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Simply Sachu

With 500 films behind her, Sachu is still making waves, now on the small screen

SHE IS a character actress/comedienne who has nonchalantly blended into the roles she has portrayed over five decades. That's Sachu for you. With over 500 films to her credit, she has an air of innocence about her that's won several hearts. Born into a large family in Mylapore, Sachu, then less than four years old, was noticed by director A.C. Sami (of "Velaikkari" fame), who was in the process of casting her sister for a dance number.

A natural performer, her strength was her clear diction. "I must thank my grandmother for everything," says Sachu.

Sami cast her in the Bhanumathi-starrer "Rani", and for a scene, she had to cry. But Sachu just did not know how to cry! A quiet pinch did the trick. Then followed the Arignar Anna-scripted "Sorga Vaasal". As the younger Paro in "Devadas", her performance was endearing. The chubby-faced Sachu went on to fill the vacuum left by Baby Saroja.

Hailing from an orthodox family of musicians, lawyers and teachers, it was not smooth sailing for the young actress, but her talent acted as the decisive factor. Permission was granted by her lawyer-father. As she teamed up with her sister for Bharatanatyam recitals, her film career forged ahead. "Those days no one spoke of money — it was the banner that was important," says Sachu. Jupiter, Gemini and Vahini were all big banners to work for. The process of selection was strictly on merit. The actress recalls how actor Gemini Ganesan would measure the height and weight of all prospective artistes. "Emphasis was on all-round personality, including dancing, diction, behaviour and punctuality. Everyone, without exception, was expected to attend rehearsals, and all these were considered while casting," says Sachu. Her most memorable moment? Working with Madhubala in "Bahut Din Huweh". "She was absolutely lovely," she recalls in star-struck wonder. Sachu performed with élan with the legends, be it Bhanumathy, Padmini or Savithri. The evergreen "Maya Bazaar" was her first 100-day film, and in the film, audiences will remember the cherubic Kutti Vatsala (junior Savithri). Playing the junior version of S.Varalakshmi in "Shyamala" thrilled her no end since it starred the legendary Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. So, was she a serious, hard working person? "No. A very mischievous person," she laughs."It was fun. I never lost out on family life, since we are a large, close-knit family," says Sachu, who was too busy to get married. By this time, she was acting in Telugu, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil films.What was the transition from a child artiste to a full-fledged heroine like? The interim was spent perfecting her dance, giving recitals and playing sister roles. Her first film as heroine in "Veera Thirumagan" with Anandan was screened in 1961. Who can forget the lilting number "Roja malare raja kumari." Then followed "Annai". Was there not too much emphasis on stilted dialogue, besides gross over acting? Sachu explains, "Those days, partly due to the influence of theatre, scenes were dramatic — one did not portray reality. The interpretation was different; one tried to offer what was not common."

Heroine to comedienne? "When director Sridhar's offer for "Kaadhalikka Neramillai" came, I took a chance and plunged into the comedy role. It was a hit but as I suspected, I was typecast." Her pairing with Nagesh was a sure-fire hit; although she performed equally well with Surulirajan, `Thengai' Srinivasan, Thangavelu and M.R. Radha.

The 1970s saw her taking to the stage, and her first play was PVR's "Neerottam", where she played the famous Charu. She played a dual role in ARS' "Deviyar Iruvar".

From cinema to stage and now to television has been a natural progression for this born performer. "In television, I am able to essay the roles that I could not in cinema," she says. "Manbumigu Mayor", "Costly Mappilay", "Ananda Bhavan", "Dinesh Ganesh", "Veetukku Veedu Looty"... the serials have been many and varied.

A proud moment in her life was when she received the Kalaimamani award from Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 1991 and the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha award, which was presented by M.S.Subbulakshmi.

She has enjoyed anchoring the talk show "Nee padhi, naan paadhi", targeted at senior citizens. It has been a chequered career for Sachu, who has been associated with five Chief Ministers — J. Jayalalithaa, MGR, NTR, Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi. However, her philosophy in life is "I am happy with what I've got."


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