In this SACF Sannidhya Samvad 7 Filmmaker M.S. Sathyu speaks to the Film Historian and documentary filmmaker Lalit Mohan Joshi about his life and works. This is part of the Zoom series conducted from London in 2020.
M. S. Sathyu (b. 1930, Mysore) is a filmmaker, theatre director and stage designer. In 1952, he quit college and moved to Bombay to make a career in cinema. Initially, he freelanced as an animator but found that work was difficult to come by. After being generally unemployed for four years, he got his first salaried job as an assistant director to the famous filmmaker Chetan Anand. In 1964, Anand gave Sathyu his first assignment as an art director for the now landmark film, Haqeeqat. Sathyu won a Filmfare Award for his work on this film.
Since then, Sathyu has directed and produced a number of feature films, documentaries, television series and advertisements in Hindi, Kannada and English. His 1974 Partition classic Garm Hava was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and was also India’s official entry to the Oscars. In 1981, he made Bara (Famine), which won the National Award for Best Kannada Film. His other notable works are Kanneshwara Rama (1976), Chitegu Chinte (1979), and Kayar (1992). Despite his successful career in film and television, Sathyu’s first love has always been theatre, and he has been directing and designing plays for nearly seven decades now. He began his theatrical career with the Hindustani Theatre in Delhi and later became a lifelong member of IPTA Bombay.
His most memorable plays are Sarveshvar Dayal Saxena’s Bakri (IPTA, 1978), Qudsia Zaidi’s Sufaid Kundali (IPTA, 1980), and Habib Tanvir and Safdar Hashmi’s Moteram ka Satyagrah (IPTA, 1989). Sathyu has also designed productions for Alyque Padamsee’s Theatre Group, Ebrahim Alkazi’s Theatre Unit, Herbert Marshall’s Civic Theatre, Balraj Sahni’s Juhu Art Theatre, the Indian National Theatre and several other Gujarati, English and Marathi theatre groups of Bombay. In Bangalore, he has designed and directed plays for groups such as Samudaya, Nataranga, and ADA.
Sathyu was awarded the Padma Shri in 1975, the Karnataka State Rajyotsava honour in 1982, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2015.