Accent on selection of roles
Three hits in succession prove that Mammootty's careful selection of roles has paid him handsome dividends.
... The moment the camera is switched on, I have to mould myself to breathe life into the characters I portray. Mammootty
LARGER-THAN-LIFE IMAGE: Mammootty as Rajamanikyam.
As Mammootty gets out of the car, the crowd becomes delirious with excitement. They have been patiently waiting for hours on the location of a shoot to get a glimpse of the superstar.
He acknowledges his fans with a grin and a wave. Their attention seems to cheer him up, as if it is a confirmation of his recent success at the box office.
With `Rajamanikyam' evoking a fabulous response, Mammootty has maintained his status as a `safe bet.' The speculation is that the film has grossed more than the spectacular initials of his more recent success stories like `Thommanum Makkalum,' `Rappakal' and `Nerariyan CBI.' It looks like his careful selection of roles has paid off.
Wide range of characters
His character in each of his films bears no resemblance to each other. The reformed thief in `Thommanum Makkalum' is very different from the shrewd investigating officer, `Sethuramaiyar' in the CBI saga. If Rajamanikyam hides his agony behind dark glasses and flashy outfits, the mild-mannered bus conductor in the film `Bus Conductor' tries to shoulder his responsibilities with a brave face.
Mammootty believes that he owes his success to tight budgeting. "There is budget controlling in my films. Also it is ensured that the film is completed within a stipulated period."
Dwelling upon his work in `Rajamanikyam,' which was directed by debutant Anwar Rasheed, he says, "Initially, he had met me with his own script. I could sense his energy and dedication. He was confident and knew what he wanted to do.
"We have tried to do something different in `Rajamanikyam.' The protagonist has a past, which haunts him. He is virtually an orphan with even his mother disowning him early in his life. His gaudy outfits are a kind of armour to hide his angst. He is rich, uneducated and craves for affection."
The "Thiruvananthapuram dialect" that he uses in the film has become quite a sensation with the dialogue being received with whistles and cheers in theatres, especially in northern Kerala.
How tough was it for him to use a kind of dialect that is almost alien to him?
"I had to work very hard when we started the film but now I think I can manage it very well," he confidently adds, rapidly delivering some of the dialogues from the film.
Which is his favourite line then?
"There are quite a number of them. But I think that line `yevan puliyanketta' (look, he's a tiger) has caught the audience in a big way, it seems."
To master the jargon, he almost had to learn the lines of some characters from C.V. Raman Pillai's `Marthanda Varma' by heart.
Mammootty also acknowledges the contribution of mimicry artist Suraj Venjarammoodu in this connection.
"He usually imitates me a lot in his shows, isn't it?" asks Mammootty.
Mammootty feels that it is not fair to label the slang in `Rajamanikyam' "as just something comic, since it is not an off-beat film. Lots of efforts have been put into it and it's genuine."
Mammootty himself had experimented with different accents, quite convincingly, in films like `Amaram', `Vidheyan' and even in `Mrugaya.'
How does he feel about getting into the shoes of a new character, one after the other?
"It's not that easy. But the moment the camera is switched on, I have to mould myself to breathe life into the characters I portray. With experience it comes more naturally," he says. Yet, it would have many years since he last travelled in a bus.
Did he go through some preparations while transforming into `Kunjakka,' the hero in `Bus Conductor'?
"True. I haven't travelled in a bus for quite a while now. But I have enough experience travelling in buses during my younger days. The frame of mind and the issues that nag bus employees have been the same all along."
In the forthcoming I.V. Sasi film, `Balram Vs Taradas,' he is doing a double role. Which is his favourite - the firebrand Inspector Balram from the film of the same title or the wealthy smuggler Taradas, from `Athirathram'?
"Though it's not fair to say so, I have a soft corner for Taradas, as he is more romantic."
Although he is happy about reviving both the characters, he points out, "It's a strenuous job to revive those characters as their image and mannerisms are still there in the minds of the audience. We have to present it in an appealing way in the current scheme of things."
More interesting characters are in the offing. Ranjith's `Prajapathi' has been announced. Next on line is Johny Antony's `Thuruppugulan,' which translates as `trump card.'
Now, considering his recent hits in Malayalam, Mammootty could be called a trump card.
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