What is your idea of happiness?

Strange, but this is something I have been deliberating for long. I think happiness is something that one needs to connect with. When one experiences it, there is the need to enhance that moment, extend it. Happiness is not merely a word. It is a state of mind.

What is your greatest fear?

Normally, like anyone else, it must be death. But at present I have no fear of death. Maybe it will envelop me later. Though I try to reassure myself that nothing is permanent and that every living being needs to face this situation, the fear of death is always there. I'm not scared of my profession or my finances. At least not now.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Alexander the Great. After coming so near to conquering the world, he was ready to accept death with open arms.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mother. She has taken it all – the sorrows, the happiness, the highs and lows – with poise. The death of my father, my brother, she stood bravely through all this. She has also shared my success, my joy. And through her I admire motherhood. She is the perfect representation of motherhood.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My anger. Usually I don't lose control over myself. Yes, maybe when I was younger anger did overcome me at times. But now I think I have developed the means to rein it in. For instance, I would not eat or I would try to keep myself away from the people who have been the cause of my anger. But I do not carry this anger for too long.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Again it must be anger. Look around and you see so much anger, and that invariably leads to hatred and destruction. Of course, you may not be able to prevent this chemical reaction.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I don't think I'm unduly extravagant. Yes, maybe, my fad for antiques. But I don't think it is extravagance. I'm only a custodian of history. With my death they will pass on to someone else, another generation.

What is your favourite journey?

This three-decade-long journey in films, certainly - the journey of my life. It has been beautiful. I have loved every moment of it.

Who is your favourite painter?

I have a fairly good collection of paintings, both classical and contemporary. It is quite easy and rather natural to say that da Vinci, Michelangelo or Raja Ravi Varma is my favourite. Art is very subjective and so preferences differ. Personally I like every work of art, even if it is done by a child. In fact, I have quite a lot of art gifted to me by the children who drew them. They are lovely in their own way.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

There's this tendency to be held in great esteem if you are judgmental. A sort of moral policing, being opinionated. What right has one to act like judges? What right has one to police another?

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

If it is about the external, physical appearance, I really don't know. Surprised? Being an actor one ought to know and care. But I seriously don't believe that I'm an actor. Then my inner self, I like every aspect of it. I like what I am.

Which living person do you most despise?

Not just one person. There is a whole lot of people I despise. But who am I to pass judgment on them? When I think of it this way I come to like most of them.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Listen to conversations and invariably you'll find people interspersing them with ‘you know' or ‘I know.' My favourite phrase would be ‘I don't know.' There's so much you don't know and sometimes this phrase turns into a good excuse too.

What is your greatest regret?

There's been nothing to regret so far. And even if something crops up, you cannot help it. It happens.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Life itself, my own life. I just want to live, live and love this life.

When and where were you happiest?

Depends on the people you are with. There have been such occasions. Even if I'm alone, as it happens usually, I'm happy.

What is your present state of mind?

Feeling very good, satisfied. This is a mental state and, as we said earlier, one needs to try and learn how to extend it, enhance it.

How would you like to die?

(After a long pause) I don't know. Tibetan philosophy teaches you that death is a secret, like birth. Questions about birth may not yield direct answers. Death is similar. It is a secret man has not been able to find out. Isn't it better that we keep that secret, enjoy its mystery?

What is your favourite motto?

Life is beautiful, make it extraordinary.

On what occasion do you lie?

During interviews. My answers are spontaneous, so the same questions may elicit different answers on another day. It is then natural for people to point fingers and say that I'm lying. There's a percentage of lies in every interview, every conversation. In life, I may lie like a child. They are not intended to be harmful. Simple, mischievous lies.

From his first-released feature, “Manjil Virinja Pookkal” (1980), Mohanlal established himself as the rare "character actor" who could slip into lead roles with ease, both as antagonist and protagonist. He has won two National Awards for Best Actor, and has been decorated with the Padma Shri. His last release was the 2011 Malayalam film “China Town”.

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