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Sathyan (actor)

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Years active  1951-1971
Role  Film actor
Religion  Roman Catholic

Name  Manuel Sathyaneshan
Spouse  Jessy Sathyan
Died  June 15, 1971, Chennai

Full Name  Manuel Sathyaneshan Nadar
Born  9 November 1912 (1912-11-09) Nagercoil, Travancore
Resting place  Thiruvananthapuram LMS Compound
Other names  Sathyan Master,Sathyan Mash
Occupation  Actor, police inspector, soldier (Viceroy's Commissioned Officer), clerk, school teacher
Children  Prakash, Sathish, Jeevan
Movies  Chemmeen, Yakshi, Anubhavangal Paalichakal, Vazhve Mayam, Thettu

Sathyan (born Manuel Sathyaneshan on 9 November 1912 – 15 June 1971), was an Indian film actor known for his work in Malayalam cinema. Widely considered as one of the greatest actors in India, he is also regarded as the toughest actor in the Malayalam film industry personally and professionally, and respectfully called as 'Sathyan Master' by everyone.


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Personal life

Sathyan was born into a Christian C.S.I. Nadar family in Thrikkannapuram near Thiruvananthapuram in Southern Travancore on 9 November 1912 as the second child of Cheruvilakathu Veettil Manuel and Emily. He has five siblings named Late Kunjamma, Chellayya, Neshan, Devadas and Jacob. Sathyan passed the Vidwan exam, equivalent to Master of Arts before joining Saint Joseph's School, Trivandrum as a 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 inspector at Alappuzha North Police Station.

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Sathyan was married to Jessy. They have three sons named Prakash, Satheesh and Jeevan. Daughter-in-law, Annamma Jeevan, and the only Grand Daughter, Asha Jeevan Sathyan.

Though he was a very tough and serious man, he always helped others in difficult situations. His good heart, courage, punctuality and dedication was praised by many film contemporaries.

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 Kunjukunju 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. Balakrishnan was planning. He met Balakrishnan and the latter was impressed by Sathyan. Balakrishnan cast him as the protagonist in the film written and produced by him, titled Thyagaseema. Sathyan resigned from his job with the police to concentrate in acting and shortened his name to Sathyan from Sathyaneshan . However, the film was never released. That was in 1951.

Rise to stardom

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.

Peak time

Sathyan's career was influenced by great directors like K. S. Sethumadhavan, P. Venu, 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 (first psychological thriller in Malayalam) and the pratogonist in Vazhve Mayam were well appreciated.Sathyan's other major performances include those in Udhyogastha, Snehaseema, Nairu Pidicha Pulivalu, Veettu Mrugam, Mudiyanaya Puthran, Bharya, Shakuntala, Kayamkulam Kochunni, Adimakal and Karakanakadal. His famous title character 'Othenan' in the film Thacholi Othenan became highly popular among the masses. 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 two Tamil films.

Sathyan won the first Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 1969 for the double role in Kadalpalam.

Final films

Vazhve Mayam, Anubhavangal Paalichakal, Karakanakadal which won high critical acclaim were among his final films. Other releases were Bhikara Nimishankal, Aranazhikaneram and Oru Penninte Katha (as Madhavan Thambi).Sathyan died before completing the movie 'Anubhavangal Paalichakal'.It is said that, the expressions of Sathyan in the song 'Pravaachankanmare' in that movie is real because of the pain he suffered in real life.It is also said that, the final scenes of Sathyan in the movie are made with a dupe and the crying scene of Sheela in the climax is real because of the departure of Sathyan in real life. He was posthumously awarded the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 1971 for his performance in Karakanakadal.Mammootty and Suresh Gopi debuted in film as child artists in Sathyan's movies. Mammootty in Anubhavangal Paalichakal and Suresh Gopi in Odayil Ninnu.


Sathyan died of leukemia after fighting it for a year and four months on 15 June 1971 at Madras. He was aged 59 at the time of his death. His body was taken back to his native place Thiruvananthapuram, and was buried with full state honours. Thousands attended his funeral. His wife outlived him for 16 years, dying in 1987. His eldest son Prakash Sathyan died on Vishu day in 2014.

Accolades and legacy

Sathyan was a prominent actor to be considered as a superstar in Malayalam film industry after Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair. During the late 1950s and the whole of the 1960s, he and Prem Nazir formed a bipolar industry with a considerable number of films starring at least one of them. He won the inaugural Kerala State Film Award for best actor in 1969 & again posthumously in 1971.There is a Sathyan Memorial Art Gallery in Thiruvananthapuram.

Awards and recognition

Kerala State Film Awards:

  • 1969: Best Actor - Kadalpalam (First State Award receiver)
  • 1971: Best Actor - Karakanakkadal
  • Film Film Awards:

  • 1969: Adimakal
  • Below are a few of the most popular & critically praised characters played by Sathyan:

  • Neelakuyil (1954) - Sreedharan Nair
  • Thacholi Othenan (1964) - Othenan
  • Odayil Ninnu (1965) - Pappu
  • Chemmeen (1965) - Palani
  • Yakshi (1968) - Sreeni
  • Kadalpalam (1969) - Double Role
  • Mooladhanam (1969) - multistarrer with Nazeer
  • Vazhve Mayam (1970) - Sudhi
  • Karinizhal (1970) - Colonel
  • Anubhavangal Paalichakal (1971) - Chellappan
  • Karakanakadal (1971) - posthumous state award winner
  • Awards established in his name

    Sathyan National Film Award (Sathyan Foundation): An award instituted by the "Sathyan Foundation" a charitable organization formed with the basic objective of perpectuating the memory of veteran actor Sathyan by his children. The prestigious "Sathyan National Film Award" is presented annually to an eminent personality of Indian cinema. Memento, certificate and 25000rs/- are given as award for the awardees.

  • Winners: Murali, Thilakan, Balachandra Menon, Kalabhavan Mani, Sheela,..etc won the award. Some of the famous persons who won the Sathyan Award are Nedumudi Venu, Dileep (2006), Prithviraj Sukumaran, Innocent, K. S. Chithra (2007), K.J Yesudas, Jagathy Sreekumar (2008), Sreenivasan (2009), Mammootty (2010), Jayaram (2011), Madhu (2012), Sharada (2013), Kaviyoor Ponnamma (2014), Suresh Gopi (2015).
  • Sathyan Award: An award instituted by the Kerala Cultural Forum. The award carries a sum of Rs. 10000 and a plaque.

  • Winner: Innocent (2007)
  • Sathyan Memorial Film Award: An award instituted by the Sathyan Memorial Arts and Sports Club. The award is given in various fields including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Anti-Hero, Best Comedian, Best Newcomer and Best Singers (male and female), taking the last year's performances into consideration.


    Sathyan (actor) Wikipedia