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Why we can never stop loving Mohanlal

Published Dec 25, 2013, 8:49 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 2:38 am IST
Gifted scenarist and actor Murali Gopy analyses, in two parts, what Mohanlal means to us and why we can never stop loving him.
His vibes speak of invincibility 
In more ways than one, Mohanlal resembles Kerala, the State he was born to. Both the State and her son are gifted, beyond the usual measure, with natural resources. Both are admired universally for their in-born allure. Both have a unique rhythm of their own, and march to their own beat. Neither Kerala nor Mohanlal require an Amitabh Bachchan to endorse their irresistible charm, though Bachchan had once been approached to endorse the State and he had always volunteered to endorse her son. Mohanlal even resembles the map of Kerala when he is standing and still, with a tilt, above the waist, ("Cherivu", in Malayalam) towards the right. Or, am I presuming it? 
When he smiles, Mohanlal, in typical Malayali fashion, hides beneath his naughty eyes something like “You want to beat me, son? You wanna try? Come, but how far would you be able to go?” When he ups his right leg to wind up his 'mundu', and take that signatured on-screen battle-stance, Mohanlal uncannily exudes a vibe of invincibility similar to that of the valorous heroes of medieval Kerala, whose martial and amorous exploits featured our bedtime lore till recent yore. Elusively enigmatic, carefully coy, mightily meek and harbouring humility, Mohanlal is tailor-made to rule the hearts of Keralites. And he does.
Kerala is ever-ready to glorify his win, cheer at his grin, and forgive his sin, for he is the dearest of her dear sons. A Superson, I will say. All the more reason for her to celebrate, when he makes a spectacular comeback. Or is it just another random happening, like the Superson himself would love to brush it off as.
Even as I write this, my mobile phone is being bombarded with voices that tell me how effectively the Superson has signed back into the reckoning with a "spectacularly cinematic" 'Drishyam'. The callers take his name, 'Lalettan', as if they are reciting it from a prayer book. They spill their goosebumps onto their handsets as they tell me, in the best possible detail, how “Lalettan” has “made it back, with a big bang”. 
I ask each one of them whether it is possible to get me a ticket, but they say I can't even go near the hall where the movie is playing. 
“It's Lalettan Mass Don't expect to be humored with a ticket” (Let me enlighten you here that 'Mass' is a post-modern Malayalam pop-word that denotes star power). I smile to myself, and I realize that I am happy to hear what I just heard.
Next page: The Sun is just back in sight 
The Sun is just back in sight 
You cannot call Mohanlal the King of Comebacks. You cannot call him a Survivor either. Both these denote a downfall of sorts. Unlike most other legendary superstars, Mohanlal has never actually gone down so that he would have to bounce back. His Sun had just been shrouded by a stupendous fog of mediocre cinematic attempts; the world had started missing his sunlight for a while.
Mired in formula and revelling in self-imitation, the Superson had allowed the fog to mature into a Jupiterian storm cloud that could have convincingly (and even permanently!) blacked him out of fan-sight. 
Jeethu Joseph, it seems, has effectively employed a cloud-dispersal canon that has finally brought the sun back in sight. 
On the personal front, Mohanlal, Lalettan to me too, has initially appeared to me as someone  who wears the garb of a nonchalant observer, who attributes everything to chance and describes everything as a ‘happening’. 
But, I later deduced that he, beneath that almost frozen sheen of coolness and detachment, entertains a will to succeed, the intensity of which is akin to something that the Rhonda Byrnes of the world so vociferously vouch for. Every nerve of this man knows that he cannot fail; and that has been the Secret of his longevity, his endurance and his consistency with success. 
He lives success, and so is wonderfully oblivious of what his competition is capable of. 
Mohanlal does not do his homework before he works. His homework seems to be naturally manifesting in him. He does not consciously prepare for his character; his character naturally makes him its medium. Elementary to the extent of being without character, he is almost like a wild fire that catches on to anything that comes near it, and this, surprisingly, includes water too! 
The magic of Mohanlal lies in the fact that the superstar is magnificently clueless about his own phenomenon.  He remains an enigma not only to the world but to himself as well. 
Seriousness of every kind seems to terrify this man out of his wits, and he always employs a profanity to battle the straight-faced world whenever it tries to get into his personal space. He seems to agree with Osho, albeit on a defensive note, that seriousness is as illness.
Having written this far about Lalettan, I tend to imagine myself reading this out to the protagonist himself. Am sure his response would be something like this-a whisper-like drawl-- modulated naturally in that much-loved manner, pausing at all the unlikely places, stressing on all the unlikely phrases: Enthaa mone eh? Ithokkeeh? Inganeyokke aano njaneh? kallam 
padichchu, alleeh? (The "eh?" is an indispensible feature of the Mohanlal sentence.) That charming wink is certain to follow.  Disarmingly mischievous. That is the Man, for you. 
Survival of the fittest, they say. With that kind of a paunch and that kind of an anatomy, I wouldn't dare say that in his case. 
His is not the victory of brawn. It is not the victory of brain either. It is just that he is The Chosen One. The Superson. 
And yes, Superson, we forgive you for all those terribly inane ads that you do. The reason is simple, big brother. We cannot help loving you.
Next page: The Sun is just back in sight 
Great comeback of Malayalam Cinema
Just a year ago he was the most reviled, most ridiculed, actor in Malayalam. Social media was agog with jokes made at his expense. Even popular films like Ordinary poked fun at him. It also did not help that his choice of films reflected an embarrassing desperation to achieve superstardom. One of his mighty flops was even titled Simhasanam, an adaptation of Mohanlal's hit Naduvazhikal. Also, a new set of actors led by Fahadh Fazil demonstrated a sort of boldness that made Prithviraj seem ancient. And, in the middle of 2012, he played the troubled doctor in Ayalum Njanum and redeemed himself. Then, when he limited his superhuman acts to merely picking the right roles, he emerged as a bonafide hero. His homosexual cop in Mumbai Police proved that he was the man among boys.
Prem Nazir
By the end of 70s, Prem Nazir was considered a spent force. Nazir was featured in every second Malayalam film that he could not help being repetitive. Brash and irreverent young heroes like Soman and Sukumaran emerged as a fresh and thrilling counterpoint to the bureaucratic uprightness of Nazir. The man who had given the highest number of hits in Malayalam cinema suddenly found himself playing supporting roles. And then, in 1982, Prem Nazir came back with a vengeance; in a red cloak and flowing salt-and-pepper locks as Arekkatt Ambadi Thampan in Jijo's Padayottam, South India's first 70 mm film. “It is a performance no one can ever match,” Mammootty had then said. The film, based on Alexander Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo, broke all box office records and re-established Prem Nazir as the biggest star of his time.
During the last decade, Dileep it seemed could never put a foot wrong. His films, mostly slapstick comedies that unapologetically follow a similar pattern, are lapped up by the masses, especially women and children, in spite of its crude double entendres and B-grade comedy. But then there was a time when nothing worked for Dileep. He had acted in films as fresh and innovative as any of the new generation ones, but none clicked (Meenathil Kalyanam and Maanasam for instance).  After Maanathe Kottaram in 1997 he acted in 45 films till 2000, but could deliver only four hits. But his extended cameo in Thenkasippattanam at the turn of the century magically transformed Dileep's career. He delivered 13 blockbusters in a row, an unprecedented feat. Dileep now reigns as Malayalam's most consistent superstar.
The megastar is the master of comebacks in Malayalam cinema. A seemingly never-ending march of flops in the middle of the eighties very nearly knocked Mammootty out of contention. After his explosive performance in I V Sasi's Avanazhi in 1986, success just dried up. In fact, the four other Mammootty films that released along with Avanazhi during the Onam of 1986, too, had flopped miserably. But just when he seemed irretrievably buried under 20 consecutive flops, Mammootty staged a miraculous resurrection through New Delhi'(1987). After a decade, as age started catching up, Mammootty started faltering once again. Between 1996 and 2003 he had just three hits. Siddique's Chronic Bachelor changed things, kicking off a golden run that peaked with Rajamanickam' The man who is said to have a cat's nine lives is presently passing through his third slump.