IV Sasi is no more. As he walks back from the larger stage where he had played a significant role, shock rules the box office of the mind. For, he was just 69. A young age for a performer like him to disappear behind the curtain.
With more than 170 films that had the Sasi brand of uniqueness in them, he indeed did carve a name for himself on Malayalam filmdom’s wall of fame. The IV Sasi brand name had in fact set the cash registers tingling every time he readied a film, with stars and more stars playing roles they craved for.
Socio-political dramas with all the ingredients that a commercial flick would ask for, ruled the Malayalam screen for quite a long period. And most of them had I V Sasi wielding the megaphone. Every film he made, narrated socially-relevant tales of the Malayalee scape. From the 1975 debut venture titled Utsavam to Vellathooval he made last, in 2009, Sasi made sure his flicks would ride a theme of social relevance. Avalude Ravukal, the film that told the conservative Malayalee audience the bold tale of a young prostitute and the men in her life, could well be considered Malayalam cinema’s coming of age movie. The first ever Malayalam flick to be certified by the Censors with an ‘A’ certificate, Avalude Ravukal was an eye opener on how a commercial flick could send out a power-packed message to the audience. The films that came later too came with the quintessential punch that spurred the audience to think, rethink and act towards positive outcomes.
For Sasi, every star was a super star. He cast a bunch of actors in big and small roles, but never had even one in an inconsequential role. He made his actors tell the audience the story. He made them sing, dance, fight, romance, rape, confess, apologize, come up trumps, die violent deaths. He had the women play roles of significance. He went far beyond the scope of cinema to tell tales on Kerala’s socio-political and economic landscape. He painted life-size pictures, well aided by ace writers like MT Vasudevan Nair, P Padmarajan, Alleppy Asharaf and T Damodaran, and they all created a fan following for his flicks that ran for months together across south Indian cinema houses.
Pick any name that runs well alongside a star or a superstar, and you will know I V Sasi had a role in helping them evolve beyond stardom to actors. Mammootty, Mohanlal, Rathish, M G Soman, Jayan, Kamal Hasan, Rahman, Captain Raju, and many more have traversed the journey between stardom to being actors through Sasi’s films. For, he never cast a star in his flicks. Instead, he picked actors who would play the roles. And in each film he had a big bunch of them.
The way he managed them all in playing characters of tales narrated in a span of just under three hours was admirable. A crowd manager and director rolled into one, he knew his art, perfectly well. He put his art on display by showcasing characters played by stars who could also be actors. The IV Sasi magic dazzled the screen every time a film opened in cinemas.
All through his career, he was fortunate enough to have his wife and love Seema stand by him as a constant support. The highs and lows that Sasi went through during the past few years were well managed by Seema, and the couple was always happy for all that life gave them. I V Sasi, as Seema had said in one of those public events recently, was to make a comeback with a mega project. However, death has crept in as the villain, halting what could have been yet another IV Sasi bounce back on screen. The silver screen has pulled a shroud of gloom over itself.
I V Sasi is no more. In the coming days, the Malayalam television channels might start telecasting his opuses one after the other. The best tribute to him would to have his mega budget films screened in theatres across Kerala as a thanksgiving to the master craftsman of mega masalas that held aloft social significance. As I V Sasi, the multiple awards winner, walks back, a revisit to his films is due. It is time yet again to applaud the man who voiced social statements and ensured that they were heard through his medium.