Sathyan was born to a Christian family in the village of Aramada, near Thirumala at Thrikkannapuram in Southern Travancore on 9 November 1912 as the first child of Cheruvilakathu Veettil Manuel and Lilly Amma. Sathyan passed the Vidwan exam, equivalnt to Master of Arts before joining Saint Joseph's School as teacher. After some time, he got job as a clerk in the Kerala Secretariat and worked there for about a year. He joined the army in 1941 and got posted as a Commissioned Officer of the Viceroy of India. He served the British army in Manipur, Burma (now Myanmar) and British Malaya (now Malaysia) during the World War II period. After finishing his term in the army, he returned home and joined the then Travancore State Police as a Police Inspector. During the communist riots in 1947–1948, Sathyan was the Police Inspector at Alappuzha North Police Station. He was publicly known as Nadar Inspector. Entry to films Sathyan's entry into the field of acting started during his tenure as the police officer. At that time he acted in several amateur plays and that experience made him more interested in acting. His entry to film industry was accidental. He got introduced to a film musician Sebastian Kunju Bhagavathar during his tenure as Inspector in Alappuzha North Police Station. The musician introduced Sathyan to various film personalities and one producer promised to cast him in a film; however, Sathyan did not get any calls from the producer. Sathyan came to know about a film that Kaumudi chief editor K. Balkrishnan was planning. He met Balakrishnan and the latter was impressed by Sathyan. Balakrishnan cast him as the pratogonist in the film written and produced by him titled Thyagaseema. Sathyan resigned his job in police to concentrate in acting and shorted his name to Sathyan from Sathyaneshan Nadar. However, the film was never released. That was in 1951. Career In 1952, Sathyan' first film got released. The film was titled Athmasakhi and it earned him recognition in the industry. Sathyan rose to fame with the legendary Neelakkuyil (1954). The film was also a milestone in Malayalam film history. It was the first film to have an authentic Malayalam story. The film was written by renowned literary figure Uroob and directed by Ramu Karyat-P. Bhaskaran duo. The songs in the film written by P. Bhaskaran and set to tunes by K. Raghavan were superhits. The film became the first Malayalam film to win national recognition when it was awarded the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus Award). The film's success at the box office raised Sathyan and his co-star Miss Kumari to stardom. Sathyan's career was influenced by great directors like K. S. Sethumadhavan, A. Vincent and Ramu Karyat. Sathyan's roles in various films directed by K. S. Sethumadhavan like Pappu in Odayil Ninnu, Jayarajan in Daham, Prof. Sreeni in Yakshi and the pratogonist in Vazhve Mayam were well appreciated. Sathyan's other major performances include those in Snehaseema, Nair Pidicha Pulival, Mudiyanaya Puthran, Bharya, Sakunthala, Kayamkulam Kochunni, Adimakal and Karakanakadal. Sathyan is considered as one of the most talented actors the Malayalam film industry ever had. His role in "Chemmeen", the poignant love story set against the background of the coast of Alappuzha did not win him the best actor award for the year, but is one of the most popular roles of his career. He acted in over 150 Malayalam films and 2 Tamil films. Sathyan won the first Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 1969. He was posthumously awarded the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 1971 for his performance in Karakanakadal.