starred Thenali and Panchathanthiram. They first came together on screen in Chanakyan (1989). Recently he has done more supporting roles in Tamil, such as antagonist roles in Saroja and Dhaam Dhoom, and a comic role in Aegan.
Jayram won his first Kerala State Film Award, a Special Jury Award, for his performance in the film Thooval Kottaram (1996). He went on to win another Kerala State Film Award, and has won four Filmfare Awards South. In 2001, he won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award, Special Prize award, for his performace in Thenali (2000). His perforamces in the films One Man Show (2001), Manassinakkare (2003). Veruthe Oru Bharya (2008), and Seniors (2011) has established himself as one of the leading actors of Malayalam cinema.
In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India for his contribution towards the arts.
Jayaram is married to actress Parvathy, who is no longer active in films. Their son Kalidasan is a child film artist who won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist in 2003 for his second movie, Ente Veedu Appuvinteyum. Jayaram also has a daughter, Malavika. The family lives in Chennai and Cochin.