I remember the hush that fell over the room when Mohanlal stepped out from behind a wall and watched Sangeeta and Baby Shalini (Yeah, the same Shalini who got married to Tamil actor Ajith) walk away in 'Ente Mammattikuttiyammayku". "Arrg", said my cousin, "I hate this actor". "Who is he" I asked — my cousin, a die hard chick flick fanatic said "he is a born villain, that guy Mohanlal".
I turned my attention to the screen. And somewhere along the line, I couldn't find any thing remotely villain like in Mohanlal. He came across as just another actor -so entirely different to my favourite cartoon show heroes. So I hounded my cousin - who still is a walking dictionary of any Malayalam movies - to know more about him.
Mohanlal — according to her was 'the villain.' Even though his first film was 'Thiranottam,' it was his role as Narendran in 'Manjil Virinja Pookal' which made people sit up and take note of this young man. This Fazil film by Navodaya had Shankar and Poornima Jayaram in the lead roles. But it was Mohanlal's Narendran who left a lasting impression in the Malayali psyche.
Over the last three decades this impression has changed. As he went from villain to serious to ordinary everyday human being to totally hilarious comedies — his fan following increased. From 1986 to 1995 — there was seldom a Mohanlal movie that tanked at the box office. Kilukkam, Pattanapravesham, Panchagni, Chitram, Thoovanathumbikal, His Highness Abdulla, Devasuram — I can rattle off more names but I am not. He was the hero.
Many fans, including me could not relate to some of those larger than life roles he did towards end of 1990s. We loved the Mohanlal who could make us laugh like he did as Dasan in Nadodikkattu and Pattanapravesham, the common man like Sethu Madhavan in Kireedam, Kunjikuttan - the Kathakali artiste in Vanaprastham - which by the way went to Cannes. We wanted Mohanlal as Joji in Kilukkam. We missed that Mohanlal. Then came Balettan, Udayananu Tharam and Thanmathra which made me fall in love with him all over again.
I am not sure if I will like him in his soon to be released Cassanova — oh come on, he is a bit too old for a role like that — but I will sure love it if he gets to play Bheema in MT — Hariharan venture 'Randamoozham'.
I am not sure if I can say he is the complete actor. But he puts up an honest effort to be one. He once told me that he believes in destiny; his entire life has been shaped by it.
And as he celebrates his birthday, I hope destiny keeps smiling upon him - and makes him pick the right script.