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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Randamoozham: Malayalam superstar Mohanlal in 10 of his best cinematic avatars

Mohanlal is all set to play Bhima in India’s most expensive film based on MT Vasudevan Nair’s award-winning Randamoozham (Second Turn), which is the second Pandava’s take on sequence of events in the India epic The Mahabharata. Here’s a look at Malayalam heavyweight’s 10 best works.

regional-movies Updated: Apr 19, 2017 09:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mohanlal in a still from Drishyam.
Mohanlal in a still from Drishyam.

Malayalam actor Mohanlal has come a long way in his career, from playing a villain in Fazil’s Manjil Virinja Pookal in the early eighties to donning the mighty Bhima’s mantle in what promises to be India’s biggest-ever motion film. The two-part production, a cinematic adaptation of MT Vasudevan Nair’s award-winning Randamoozham (Second Turn), will be made on a budget of Rs 1,000 crore and released in early 2020.

Here’s a look at 10 movies that marked the various twists and turns in Mohanlal’s cinematic career.

1. Manjil Virinja Pookkal (1980)

This film marked the onscreen debut of three movie personalities — Fazil, Mohanlal and Poornima — who would go on to make high-flying reputations for themselves in the years to come. It tells the story of Prem Kishan (Shankar), who falls in love with a girl, Prabha (Poorima), only to realise that she is already married to the sadistic Narendran. The tragedy won six Kerala state film awards, and Mohanlal’s role as Narendran became the subject of cinematic case studies for decades to come.

2. Uyarangalil (1984)

In this movie directed by IV Sasi, Mohanlal turned a shade darker by playing Jayarajan — a crooked assistant manager at a tea plantation who leaves no stone unturned to achieve his dream of becoming rich. When the manager of the estate discovers that he and two others — Chandran (Rahman) and Johnny (Nedumudi Venu) — plan to loot a huge amount from its coffers, Jayarajan turns murderer. The rest of the movie depicts how Mohanlal removes one human obstacle after another in his pursuit of ill-gotten wealth, even as he evokes the suspicions of a police officer investigating the murders.

3) TP Balagopalan M.A. (1986)

It was with this movie by Sathyan Anthikkad that Mohanlal turned into a cinematic representation of Kerala’s unemployed youth, armed with qualifications but no gainful employment in sight. In his role as TP Balagopalan, Mohanlal attempts solidifying a career as an entrepreneur-PWD contractor while trying to provide for the needs of his extended family. Many critics hailed the way in which the movie portrayed the social and political fabric of Kerala in the 1980s — an age when the state was affected by widespread unemployment and trade union issues.

4) Gandhinagar 2nd Street (1986)

Mohanlal plays Ram Singh, who poses as a Nepalese migrant to get a job of a Gorkha security guard.
Mohanlal plays Ram Singh, who poses as a Nepalese migrant to get a job of a Gorkha security guard.

Continuing in the same vein, Mohanlal played Sethu in this Sathyan Anthikkad movie that had him posing as a Nepalese migrant — Ram Singh — to land a job as a Gorkha security guard in a neighbourhood plagued by thefts. But his little scam risks exposure when a police officer (Thilakan) and his daughter (Karthika) move into the locality, bringing back memories from his past. Fellow-superstar Mammootty played a cameo role in the film.

5) Nadodikkattu (1987)

Mohanlal paired up with Srinivasan yet again in this tale of two broke Malayalees, whose attempts to procure a well-paying job in Dubai land them (quite literally) in Madras city. After a number of hilarious escapades with drug smugglers and underworld dons, they find themselves appointed as CID officers. The movie — also starring other Malayalam movie stalwarts such as Innocent, Sankaradi and Thilakan — gave rise to two sequels, Pattanapravesham (1988) and Akkare Akkare Akkare (1990).

6) Varavelpu (1989)

This satire on Kerala’s state of being has Murali (Mohanlal) returning to his homeland after seven years of working his backside off in the Gulf. Hoping to launch a transport business, he invests all his hard-earned money in buying a bus. However, in a state where politics rules the roost and union agitations are an everyday reality, starting a business is never that simple. The last frame has Murali returning to his middle-eastern job in utter disappointment, with all his savings thrown to the wind. Mithunam, another Mohanlal movie with an arguably similar theme, was also released in 1993.

7) Kireedam (1989)

Probably the most acclaimed of Mohanlal-starrers, this Siby Malayil movie follows the downfall of Sethumadhavan — a police constable’s son with dreams of becoming an inspector. All seems to be going fine, until Sethu ends up in a street brawl with hardcore criminal Keerikadan Jose. Tragedy follows tragedy until our hero finally ends up in jail with every last one of his dreams shattered. The film, which earned Mohanlal a national film award, was later remade in Hindi as Gardish with Jackie Shroff in the lead role. A sequel, Chenkol, also followed in 1993.

8) His Highness Abdullah (1990)

Mohanlal plays Abdullah, a lowlife qawwali singer assigned to kill a royal.
Mohanlal plays Abdullah, a lowlife qawwali singer assigned to kill a royal.

Also directed by Sibi Malayil, this thriller had Mohanlal playing Abdullah, a lowlife qawwali singer from Mumbai who is hired by the members of a certain royal family to assassinate their head — Maharaja Udayavarma (Nedumudi Venu). However, the two form a close bond, and Abdullah is unable to keep his side of the bargain. While Venu won the national award for best supporting actor, MG Sreekumar took away the honours for best male playback singer with the song ‘Naadaroopini’.

9) Manichitrathazhu (1993)

Mohanlal in a still from Manichitrathazhu in a role that would be reprised by Rajinikanth (in Tamil) and Akshay Kumar (in Hindi) among others.
Mohanlal in a still from Manichitrathazhu in a role that would be reprised by Rajinikanth (in Tamil) and Akshay Kumar (in Hindi) among others.

This critically acclaimed film by Fazil probably won Mohanlal the highest degree of exposure on the national arena (after Kaala Paani and Company, that is). Playing the role of Sunny Joseph, a psychiatrist who takes it upon himself to exorcise his close friend’s wife (Shobana) in the event of a possession, Mohanlal helped provide Indian cinema with a psychological horror movie that transcended every previous entry in the genre. It won two national awards, and gave rise to a string of remakes in Kannada (Apthamitra), Tamil (Chandramukhi), Bengali (Rajmohol) and Hindi (Bhool Bhulaiyaa).

10) Drishyam (2013)

What would an ordinary businessman do when he and his family are placed in an extraordinary situation? Mohanlal, in his role as Georgekutty, provides the answer by single-handedly taking on vindictive police officers after a tragic accident involving an inspector general’s son. The movie, hailed as Mohanlal’s comeback vehicle, was remade into Hindi with Ajay Devgn at the helm.

Now, it’s impossible to pick “10 best movies” when it comes to an actor like Mohanlal. So, heartfelt apologies to anybody who may feel disappointed by the absence of his other cinematic triumphs — including Kilukkam, Chitram, Spadikam, Narasimham and Yodha — from this list.

After all, he’s Mohanlal, and the writer’s only human.

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First Published: Apr 19, 2017 08:37 IST

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