Sreenivasan was born in an Ezhava/Tiyya family in a small village of Patyam, to the east of Thalassery in Kannur, North Malabar region of Kerala State, on 6 April 1956. He completed his formal education in Government High School, Kathiroor and Pazhassi Raja N.S.S. College Mattannur. He got a diploma in film acting from the Film Chamber Institute, Chennai in 1977 where Rajinikanth was his senior by a year.
Sreenivasan entered the film industry in the 1977 P. A. Backer movie Manimuzhakam after finishing a course in acting from the Film Chamber Institute. At the film institute he was coached by the then vice principal A. Prabhakaran, who later gave him a role in his movie Mela. A few movie roles later, he wrote his first film, Oodarathuammava Aalariyam, in 1984. His most famous movies as actor-writer include Varavelpu, Gandhinagar 2nd Street, Nadodikkattu and its two sequels, Pattanapravesham and Akkare Akkare Akkare. He also made his mark as a director with his two award-winning movies, Vadakkunokkiyanthram and Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala. Sathyan anthikkad-Sreenivasan team was one of the most popular and acclaimed writer-director combination of malayalam cinema. Their first collaboration was for the film T.P.Balagopalan M.A.The film had mohanlal and shobhana on the lead. The movie was well received by critics and audience. The film gave mohanlal his first state award for best actor. After the huge success of their first collaboration the team made a number of movies together in the 80's. After the movie golanthara vartha they stopped working together but rejoined for narendran makan jayakanthan vaka in 2001 after 8 years.
Many of Sreenivasan's movies depict problems affecting society, although these are portrayed through satire or outright comedy. His successful films include Sandesam, Vellanakalude Nadu, and Varavelpu. Mostly satirical in nature, his lines are directed against matters as diverse as police brutality, pulp magazines and unproductive labor unions. Excellent characterization, witty (often deadpan) dialogue and self-deprecating humor are trademarks of Sreenivasan movies. His writing often pokes fun at himself and his own unglamorous appearance, especially in scenes with co-star Mohanlal. Not a supporter of any particular party, he has been critical of the activities of political parties and their involving young members in petty, often harmful or dangerous activities. His films like Sandesham and Varavelpu criticized the activities of Kerala's major political parties and unions. Arabikatha depicts the fight of a true communist in the party. Some of his popular movies such as Vadakku Nooki Yanthram and Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala are thought-provoking depictions of human character which elicited critical and public praise. His comedies have earned popularity, and some of them — such as Aram + Aram = Kinnaram, Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu, Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu, Nagarangalil Chennu Raparkam, Ishtam and Chithram — have been commercial successes. Sreenivasan is the only Malayalam screenplay and dialogue writer who has portrayed North Keralite slang, especially that of Thalassery, which is unique and at times 'wacky', not to mention incomprehensible to South Keralites. He appeared in a popular weekly TV show on Kairali TV called Valiya Lokavum Cheriya Sreeniyum