IV Sasi made stars out of actors, without losing craft: A look back at some of his most notable work
Aavanazhi (Quiver of Arrows, 1986 Malayalam) was the first film I saw of the explosive Mammotty, long after I saw the Tamil remake in 1987, Kadamai Ganniyam Kattupaadu (the tenets of the Indian Police Force, Duty Dignity Discipline).
The Tamil remake was produced by Kamal Haasan, under his Raajkamal Films International, and it was a serious film without songs. It was also the first film produced by the actor, which did not star him in the lead role. The songs were not missed in the Tamil film and it went on to become as much of a super hit as it was in Malayalam. Sathyaraj played the role of an emotionless, ruthless cop whose life takes him into direct conflict with a family of a dancer.
An interesting tale directed in Tamil by Santhana Bharathi, Kadamai Ganniyam Kattupaadu was originally directed by I V Sasi in Malayalam, and that's where I heard of this iconic filmmaker for the first time.
Even though IV Sasi lived in Chennai, and most of the cinema in the 80s used to be filmed in Chennai studios, Kerala was always rooted in the outdoors and stories from real life, even in the black and white times. Hence , living in (what was then known as) Madras, I saw the Tamil remake first — eventually, I picked up video cassettes of IV Sasi's Malayalam originals.
Strong leads and stronger emotional turmoil, packaged with a certain larger-than-lifeness, marked IV Sasi's films. He was also credited with contributing to the mega star image of Mammotty. The two of them share 30o-dd films between them, including the Mills and Boon-ish film Kanamarayuthu which co-stars Shobhana as a much younger girl in love with the older business tycoon (Mammooty).
In many ways, Mammotty's roles in IV Sasi's films came to herald the new age Malayali man - he was grim, educated, hardly smiled or romanced but was pined after by the woman for his good looks and high character, almost flawless, almost heroic demeanor. He was not just realistic, he was someone to reach out for.
IV Sasi set the tone for superstars in the Malayalam film industry, by taking on mixed genres of action, romance, fantasy and socio-political dramas.
Collaborations with talented writers like Padmarajan initially, and thereafter Ranjith, was one of IV Sasi’s best contributions to Malayalam cinema, apart from directing films which were made from short stories, novels and M T Vasudevan Nairs works.
IV Sasi has the distinction of directing Kamal Haasan in a Hindi film as well, apart from working with him in three Malayalam movies.
The Hindi film Karishma was a remake of Bharatiraja's Tik Tik Tik and IV Sasi proved he could adapt his South Indian style to newer platforms in Hindi cinema. This was in 1984, and by then IV Sasi was a star director, who had won recognition, and several awards, for both serious adult cinema (like Avaludey Raavukkal, which starred his talented dancer-wife Seema, who went on to act in 35 films under his direction) and also collaborating with Mohanlal, who was getting noticed for this negative roles at the time.
In that sense, Sasi was the first filmmaker who made stars out of actors, without losing the value for story or craft.
IV Sasi is also the only filmmaker to bring Mammotty and Mohanlal together for over a dozen films.
Multi-starrers were an IV Sasi trademark. The best example is the Malayalam- Tamil bilingual Alavuddinnum Athbudha Vilakkum (Aladdin and his miracle lamp) which had Kamal haasan as Alladdin and Jayabharathy, Rajnikanth, Gemini Ganesan, Asokan (Tamil villain actor of MGR movies who was perfectly cast as the genie) Seema, Sripriya, apart from a whole host of notable names from the two film industries.
IV Sasi also directed two Tamil films with Rajnikanth — Kaali and Ellaam Unn Kairaasi; the former was a hit. His most notable film, which fetched Kamal Haasan a Filmfare award for best actor in Malayalam, was Eeta.
Most importantly, he worked with four superstars when they were all budding actors - Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth, Mammooty and Mohanlal.
He was also a pioneer of sorts, helming films which were in the populist genre. The most notable one to create waves and stands the test of time came out in 1993. The film Devasuram, written by Ranjith, starred his other favorite hero Mohanlal and established him as a superstar at the box office.
In real life, however, IV Sasi's romance and marriage to Seema has a warm place in the hearts of their industry friends, many of whom have expressed shock at IV Sasi's demise and extended their solidarity to Seema, a powerhouse of talent herself.