He started his career at the age of eight when he joined the Gubbi Veeranna Theater group. His first role as an actor in cinema was in the film Radharamana. Besides this he acted in a number of other movies such as Mahakavi Kalidasa, Sodhari, Hemavati, Hari Bhaktha and Bedara Kannapa. He soon started directing his own movies. The movie Hamsageethe (music by Dr. Balamuralikrishna, B.V. Karanth and T.G. Lingappa) was extremely well received and made him famous. Iyer wrote scripts, lyrics and produced and directed many commercial Kannada movies. Iyer’s biggest effort was Ranadheera Kanteerava. He continued making commercial movies until 1970.
He was proficient in both Kannada and Sanskrit and was soon to make the first movie in Sanskrit, about the famous philosopher Adi Shankara (1983). The movie received National Award for Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Audiography and has been known as a master piece. It is believed that the movie made a great impact on Iyer. It was remarked that he stopped wearing footwear after making the movie.
He later went on to make a movie on Madhavacharya in Kannada and Ramanujacharya in Tamil. He also made a remarkable Sanskrit movie Bhagawad Gita , which was adjudged the best film in National Awards, 1993.
He also produced a television series Natyarani Shanthala,a historical, on the Hoysala Jain Queen, Shanthala, who was married to a Vaishnava King. It was re-made in Hindi as well as in Kannada. It was based on several works by Samethanahalli Rama Rao in Kannada.
He later went on to make a movie on Vivekananda. It was an attempt to portray Swami Vivekananda, realistically. Though it had many famous actors such as Mithun Chakravarthy, Hema Malini, Sarvadhaman Banerjee , the movie failed to become a commercial success.