Sachy (1972-2020): A talent lost in his prime

The news of the demise of writer-director K R Sachidanandan, popularly known as Sachy, came as a rude shock to film lovers in Kerala. Riding high on the commercial and critical acclaim of Ayyappanum Koshiyum, Sachy had cemented his position as a director of repute, someone who would add to the pantheon of greats. But fate scripted something different and we have lost a talent just as he was on the ascent. A fatal cardiac arrest claimed him as he was recuperating from a hip surgery at a hospital in Thrissur. The Kochi Post pays tribute to a man whose abilities and potential were just being revealed.

Born in Kodungallur Thrissur, Sachy graduated in commerce from SNM College Maliankara and LLB from Govt Law College, Ernakulam. He practiced Criminal and Constitutional law at the High Court for nine years before making a foray into his first love—cinema. He started his career as a scriptwriter along with his friend Sethu. Chocolate, the first film written by Sachy-Sethu, was a big commercial hit and marked the entry of the writer duo in the industry. The duo went on to write films like Robin-Hood, Make-up Man, Seniors and Doubles. The duo parted ways after Doubles.

While there were speculations that the duo split due to the failure of their last film together, Sachy had said the decision to go their separate ways was made even before they wrote their first film. “We bonded and became friends over our mutual love for cinema. But we were people with different sensibilities. The decision to become a writer duo was made to ease our entry into the film world. We knew that we would go our separate ways. Sethu and I continue to be good friends.”

Sachy’s first film as an independent writer was the runaway hit Run Baby Run, directed by Joshiy with Mohanlal and Amala Paul in the lead. Later he wrote Chettayees and Make-up Man. He became a producer with Chettayees under the banner Thakkali film which was founded with his friends Biju Menon, Shajoon Karyal, P Sukumar and Suresh Krishna.

The turning point in Sachy’s career came with Anarkali (2015), his debut as a director. Known as the writer of masala pot-boilers, this Prithviraj starrer came as a wake-up call to the industry. The love story set in Lakshadweep was visually brilliant and full of likeable and relatable characters. And there was a poetic quality to Sachy’s directorial style. The film was a hit and earned praise from critics.

Sachy did not return to the director’s chair immediately. He continued his writing career. While Ramaleela, directorial debut of Arun Gopi, became a blockbuster, his next Sherlock Toms bombed at the box-office. Sachy bounced back with Driving Licence, directed by Lal Jr. And then came his masterpiece—Ayyappanum Koshiyum—his best film and sadly his swansong.

Sachy (left) with Ranjith and producer PM Sasidharan on the sets of ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’

Ayyappanum Koshiyum was exceptional in many ways. Sachy rewrote the notions of masculinity here. It could have easily turned into the usual achayan film where the hot-headed, good-hearted, perennially drunk scion of a Christian family fighting the ‘system’. We have seen this character played by Mammooty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Prithviraj too. But Koshy, played by Prithviraj, is tempered by Ayyappan, a law-abiding policeman with a dark side. There were no pure evil and good sides to the protagonists. Sachy’s writing expertly see-sawed between both characters’ follies, faults and redeeming qualities.

The film had a Western quality to it as the action unfolded slowly, yet engagingly. The slow-burn approach would have failed if it was not handled deftly and Sachy the director was the best person for the job. The film is being prepped for remakes in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.

Another interesting aspect of the film was Biju Menon’s performance. The talented actor was relegated to second hero and villain roles for years before Seniors. Written by Sachy-Sethu, Menon was undoubtedly the best thing in the film. It brought forth the actor’s comedic abilities and that revived his career. And as Ayyappan, Menon has redefined his career yet again. And he has his good friend Sachy to thank for that.

Many artists have expressed the wish to pass on while they were at the heights of their careers. We’ve heard of actors saying that they would prefer to die on stage. Ayyappanum Koshiyum was a success that only a few filmmakers could claim to have achieved in their careers. His passing is a great loss to not just Malayalam cinema but to the industry as a whole.

Adios Sachy, you were one of a kind and you will be dearly missed.