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M For Mollywood, M For Mohanlal

M For Mollywood, M For Mohanlal

August 28, 2010

An undisputed ‘SuperStar’, how does Mohanlal continue to woo the audiences?

If you ever Google search for Mohanlal, you will find him. And fast. You only need to type in M-O-H-A-N and Google's ever so smart keyword-suggestion feature will deliver Mohanlal to the the top of the list.

Mohanlal, a Mollywood hero, is close to 50 years old, overweight and yet he manages to top the Google search results. "Why?" Some may ask shaking their heads in sadness over the state of Malayalam cinema. "How?" others may ask in horror.

Fifty is definitely not a glamorous number when associated with age. Especially when your waistline measures something close to that as well. And let's not even mention the ‘moustache’, an essential hair piece in Mollywood. Yes, you can be an aging, bald actor, but as long as your moustache stays its hairy, shiny self, the theatres will stay packed. Mohanlal seems to have kept his audience enthralled with his on-screen performances so far.

The Big M has ruled over Malayalam cinema for almost three decades, although he has had to share his throne with fellow actor Mammootty. An actor’s greatest strength lies in his versatility to adapt to any role, and Mohanlal has certainly proved himself in that regard. One of my personal favourites is his role as the love-struck mentally disturbed patient in the tragic romance 'Thalavattam'. Or the simpleton trying to get back his house in the comedy film 'Sanmanassullavarku Samadhanam'. And the struggling director waiting for his first break in 'Udayananu Tharam'. Unfortunately, in recent times screen-writers and directors, it seems, are happy to have him play a stereotype. The suave, fears-no-one hero who has very little to do in terms of acting. These stories are sure-shot theatre-fillers but peppered with meaningless dialogues and gratuitous fight scenes. Once in a blue moon, a director churns out a good Mohanlal starrer where as we watch him we are reminded why he still continues to rule the Malayalam cinema industry.

The actor has won several awards including the prestigious Padmashree award and National award twice for his performances in 'Vanaprastham' and 'Bharatham'. And rightly so. He became the first Indian actor ever to receive the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. Interestingly for a Mollywood actor, he has gained recognition among a wider audience with roles in Hindi movies like ‘Company’ and ‘Aag’.

Lovingly referred to as 'Lal-ettan', which means 'Elder brother Lal', he is probably one of the most commonly imitated actors in Kerala. Mohanlal is famed for his slant-shouldered stance and cheeky grin. The one advantage he does have over his rival Mammootty is that he has excellent comedy timing where Mammootty is better known for his serious, thought-provoking roles.

How long this reign of ‘superstar-dom’ will last, no one can tell. Judging from the strength of his fan base, we can safely predict that Lal-ettan is in no hurry to leave the big screen.


  • Anirudh Anand
    Anirudh Anand
    28.01.12 10:57 AM
    Look, lalettan is one of the most famous filmstars of all time.... Several stars like Amitab bachan, nasurudeen shah, sharukh khan, kamal hasan etc.. are great fans of him... None other stars in this industry can do the roles he did in malayalam the past years.. you will come to know about that if you see these films, vandanam, chitram, vanaprastham, manichitrathazhu, boeing boeing etc....
  • Sohail
    13.09.11 07:38 PM
    Thanks for shairing this ,it is very good post.i like it very much.keep it up.God Bless You.
  • Sreeraj
    14.07.11 04:53 PM
    I have wontered by watching lalettan filims...he does not act he lives as the character...he is the greatest actor in india....can any indian actor dream of doing the roles he had done in bharatham kalapani thanmathra bhramaram? he is the first indian actor to be hourned lt cornel.. we r egerly expecting your new filim pranayam laletta..after thanmathra and bhramaram blessy joins with mohanlal for a classic pram sheduled for relese this onam
  • sabdeepdubai
    09.07.11 06:15 PM
    laletan far far far far far far far better than mammukkkutty..
  • manun958
    09.07.11 11:03 AM
    to plingar:how is mammoty done well in recent times....august15,doubles train march12 ....all are flops 4 flops in a row....???
  • sreejith
    14.06.11 03:27 PM
    gret actor
  • jismon
    04.04.11 08:20 PM
    pookal vidarum kozhiyum,pakshe 30 varsham munpu virija E pushpam vadukayumilla, kozhiyukayumilla, arkum parichu kalayanum pattilla. athanu LALETTAN.....
  • jismon
    24.02.11 03:54 PM
    enthina makkale veruthe lalettane thodan nokunnath,lalettane jeyikkan nooru janmam janikkanam.ethe pottanum.lalettan is the best actor with crores of fans like a don't play with lalettan.he is the life blood of every malayaleee.
  • binu
    11.01.11 12:06 AM
  • Manohar
    31.12.10 05:31 PM
    It is ofcourse subject to an individuals taste. While there are scores who yearn for a morning coffee, there are trillions who take to tea. If you are the type who likes acting to be more like a normal reaction, Mohanlal is your cup of tea. Thazhvaram, Namukku Paarkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Amrutham Gamaya and the likes stand testimony to this. Mammukka is the flamboyant type. A Big B, Azhagiya Raavanan and the likes suit hime better. More than arguing on who is better, I would rather state that I am lucky that I am born in their era. Wish you all a fantafabulous New Year.
  • Arjun
    27.12.10 04:16 PM
    I accept mammootty as a gud actor...!! nd i lyk 2 add Mohanlal z versatile....!!!
    An actor z 1 who acts well...!! nd Mohanlal z xelnt...!!
  • karthik das
    karthik das
    05.12.10 11:16 AM
    grt salute 4 india's most versatile actor...........nice article.mohanlal is far far better than mammootty......
  • Safeek
    27.11.10 07:19 AM
    Edi koothare anak enth ariyamedi lalettane patty pulle.....
  • Plingal
    02.09.10 02:54 PM
    @Maria - But looks/glamor do hold some value when it comes to the main lead. Else it would be unequivocally accepted that someone like Nedumudi Venu/Thilakan are the Superstars of Malayalam Cinema - but alas their looks don't lend them to be the main lead.

    I do agree with you that it is hard to be neutral once you generate a bias, but that said one should still be able to enjoy and appreciate the other (the other M in this case).
  • Joseph
    02.09.10 10:42 AM
    We'r back to debating who's better....
    I don't even go for their movies anymore...infact, i've given up on malayalam films despite living in kochi where most of it is made...
    Infact, as of now, majority of the cinemas here show tamil, hindi and english movies over mallu...
    Simple yet talented new comers are begining to take some space.
    I happened to go for 'malarwadi arts club' which wasn't a bad bet afterall...i hear is fared much better than our 'grandpa M's' movies this year...
    Glad to see it's happening...
    And hey maria...if you see the kind of crazy fans associations these Big M's have, you'd hate everyone!
  • Maria
    02.09.10 06:37 AM

    1. I apologise. I failed to mention that I used Google Singapore. Which has now leads me to the interesting conclusion that probably regional Googles show different results. Believe it or not, Google Singapore has Mohanlal first and sadly, Gandhiji sixth. Quite ironic, because I am sure very few Singaporeans would have heard about Mohanlal, but thats a different story altogether :)

    2. I agree with you that awards are in no way a good barometer, what with all the factors which go into such a judgement.

    3. As for looks, hehehe...yes Mammootty has been a icon of typical Kerala glamour for ages now. And he has taken pains to maintain the 'glamour'. But what makes Mohanlal even more special is that inspite of his very average looks, his acting speaks so powerfully that we rarely ever notice the physical appearance.

    I am up against a Mammootty fan I see. Alas, when it comes to the 2 Ms, most of us are divided and never neutral :D

    @Mathew: Hmmm...I am not really in a position to comment on that. what eventually happens within the jungle of cinema is probaly far more complicated than we can assume :)
  • Mathew Mathew
    Mathew Mathew
    02.09.10 01:07 AM
    @Maria: About age-appropriate roles for Mohanlal and Mammootty: unless they get rid of their wigs and realize that they are making fun of themselves, the show will go on!
  • Plingal
    01.09.10 10:45 PM
    Two things

    1. When you type MOHAN/mohan in google you get Mohandas Gandhi at the top of the list - and rightfully so

    2. If we're talking about awards as a barometer for comparison Mammooty has done marginally better with the THREE National Awards for Best Actor (although in recent times the National Award has been highly tainted .. what with Saif Ali Khan bagging it recently). Mohanlal has done marginally better on the Kerala State Awards front (bagging 1 more than Mammooty)

    3. Comparisons based on glamour was not given much thought. Mamooty may not be the boy next door (like you probably saw when Amir Khan came on the scene), but he sure has a head start as compared to Mohanlal.

    Anyways to conclude I am of the impression that Mohanlal was slightly more versatile in his early years. Lately though I think Mammooty has delivered slightly better performances. All in all both are just stalwarts of our time and I feel glad that I got to see their movies at their prime (like I would say when Roger Federer retires .. :)).
  • Maria
    31.08.10 11:39 AM
    James and Mathew: I wouldn't want the Big M's to quit but I would definitely like it if they moved into more age-appropriate roles. It would be a tragedy if we lost them altogether. Unfortunately, they seemed to have kept many of the younger heros fom reaching anywhere because they refuse to give up the throne :P
  • Mathew Mathew
    Mathew Mathew
    31.08.10 12:55 AM
    The first priority of a filmmaker, whether in Hollywood, Bollywood or elsewhere, is to make money. Most films are made based on what the producers and backers of the film think the audience wants to see. The obvious choice of hero for a Malayalam movie then is either Mohanlal or Mammootty. It was the same with Prem Nazir and Sathyan when they ruled the silver screen.
  • Joseph
    30.08.10 11:33 AM
    I think both are (or is it 'were'?) good actors...
    they both have given many classic movies, which i've often felt deserve international attention....
    But today,...both of them totally suck....
    I just wish they retire soon before they kill their own name!
  • Maria
    30.08.10 06:35 AM
    @roshan: Lets admit it. Mohanlal has proven his worth in so many movies earlier. He is at the mercy of directors and script-writers who fail to give him good scripts these days. A movie's hit or flop factor is not based solely on the actor's skill.

    @Barnaby: Aha! So that's how you want to play it eh? :)
    I do apologize for saying that about Mammootty's comedy timing. You are right. One snappy, oversmart English profanity peppered dialogue of his, and we are all stifling a smile. And that followed by clumsy dance move with a 20-something heroine, and the laughter cannot be controlled any longer.
    Mohanlal on the other hand is a surprisingly good dancer despite his size. Very few Mallu actors can dance very well.

    @James : *Pat on the back* A hard core Mohanlal fan I see. Thanks you for the interesting bits about him. I did not know these myslef.

    Amazed to see that the Lalettan-Mammuka fan squabbles shall never cease... :)
  • James
    29.08.10 05:25 PM
    description:This community is for…
    Those who love lalettan like a craze…
    Those who are mad about his acting…
    Those who believe he is the best actor in this world...

    Mohanlal… A name that is hardly known outside the state lines of God's own country. He is a classic example of an exceptional talent trapped within the limits of regional cinema.

    Mohanlal is not an usual young romantic 6 pack stud hero, he is actually a fat chubby guy who would have hardly become a hero, if he was born anywhere else other than kerala. Bless the keralities, Indian cinema can boast this colossal talent.

    Yeah he might not be the young romantic guy, the angry young man or a style king. But with a few glances, he can unload a character's sadness of an entire life on the viewers. He can bring forth laughter from the bottom of your heart with simple facial expressions. A man who can move to both extremes with an ease no other actor in India can…

  • James
    29.08.10 05:24 PM
    Mohanlal / Lalettan - The Most Popular Keralite of the Century.
    For Amitabh Bachan, he is the finest actor in the country.
    For RGV, he is the Robert De Niro of Indian screen.
    For Time magazine, he is India's answer to Marlon Brando.
    For Kamal Haasan, he is the most flexible actor in India.

    He is the first actor to be honored with the prestigious Lieutenant Colonel Post from Indian Army.

    Awarded honorary doctorate degree by the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit.

    Recipient of Padma Shri & Bharat Awards.

    Included in list of esteemed achievers in Limca Book of Records.
  • James
    29.08.10 05:23 PM
    How much mammootty paid for u to write such a comment???? whatever, mohanlal is far far far better than the actor like mammoooty who had 11 flops in a row and still struggling to stay solid in malayalam film world.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    29.08.10 02:20 PM
    Whoa now Maria. It's ON. Haha!

    Mammootty on the other hand - now there's a guy who will gain your instant appreciation. His dialogue delivery, timing and expressions blow you away right there.

    What's this about Mammootty not having comic timing? One raise of his eyebrow and I'm in stitches.

    In the headline you spelled 'Mammootty' wrong.

    OK, I'm done trolling. :)
  • roshan
    29.08.10 12:55 PM
    Dear Maria...How much Lalettan paid for this "Special" article? For the past 10 years, Lal is a Struggling star. His past 8 films bombed at the box ofice. Lalettan lost his comedy timing...Nw he is trying his best to regain his Stardom...
  • Maria
    29.08.10 12:01 PM
    Like Nalini said, Mohanlal is probably not an actor that can get instant appreciation in a short while. His dialogue delivery, timing and expressions is something which 'grows on you' :)
  • nalini hebbar
    nalini hebbar
    29.08.10 07:34 AM
    He kind of grows on you!
  • r3d d3vil
    r3d d3vil
    28.08.10 11:25 PM
    what's your point?

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