Interview Template 2
Good acting just happens: Mohanlal

By Dhanya Shajan in Thiruvananthapuram

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Padmashree Bharat Mohanlal, one of Malayalam Cinema's greatest actors, completes 25 long years in the film industry this month. Mohanlal was born on May 21, 1960 to Viswanathan Nair and Santhakumari. He started his film career as an 18-year-old with "Thiranottam", made by 'Bharath Cine Group’, a film company established by his movie-loving friends on September 3, 1978. With "Manjil Virinja Pookkal" he began his full-time career as an actor in Malayalam films.

His major break came in 1986 with the all-time hit "Rajaavinde Makan". He won his first National Best Actor Award for the film "Kireedam" in 1989. Later he won the National Award for Best Actor for his role in "Bharatham" (1991) and "Vaanaprastham" (1999). He has acted in over 250 films so far.

With his production company, Pranavam Arts, Mohanlal made the kind of films he wanted to create. His film "Kaalapani", released in 1995, won five National and seven State Awards. Another splendid creation, "Vaanaprastham", released in 1999 won the National Award for Best Film and his third national award for the best actor.

The hallmark of Mohanlal's acting is spontaneity. In his own words, "If you study the role and then act it out, everything will flounder. Good acting just happens.” spoke to the veteran actor, on his long 25 years in the film Industry. Excerpts:

It is not a simple thing to continue in the film industry for 25 years. Have you ever thought about how it happened?

I had the privilege to work with many great personalities of Malayalam film industry like Padmarajan, Aravindan, Bharathan, Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Adoor Bhasi, Madhu etc. I believe their blessings are with us always. Along with that a number of good characters and good stories, which I got in these years...all these helped me to keep my presence live in the industry for this long.

It is true that I came into this field by accident. I acted in my first movie "Thiranottam", when I was a pre-degree student. A friend of mine directed it, but the film did not see light. Before I started dreaming about a career in films, I got my next film and it became a super hit. I was drawn into this profession without experiencing the difficulties that many people face in the beginning stage.

I don't plan anything in my life. It is not possible to be rigid about the story, director or producer. One has to think of various other commitments also. For example, one has to think of friendship. Basically a film is the combined work of everybody. Story, screenplay, acting, music, everything should fit in its place. No movie has ever become successful with a single person’s work. And a small fault can destroy the complete movie.

I consider myself fortunate to be an actor. You get to see and interact with so many people and above all you get to play so many roles or live the lives of so many people which otherwise would not have been possible. It is really a beautiful experience to do so many roles in one life. Everyday you become a different personality and I enjoy that experience.

In your view, what makes an actor complete?

There is no one who is a complete actor. An actor is a person who always looks for perfection – in his characters, his life everywhere. For reaching that place of perfection, one has to go a long way. An artist or actor should always keep the fire of desire in his mind.

You have done so many different roles. Do you plan to be selective in the future?

Unlike the other film industries, we don’t have any detailed planning before doing a Malayalam movie. In our industry, an actor gets less chance to be selective. I am ready to act in any role that comes my way. Above all, I trust the director and I believe in his ability.

Mammootty, I V Sasi and Seema started a film company and made quite a few films. Much later, I started my own company, ‘Pranavam’, because I wanted to make movies, which I like. For another producer, it would have been difficult to produce a film like Kaalapani. It might have been the case with many other movies too, like `His Highness Abdullah`, `Bharatam` or `Kamaladalam`.

When I say good movie, I mean movie with a message. It is not that I don't have an ambition to make a movie that will be appreciated all over the world. But with our budget, we will not be able to. I feel happy and good if I can make some good films, within our budget limits.

Is it because of great loss that you stopped film production?

I have never thought of stopping production. It is true that my film "Vaanaprastham" was a big failure financially. But I always love producing films and if good projects come on the way, I will surely do the production.

As a producer, I will say that my film should carry and convey some message. I don't want to make just any kind of movie; my primary duty is to see that my movies carry some message.

Of course, money is also important. But we made Kalapani to prove to people that we too can make technically sound movies. Its success or failure is another matter. But it was well appreciated. It gave us a lot of satisfaction. It brought us seven state awards and five national awards. I am happy about it.

As you complete 25 years as an actor, don’t you have any desire to try direction?

A particular job has been assigned for each one. Being a good actor doesn’t mean that you can be a good director too. Direction is a totally different field and different art and that’s not my cup of tea. I love my profession so much that I will never feel bored. But people might get bored of me after some time and throw me out!

Do you have any plan for retirement?

I don’t believe that there is a retired life for those in the film industry, like in any other profession. We had so many great actors who continued acting till the end of their lives. Many of those who retired from this job have come back. As for me, I have never thought of retirement. I will be here in this industry for long, either as an actor or as a producer.

What you think about the new generation actors of Malayalam film industry?

There are so many new faces in the industry. All of them are talented and capable actors. In our time, talent for acting was all that was needed. But now they are in a highly competitive field, where special skills for dance, fight etc are all that matters. All they have to consider is how they can sustain themselves in this industry.

How do you rate your growth in the past 25 years?

Even though I was often selected as the best actor in school and colleges, I have never thought I would become a film actor. I did my first movie "Thiranottam" with high seriousness. The actor in me grew up with good stories and characters. These days, everybody struggles for good stories and characters, which hit my career too. Still I have great hope to make a come back through good stories.

What are the changes these years made in your life?

I don’t know! I am still in touch with my old pals. We stood together even during the worst times and have seen failures and successes at close quarters. I act in all movies with the same spirit and same commitment that I had when I acted in my first movie, "Thiranottam".

(With inputs from Renju Anil at Kochi)