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Magic and method

After more than two decades in films, Mammootty is still keen on re-inventing himself with every new role

Mammootty: `I don't want to take VRS from acting.' — Photo: K. Ananthan

MAMMOOTTY EMBODIES cinematic glamour. A colossus on the silver screen, he has a string of hits to his credit, portraying some of the most memorable characters on celluloid. He continues to be a hot favourite, with his latest Malayalam movie, Kazhcha, doing tremendously well at the box office.

This movie brought back family audiences to the theatres with its sentimental story about a Gujarati boy in Kuttanad.

New trend

Easy going and with no hang-ups, he starts off talking about Kazhcha: "The response was tremendous. It has set a new trend among the audience in Kerala. Realistic stories that are close to human emotions are making a comeback. The audience is in love again with aesthetic movies. "

But, are young audiences mature enough to understand experimental movies? "Never underestimate the audience. Youngsters are definite filmgoers; they want to watch all kinds of films. It is the makers who have misunderstood them."

Adored for his stature and poise, Mammootty, a lawyer-turned-actor, drives his fans into a frenzy with his fiery style of rendering dialogue. How does he select a role? "What I look for is a good story." That's why he immediately agreed to star in Sumathy Ram's Viswa Tulasi, a story about two lovers torn apart in their youth. "The movie is aesthetically good. It is also my first movie with a woman director." Is he still game to experiment? "I am... with meaty roles. Though I don't plan it, roles like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar do happen. As an actor, it is my responsibility to reach the audience with my performance. Most of the time, my high-voltage performances have clicked. In Kazhcha, I was more subtle."

What is his strength and weakness as an actor? "Now, even as I talk to you, I observe. I don't intend it, but it comes naturally, and that's my strength and weakness." Mammootty's foray into Tamil paid rich dividends. Movies such as Azhagan, Thalapathy, Marumalarchi and Anandam endeared him to the audience.

In any role he essays on screen, Mammootty looks for the essence of the character. "When I play the investigating officer in CBI Diary, I'm bold and intelligent. When I play a teacher, I transform myself accordingly. I want my characters to look real - not larger-than-life... I am a method actor and constantly re-invent myself."

Talking about parallel cinema, he says: "I am trying my best to make `both ends meet' in terms of aesthetic movies and commercial cinema. I'm confident I will succeed." He feels commercial movies should be convincing — like Independence Day.

Looking back, which character of his is close to his heart? "All. In fact, the best is yet to come." This, from a winner of a series of coveted awards — Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (1998, English), Mathilukal (directed by Adoor) and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha in 1989 and Ponthanmada and Adoor's Vidheyen in 1993. After Kazhcha, he is playing a `grey character' in Black, the much-awaited film directed by Renjith, due for a November release. "I play a womaniser, drunkard and a cop who sets his own rules. It is a commercial film."

In Vesham, slated for a Christmas release, he once again plays an ordinary man, Appu. Also in the pipeline are some family dramas, investigative stories and fun films (Thommanum Makkalum).

Doing his job

After an hour, he looks tired and says: "Innu Nonbaa." (He is fasting as it is the month of Ramzan). He winds up the interview, talking about his milestones and further plans: "There are no horizons and no milestones in my career. Acting is my job and I'm trying my best to satisfy the audience. I don't know what they want from me, but I will continue to give what I have. I don't want to take a VRS from acting, so just wait and watch."


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