Mammoooty is undoubtedly the biggest survivor and most handsome actor in the annals of Malayalam film history. He has won three National Awards for Best Actor and his last six films have grossed over Rs 50 Crore from the Kerala box-office. The actor has a lot to be happy about in a career that spans 25 years and over 300 films. Mammootty’s image as a family man with no whiff of scandal has endeared him to the lady audience for whom he is a ‘valiyettan’ or an ‘ideal husband of their dreams’. Excerpts of an exclusive interview with the actor.
It is your birthday. Many Many Happy Returns of the Day…
Thanks a lot. For me, September 7 will be another day at work. I will be wrapping up shoot for Rajamanickam in Pollachi and by evening I will be with my wife in Chennai. Then we will be off for a couple of days to London to be with our daughter.
You have been a great survivor. What is the secret behind your success?
It is not easy to be on the top. Sheer hard work, discipline, patience, sincerity and passion towards work are the key words to success My audience is very crucial for the success of my films. Kerala audiences are literate, skeptical and sensitive and they expect some realism in films. It is the choice of roles that I do which has worked to my advantage at the box-office.
How do you choose your roles?
I make it a point not to be typecast. In “Kazhcha”, the character Madhavan, was a village simpleton. In “Black” , I played Shanmugham, a cold blooded hit man for the local mafia. Then came, “Vesham” in which I played the all sacrificing big brother Appu.
In “Thommanum Makkalum” a racy mass masala escapist fare was the biggest hit in recent times. This was followed by “Taskaraveeran”, a summer release which took an amazing opening. This “black comedy” was a huge hit at the box-office and “Raapakal” had me in the role of a cook in a large household.
All these films worked as my roles were well defined with some kind of logic. The audience profile is changing and they want interesting, entertaining and relevant films that look convincing. My so-called “image” as superstar will help the film only if the content is innovative and fresh. The role should be convincing and the character should be able to provoke the thoughts of the audience.
So are you choosy about your roles?
Every role that I play is close to my heart. I take full responsibility whether they are good or bad. First I have to convince myself that I am the character. Then I get into the mind of the character, his gesticulations, body language, thinking, dialect and appearance.
About Nerariyan CBI your Onam release? How do you look exactly the same, if not younger even after two decades of the original?
The fourth sequel to “Oru CBI Diary Kurippu” titled “Nerariyan CBI” is ready for an Onam release.Investigation stories are universal and the power and popularity of the character among the audience over the years is tremendous. The character of Sethurama Iyer is very close to me, it was my creation to a very large extent. In 1986 when writer S.N Swamy and director K.Madhu started work on the original script they thought of making the hero as a Muslim tough-as-a-nail cop Ali Imran. After reading the script I thought that if the film has to work, the officer had to be a Brahmin with a pious and intelligent look and named him Sethurama Iyer and the rest as they say is history.
What is your next film?
Rajamanickam is complete and will release for Ramzan. I play the role of a buffalo dealer who was abandoned by parents is now going back to his roots. In Bus Conductor, I play Kunjaka, a bus conductor who can be spotted in one of the many private buses in Malabar area of the state.
What is the secret of your youth?
I avoid junk food and carbohydrates in my diet. I workout for 20 to 30 minutes a day in my personal gym at home.
And what about your much talked about rivalry with Mohanlal?
There is definitely a professional rivalry between us which has helped our films to do good business. I think a healthy competition always brings the better out of you.