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Language, no barrier

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Three films in three languages with leading stars of South India. Mohanlal tells Saraswathy Nagarajan that he is unfazed as he makes it a point to learn the language

Sunny days are here again for Mohanlal. His spirited run in 2012 notwithstanding, the actor began 2013 on a much quieter note, with just two releases to his name. After a 17-day vacation in South America, the actor is donning the greasepaint again, to act in three films in different languages – Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada – and all with leading stars of South India. He will team up with Vijay in the Tamil movie Jilla and with Puneeth Rajkumar in Mythri , a Kannada film. In addition, in Geethanjali , his latest Malayalam flick directed by old-time buddy Priyadarsan, he is reprising the role of Dr. Sunny from the super-hit film Manichitrathazhu , which was remade in Tamil ( Chandramukhi ) and Hindi ( Bhool Bhulaiyaa ).

On the sets of Geethanjali in Chitranjali Studio in the city, Mohanlal is busy meeting visitors and directors. A box of sweets in his caravan makes us wonder if he has signed on the dotted line for a film assignment. Film director Madhupal’s presence there makes us suspect if the star is acting in the critically acclaimed director’s next flick. To clear our doubts and find out more about Dr. Sunny and Co., we wait for the star to finish his make-up.

Good scripts attract

“Good scripts attract the actor in me and these movies are no different. Director Nesan narrated the story of Jilla and then Vijay also spoke to me regarding the movie. I felt Shiva, my character in the flick, has a lot of possibilities for me as an actor. Vijay acts as Shakthi. It is an honour to act with a talent powerhouse like Vijay, who has a tremendous fan following in both Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” says Mohanlal. The actor was last seen in a Tamil film with Kamal Haasan in Unnaipol Oruvan .

In Jilla , Mohanlal plays a rugged character who “thaws and finds his kinder self” as the story evolves. Definitely not a difficult task for the actor, who has brilliantly essayed several versions and avatars of the ‘toughie with a golden heart’ in several Malayalam hits. In Jilla , Mohanlal acts with Poornima Bhagyaraj, his leading lady in Manjil Virinja Pookkal , his second movie, which catapulted him to fame.

In Mythri, his film in Kannada with Puneeth, Mohanlal dons the role of a scientist. Mohanlal takes pride in the fact that his characters speak in his voice, be it in Tamil, Kannada or Hindi. He makes it a point to learn the language and get it right for his character’s diction and dialect. Even while acting in Karnabharam , a play in Sanskrit directed by renowned playwright Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Mohanlal delivered his lines in perfect Sanskrit, a language he has never learnt. “It is a gift that I seem to have. I have not thought of this about it, really,” says the actor modestly.

The actor seems to have taken a deliberate step to spread his wings and accept more assignments in different languages. Sarath Kumar ( Christian Brothers ), Amitabh Bachchan ( Kandahar ) and Prabhu ( Kaalapaani ) are some of the actors with whom Mohanlal has shared screen space in Malayalam cinema. He feels that it would do good to Indian cinema if the leading actors from various regional film industries act together. “In fact, I have been trying to persuade Priyan [director Priyadarsan] to make a movie on the lines of Ocean’s Eleven , by casting the top Indian actors from all the film industries in India. We have the potential to make projects like that, and so it is time to think beyond linguistic borders,” he says.

In the meantime, two decades later, Priyadarsan and Mohanlal have revived Dr. Sunny, the frolicsome psychiatrist of Manichitrathazhu , and given him a new mystery to solve.

With a smile, Mohanlal explains, “I had been telling Priyan that he should revive Sunny, as I felt that he was a character with immense potential for a new film; someone who can fit into any background or period. In this movie, Sunny reappears, a little older, but no less wackier than in his previous outing.”

However, Priyadarsan wanted time to think of a suitable story to launch Sunny on a new adventure. Finally, the filmmaker got the right theme for the United States-based Sunny to return to India.

“It is a psycho-thriller with loads of humour and thrills. With the new advancements in technology and visual effects, I believe it would be interesting to watch the doctor come up with a new prescription,” smiles Mohanlal.

But he does not think it would be a good idea to breathe new life into some of his iconic characters such as Sethumadhavan ( Kireedam ), Vishnu ( Chithram ) or Ramdas ( Nadodikattu ).

“One has to think if these characters will do well in a new environment and period. Times have changed, and so has the audience. Sometimes, it is best to let certain characters remain unchanged in memory and on reel,” he signs off. By then a new line of visitors has had lined up to meet ‘the complete actor’ (which is the name of his blog). The latter half of 2013 is likely to see the actor busy at work in projects with Jeethu Joseph, Ranjith, Sathyan Anthikad, Major Ravi and so on. After Geethanjali , he will be working with Simran in Jeethu Joseph’s movie. And, yes, Mohanlal is likely to act in Madhupal’s next film, which is being scripted by Tamil-Malayalam writer Jeyamohan.

I have been trying to persuade Priyan to make a movie on the lines of Ocean’s Eleven , by casting the top Indian actors

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