Born in Mysore, he received education in Mysore and Bangalore. He dropped college during his Bachelor of Science degree study and fled to Bombay to pursue a career in films. He was unemployed for several years and finally got a job as assistant to well-known director Chetan Anand. He rose to prominence with his work as an independent art director in the movie ‘Haqeeqat’, which also earned him the Filmfare Award in the year 1964. He also worked as a stage designer and director and was associated with productions of Kannada Bharathi, Hindustani Theater and others in Delhi. In the film industry, he has worked as an art director, screenwriter, producer, cameraman and director. He has been associated with films of Indian languages like Kannada, Hindi and Urdu. He is best recognised for his film venture ‘Garam Hawa’ or ‘Scorching Winds’ of 1973. The movie featured Balraj Sahni, a Marxist activist from the 50’s. It bagged several National Film awards and accolades. It was also named as the entry from India to the Oscars and was nominated for ‘Golden Palm Award’ at the Cannes International Film Festival. In his career, Sathyu has worked with over 8 films and 15 documentaries.
Sathyu’s play ‘Dara Shikoh’ is considered to be one of the best modern classics and has seen a good run across the country. Another play titled ‘Amrita’ is also a widely acclaimed venture of Sathyu. He is closely associated with the Indian People’s Theatre Association as one of the proprietors. He was also the part of the advertisement campaign of Google Reunion in 2013. He has also won several Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards and a Filmfare Critics Award.