‘Acting is a bit like meditation’
In conversation Mohanlal talks about his forthcoming films, including Ram Gopal Varma’s version of ‘Sholay.’ P.K. Ajith Kumar
I consider myself lucky to be a part of the remake of a classic like ‘Sholay.’
Unplugged: Mohanlal’s strength is his ability to get into the skin of his characters.
Mohanlal’s ‘Hallo’ has connected with viewers and the film is touted as the first big hit of the season. ‘Hallo,’ directed by Rafi Mecartin, is enjoying a dream run in Mumbai and Chennai too. It comes as a shot in the arm for the actor who has proved his credentials as a consummate entertainer many times over.
Mohanlal offers us a ringside view of his career in an interview that was conducted in his caravan during the breaks in the shoot of ‘Ali Bhai’ in Kozhikode.
‘Hallo’ is doing exceptionally well, even outside Kerala.
Yes, the film was released in Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. It is the first time that a Malayalam film is being shown in four cinemas in Chennai at the same time, that too in multiplexes such as Inox and Mayajaal.
‘Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag’ (the remake of ‘Sholay’), marks your return to Hindi films, five years after your first Hindi film ‘Company.’
I consider myself lucky to be a part of the remake of a classic like ‘Sholay.’ Every one knows the story, but there are some changes in Ram Gopal Varma’s film. The backdrop is the Mumbai underworld. I am playing the role Sanjeev Kumar did in the original film. I am an encounter specialist, a South Indian named Narasimhan.
How was it working with Amitabh Bachchan?
Although we have not worked together before, I have met him many times. Bachchan plays a mafia don in the film. We have just three or four scenes together; our very first scene was the one in which my fingers get chopped off. The film’s climax is well-constructed. Bachchan is a professional. You have two interesting films coming up – ‘Paradesi’ and ‘Akasha Gopuram.’
‘Paradesi’ is an excellent film by P.T. Kunjumuhammed, about people who are forced to live like foreigners in their own land because of the Partition. I have great expectations about K.P. Kumaran’s ‘Akashagopuram’ too.
What is the latest on the play with Mukesh?
It is almost ready. It has been rewritten at least 10 times, as we thought it should be something special. The play is about dramatherapy, which is a popular concept abroad. There have been people greatly influenced by drama. Here in Kerala, theatre has influenced a political party’s growth.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan once told Mani Ratnam that Mohanlal’s finest performance was in ‘Iruvar.’
‘Iruvar,’ I believe, is one of the most technically perfect movies made in India. I tried to portray MGR’s personal life; I didn’t try to mimic him. People who knew MGR told me that I had got some of his characteristics right; his way of talking, walking. But it wasn’t intentional. It was just luck. Maybe the blessings of the masters, I think. It happened to me while I did ‘Vanaprastham’ too.
I was told by many that I reminded them of Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair. There is something called ‘veshapakarcha’ (looking the part) in Kathakali; even the handsomest man may not look good in Kathakali costumes. It was good to know that dancers like Padma Subramaniam appreciated my work in ‘Vanaprastham.’
You performed like a trained classical dancer in ‘Kamaladalam.’ How much of homework went into that?
Not much. The choreographer helped me, and I also received tips from Vineeth and Monisha, both trained dancers.
Your greatest strength as an actor is to make everything you do on screen look so natural.
It turns out that way, without my intending to do it like that. There is a scene in ‘Kireedom’ in which I lose control over my mind and begin grinding my teeth, with knife in hand.
Later, people asked me if I did that intentionally, because, they said, that’s how a man behaves when he loses his sanity. I hadn’t known that. I did what Sethumadhavan, my character, would have done in such a situation. I find acting akin to entering another person’s body. I don’t know where the energy to do that comes from. Acting is a bit like meditation. It is a lot of practice too.
Could there be a Part IV of ‘Nadodikkattu’?
Yes, there are discussions about yet another sequel.
In the 1980’s and 90’s you acted one great role after another, in the films of Aravindan, Hariharan, M.T, Padmarajan, Bharathan, Lohithadas…
True. There was a time when I acted in 36 films in one year, and they were all different kinds of films. Mammootty and I were lucky we could act in films made by the great masters in what was the golden period of Malayalam cinema.
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