King Midas of Malayalam films
Lal's success lies in his ability to feel the pulse of the audience.
Photo: Mahesh Harilal
ACTOR WITH THE GOLDEN TOUCH: Paul Michael, aka Lal.
The Midas of Malayalam cinema never had it so good. Quietly, without fanfare, Lal turned to gold all that he touched. Of the four Onam releases that are doing well in Kerala theatres, he produced one (`Chanthupottu') and distributed the other (`Bharatchandran IPS'). Of all the eight movies he has produced so far, seven have fared well with five becoming super hits at the box office.
When his Onam movies are doing brisk business, he has just finished shooting for a Tamil movie, `Sandakozhi' for Lingusamy.
Lal has done it all: from writing scripts to direction, distributing films to producing it, while acting in several movies, too. So, where does his priority lie?
Yen for production
It's doubtlessly production, for this gives the most satisfaction, Lal feels. He takes charge of all the work of a movie, including distribution and publicity, so that there is complete freedom and nothing is left to chance. So far, it has paid off. What's the secret formula for success?
"I am one of the masses and I know what the masses can understand and enjoy," Lal puts it simply. If you do not feel the pulse of the people, then you will lose out: This is the mantra that has worked for Lal. Often, he goes to the theatre and studies the response of the crowd. "As my tastes are those of an average man, I know that 90 per cent of the time, what I like will be liked by the common man. That is my yardstick."
This is the kind of confidence that makes Lal Creations, his production and distribution company, click. At the same time, he says, tastes evolve and the subject and treatment of a movie have to keep changing to cater to the masses.
Lal has a new formula for his future productions.
"The cost involved in making a movie is too much, and the profit, when compared to the money made in other fields, like real estate, is not much. Usually, when a movie is made, the script is readied first and I spend whatever is needed to have that picturised. From now on, I will allocate the budget first, and then, choose a subject, artistes and location to make the movie within that stipulated budget," Lal explains.
About direction and acting, which have taken a back seat now, Lal says, "I did want to act and direct films, but acting and production are different streams. Acting calls for creativity while doing business calls for an intelligent study of the scene. Doing both is a big strain. My next movie will start only after one year, in November next. I need to slow down, for I've been doing too much," Lal says relaxing in his house at Padamugal, Kochi.
When he was part of the hit-making duo, Siddique-Lal, they wrote and directed entertainers like `Godfather', `Vietnam Colony' and `Kabuliwallah.'
When they parted ways for personal reasons, Lal took on other areas of tinsel world too. Producing movies meant taking huge risks. But Lal had the confidence to produce movies owing to his experience as assistant director of Fazil for close to three years, he says.
The Siddique-Lal pair started assisting Fazil with `Nokkethadoorathu Kannum Nattu.'
Earlier, they were part of a mimicry group, which introduced them to cinema.
First major role
Although his first big role was the one in `Kaliyattam' and later `Kanmadam,' Lal essays small roles in the movies he makes, like the unforgettable villain in `Black,' and the father of the hero in `Chanthupottu.' He feels that his role in `Chanthupottu' is his best so far. "You evolve as an actor and on looking back at `Kaliyattam,' I know I have improved since then," Lal says.
Doesn't he nurse dreams of being a hero when he pumps in money for a film? "No, I know my limitations and it will not work," he puts it bluntly.
He was offered a lead role just the other day in someone else's movie.
"I had to virtually take a study class for him to make him understand that I was the wrong person," Lal laughs.
A third wing in his business, Lal Media, a studio, has taken off in Kochi, where dubbing and editing facilities are provided.
"A digital studio is also in the offing," says Lal who has come a long way from Paul Michael (real name) who entered showbiz with mimicry shows.
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