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The Mohanlal effect

SREEDHAR PILLAI

Is Mohanlal trapped in his larger-than-life image? No, says the actor who has essayed some of the most memorable heroes in Malayalam cinema.


I always believe that The story is the king, while packaging and stars are secondary. Mohanlal

PHOTO: V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

BREAKING THE MOULD: Mohanlal tries to revive the magic that used to enchant viewers.

Mohanlal is on a roll after his `Udayananu Tharam' won the appreciation of the critics and the fans all over India. The film has not only proved to be a blockbuster but has also turned out to be a path breaking film that is now termed as a cult classic.

Says Mohanlal with his trademark smile, "What more can I ask for?"

It is not only the Malayali, but also a crossover audience from other States who are being bowled over by his charisma. The film has done good business at multiplexes in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and places where Malayalam films have not run in regular shows like Vadodara, Rajkot, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Says Aditya Shroff of Shringar Films, Mumbai, who distributed `Udayananu Tharam' in Northern India: "This film is a trendsetter and if it was subtitled then probably it would have done even better business."

Success formula

The secret of Mohanlal's success is the larger-than-life character that he has done in innumerable films over the years. No wonder then that half-a-dozen products sell purely on his brand equity, mainly owing to his large number of fans. For the common man, Lal `ettan' is a doting son, loving husband, caring elder brother and a super-hero. Says writer-director and actor Sreenivasan who was largely responsible for creating so many memorable characters for Mohanlal: "Our friendship dates back to the early Eighties and he is one of the most flexible actors on the Indian screen. For the viewers most of their dreams are fulfilled through the characters that Mohanlal play so convincingly in many of his films, which have made him click with the audience."

However, Mohanlal does not agree that he has fallen into an image trap as many point out.

He asks: "In `Udayananu Tharam' did I have any image? It is always the story and script that do wonders to a film and nothing else matters."

Director's actor

Says Rosshan Andrews the director of the film: "Lal sir is a director's actor. I am still in search of an actor to do his role in the Hindi version of the film."

Mohanlal's passion for his work is tremendous. He had given 60 days for his new film `Udayon.' But the actor in him became so obsessed with the character that he wanted it to be perfect.

Now, Mohanlal has given another 20 days to Bhadran to finish the film, cancelling his proposed pilgrimage to Kailash Manasarovar.

Mohanlal's schedule is chock-a-block with films, endorsements and looking after his various business interests which explains his reply when asked about his plans for his 45th birthday on May 21 - "I will be working in a quarry in Pattambi for `Udayon,' what else?"

`On the lookout for good scripts'



Dual role: Mohanlal as father and son in `Udayon.'

You are getting rave reviews in the media in Mumbai and Delhi for your performance in `Udayananu Tharam,' which has also created a new avenue for Malayalam films in North Indian cities. Please comment.

`Udauyananu Tharam' is one of the best films that I have done owing to its solid script and the vision of its director Rosshan Andrews. I always believe that the story is the king, while packaging and stars are secondary. It was the characterisation of Udayabhanu and Saroj Kumar in `Udayananu Tharam' that brought in the audience in the metros and not Mohanlal and Sreenivasan.

Do you agree that Mohanlal the actor has fallen into an image-trap? I don't think so. When we start a film all of us try to make the product appealing and different. At times, things go awry and people blame the actor. And how can you say that all my films are larger-thanlife? In films like `Udayananu Tharam' and `Chandrolsavam,' I had roles that the common man could identify with. Nowadays, I ask my producers to read the story and insist that my directors are ready with a `pucca' script.


Any exciting films in the pipeline? My next release will be `Udayon' which is shaping up well. It is directed by Bhadran and I play a dual role of father and son. The father is a 76-year-old man with two wives and five sons and, in fact, one of my sons is Innocent (smiles). This man is obsessed with land and has a lust to acquire more of it. It is a touching story with a stunning climax.

Then, I will be doing a film for director Blessy, which will be on the evils of our educational system. Personally, I want to do more meaningful cinema and is on the lookout for good scripts. What are your birthday plans? I am a bit upset that my plan to visit Kailash Mansarovar, the holy abode of Lord Shiva deep in the Himalayas, had to be postponed owing to an extended shoot of `Udayon.'

I was always fascinated by the place and, in fact, I wanted to spend my birthday there. But then my producer should not suffer at my cost. God willing, I will be there next year (smiles).

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