I wonder if it is time for a break or a different path, says Mohanlal


Mohanlal   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Even while Mohanlal is on a roll with some huge projects in the pipeline, he also wonders if he should take it easy after working on the ₹1,000-crore Randamoozham

Mohanlal seems unstoppable. After back-to-back hits in 2016, it turned out to the year of the tiger with Pulimurugan, which took the small Malayalam film industry into the 100 crore club. Just when the celebrations were in full swing for the blockbuster, it was announced that Mohanalal would play the lead role of Bhiman in litterateur MT Vasudevan’s screen adaptation of his magnum opus Randamoozham, billed to be the most expensive film to be made in India at ₹1,000 crore. And to warm the cockles of his fans’ hearts, finally, Mohanlal and Lal Jose were teaming up for a movie, a project that had been eagerly awaited by Malayalam movie buffs.

As soon as Lal Jose announced a film, a question that would be invariably asked was: So, when are you working with Mohanlal? Every time Lal would reply in his trademark drawl: “I am on the lookout for a film to work with Lal ettan. As and when I get a project, we will start working.” Announcements were made but all those seemed to be in limbo. Years rolled by but not the movie. Lal Jose got bigger with each film of his. Mohanlal went on to reign over the box office and left his mark in Telugu and Kannada.

That was when posts on social media by the star and the director stated that the Lals would be working together in an untitled film. A part of the dream project, Velipadinte Pusthakam, was shot in the sprawling St Xavier’s College campus close to the beach in Thiruvananthapuram. And that was when Mohanlal agreed to meet me for an interview.

I reach the sets well before the scheduled time and watch Lal Jose in action. I catch a glimpse of a bearded Mohanlal in a red kurta. It has been a hectic day for the star and the crew of the movie as the threat of rain keeps them on their toes. Finally, the set breaks for lunch and Mohanlal sends his assistant over to say that he could spare some time for a chat. And so we meet in his caravan. As I step into it, I come face to face with the star that has launched a thousand emotions: Kireedam’s Sethumadhavan, Sphadikam’s Aadu Thoma, Drishyam’s Georgekutty, Rajavinte Makan’s Sagar alias Jacky, Sathyan Anthikad’s favourite common man, Priyadarsan’s evergreen hero…

The spell is broken as we begin talking about his dream year. “It has been an interesting year,” Mohanlal smiles, as he kicks off his shoes, peels off his socks and wriggles his toes while sinking into a cushioned armchair inside his caravan. His Man Friday waits on him, bringing him water to drink and adjusting the temperature of the air conditioning.

Once he is settled, he opens up about his blockbusters, Randamoozham, on his son Pranav’s debut as an actor, his love for travelling and his desire to take a break from cinema or decrease the number of films he has been doing.

“There comes a turning point in the life of every person when he reflects on his journey and work and ponders on the next road to take. Is this the pinnacle, the ultimate? What next? I have been doing films for more than three decades and I wonder if it is time I took a break or a different path to see where it takes me to. In fact, I wonder if cinema is what I should be doing,” says Mohanlal with an enigmatic smile.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

The Lal-Lal combination has been buzzing on media...

(Laughs) I have worked on several films with Lalu [Lal Jose] when he was working as an assistant director with Kamal. We did want to work on a film that was directed by him and had been looking at scripts for some time. Somehow or the other, it did not work out. Last year, Lalu called me up to say that he had found a script by Benny P. Nayarambalam that was quite different. Then we sat together, discussed the storyline and the project was up and running.

What is Velipadinte Pusthakam about?

It begins in a college where I am the newly appointed vice-principal, Idiculla. After a point, the action shifts from the campus to Alappuzha where the students are working on a cinema and there is a shift in the mood of the movie too (smiles). A complete entertainer, the film has certain positive aspects to discuss too. It is always enjoyable to shoot in a campus. There is a certain magic and that enthusiasm while interacting with youngsters.

2016 has been a memorable year for you, what with a series of hits in Malayalam topped by Pulimurugan, and repeating that success in Telugu with Janatha Garage as well.

Every actor, director and producer want all their films to do well. So you choose the role carefully, listen to the script and work hard. But there is no way of predicting whether it will be a hit or a flop. So many films that we have invested our labour and money in, have crashed at the box office. There is always that risk involved in every film. But when there is something new in a movie, we hope that viewers might be intrigued enough to watch the film. Pulimurugan was a new theme in Malayalam cinema and it had never-before-seen action scenes choreographed by one of the best stuntsman in the world, Peter Hein. Yet, the frenzy over the film exceeded our greatest expectations.

When you are on a roll, why are thinking of a break from cinema?

Occasionally and, for some time now, frequently, I wonder what I would have done if I were not an actor. I want to relax, take things easy, travel...maybe do one film in a year... explore life and see what it brings next. In any case, I plan to take a six-month break to prepare to play Bhiman in Randamoozham.


Before that I have to finish my pending work. There is Odiyan, then Prithviraj’s film Lucifer and there is space for one more film. I am looking at a few big budget films but have not decided which one. I plan to start working out for Bhiman from February onwards. Randamoozham, as you know, tells the story of the Mahabharatha from the point of view of Bhiman. One or two years will be set aside for the film. It is the greatest role that can be offered to an actor.

There is a lot riding on Jananpith awardee MT Vasudevan’s Randamoozham, perhaps the most ambitious film that will be made in Malayalam...?

Not only in Malayalam! It is an international production that will be shot simultaneously in Hindi and English too. That is why I said I need to prepare for it. There are mace fights, some daring action sequences... I will need to work out to develop my shoulder muscles for some of the scenes.

It can’t be compared to any other film that I have done or any other movie from India. The book is a classic and a favourite of Malayali readers.

Once, the film was announced, many more would have gone back to read the book again or buy it to read it. I myself have read it several times. The special effects and canvas of Randamoozham would be a first for Indian cinema itself.

In the meantime, Pranav will be facing the camera as hero…

Pranav is a reluctant actor. There were a lot of well-wishers who kept persuading him to act and finally he decided to take the plunge. It is a home production and he is working with a director [Jeethu Joseph] he has worked with in two films. So he is in a comfort zone. One cannot do more than that. Now, it is his destiny that will take him forward. He has to decide on his films, his characters. The situation is not what we faced as youngsters.

These days youngsters are more educated, been exposed to the best of world cinema, they have studied cinema and they have the space to select the right role, script and so on…options that actors of my generation never had. So, naturally, they are more careful in their choices. Cinema has changed, stories have changed, viewers’ tastes have changed..Since I made my debut in 1980, I have been doing films without a break.It has been a great ride and there was no time to think or evaluate my work and before I knew it, I had completed more than 100 films. It is only recently that I, and many other actors of my generation, have begun to select our roles, read the script and choose movies carefully.

When I started acting, I did many films without even an idea of what the script was about. The film would start and then we would discover what we were expected to do on the sets. Those days have changed.

You have a strong presence in social media and your blogs are carefully read and heard. What are your views on the social media and trolls?

When I have something to say or share with my viewers, I turn to my blog and even then I make it clear that it is my take on certain events. As with anything else, social media, if used positively, can be used for many good changes. Even in this film, there is an issue about prohibiting mobile phones on the campus. My character tells the management that the problem is not in the device but in the way it is used. Users must learn to make positive use of such things. I refuse to get drawn into negativity So if it is a troll that is really funny, I enjoy it as much as anyone else. But if it is cruel and negative and meant to draw blood, I simply delete it. I refuse to forward it to anyone else or dwell on it.

You are an avid traveller...

I enjoy travelling and there is no continent that I have not been to. I have been to South Africa, twice to Machu Picchu, seen the Northern Lights, sailed all the way to Antarctica, lots of unforgettable places.....I feel a spiritual connect with a place like Machu Picchu, the citadel of the Incas. I have experienced the four seasons and that is when you realise what a blessed people we are. We don’t have any extremes of climate. I believe I have spent three-fourths of my life and now I don’t think I want to settle anywhere else. At the end of the day, there is no place like home.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 1:23:56 PM |

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