Mohanlal at 64: Why Malayalis adore their legendary actor

Mohanlal. Photo: Instagram

Superstar Mohanlal is celebrating his 64th birthday today, and Malayalis around the world are thrilled. Each year, Mohanlal's fans eagerly await this day to honour their beloved star. But why does Mohanlal elicit such a deep affection among Malayalis? A key reason is that he feels like one of their own. Unlike the typical hero with six-pack abs, Mohanlal appears as an ordinary person, someone relatable. When he acts, it seems as if he’s not merely performing but truly living the character.

In an interview, the late actor Innocent mentioned that Mohanlal behaves like just another crew member, setting aside his stardom, which makes him endearing to everyone. Mohanlal, who began his career as a villain in 'Manjil Virinja Pookkal', evolved into the consummate actor he is today due to his passion and love for acting and cinema. Many actors today view Mohanlal as an acting school because there is so much to learn from him. Director Maniratnam, in an interview with Gautham Vasudev Menon, remarked, 'It’s a dream to have an actor like Mohanlal who delivers so perfectly that you don’t have to worry about the scene; you just have to capture it'.

This is indeed true, as demonstrated in the Blessy-directed film 'Thanmathra', where Mohanlal plays a character with Alzheimer's. His performance is so convincing that audiences forget they are watching Mohanlal and are deeply moved by the character's struggles. In an interview, Mohanlal shared that many people asked how he captured the nuances of an Alzheimer's patient and if he conducted any research. His humble response was that he hadn't done any research; he simply played the character from an inner calling.

The same can be said for 'Vanaprastham', where Mohanlal plays a Kathakali dancer. He recounted a scene during a Kathakali performance where his character is dying. As his character's life ebbed away, a nose ring he was wearing gradually stopped moving. Mohanlal said, 'Many people told me I played the part with such precision, but I didn't consciously do that; it just happens when you fully embody the character'.

But Mohanlal isn't limited to serious roles; his true speciality lies in his versatility across all genres, whether it's comedy, action, or anything else. In a stage show, actor Jayaram once remarked, 'Only Mohanlal can effortlessly portray a comedic character like Sagar Kottappuram, a drunken novelist from Ayal Kadha Ezhuthukayanu'.

Mohanlal is a cherished asset to Malayalis due to his innate talent. Whether it’s singing, dancing, or acting, he embodies the complete actor. The primary duty of an actor is to make the audience believe in the character they're portraying. The late actor Thilakan once remarked, "It's only when Mohanlal plays the character of my son that I truly feel he is my son." Despite his superstar status, Mohanlal remains humble and relatable, rarely leveraging his stardom and coming across as someone familiar and approachable.

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