Mohanlal had a memorable 2006 with six releases- Rasathantram, Vadakkumnathan, Keerthichakra, Mahasamudram, Photographer and Baba Kalyani. Out of these six films, Rasathantram and Keerthichakra were blockbusters while three were profitable for its makers and the only flop was Photographer.
His hit ratio is awesome as the latest Baba Kalyani opened in 60 screens is an indication of his reach and penetration. Mohanlal on the sets of his latest film Aakasha Gopuram in Tiruvananthapuram, spoke at length to Moviebuzz
Happy New Year from Sify.com. I believe you are just back from Ram Gopal Varma’s Sholay shoot in Mumbai. How was the experience?
I wish all my friends, fans and well wishers a very Happy New Year. Sholay will definitely be a path breaking film. I had seen that classic film during my Model school days at Tiruvananthapuram New theatre in 70 MM blast. For days I and Priyan (director Priyadarsan) could talk nothing but Sholay over innumerable cups of coffee at Indian Coffee House. Later, I must have seen it many times more. Looking back, who thought that I will one day play the Thakur’s role done by the legendary Sanjiv Kumar?
Do you approve of making a remake of a classic?
There is nothing wrong in remaking the film something which is very common in Hollywood. Tell me how many times Romeo and Juliet was remade, including a version done by the Titanic star Leonardo Decaprio? Ramu’s Sholay is not going to be a scene to scene remake of the Ramesh Sippy original. We are making a modern version of the classic.
Tell us something about your role?
I think it is an honor to do the role, though Ramu has made many changes to the character which I cannot reveal at the moment. The basic difference is that I am not playing a Thakur, instead I am doing the role of a Police officer in the city of Mumbai who hires mercenaries to bump off Gabbar Singh, an underworld mafia leader played by Amitabh Bachchan , who was responsible for the death of my family members. If you remember Thakur’s both hands were chopped by Gabbar, but in Ramu’s version, it is different.
What happened on the sets of Sholay, where two of the finest actors in the country clashed in front of the camera?
First and foremost, I am a big fan of Amitji, right from my school days. The first film I saw of his was Zanjeer, and I thought he made a great cop. Last month I shot for the film in a Mumbai studio and the first scene I shot was the very crucial confrontation scene with Gabbar Singh played by Amitabh ji and Ramu ok’d the scene in the first take!
2006 was a landmark year for you in Malayalam with six releases and five of them turning out to be big grosser?
(Smiles) What can I say? 2006 was a good year. I try to be level headed and try to take success and failure with the same attitude.
However you have done more commercial masala movies this year, trying to cash in on your larger-than-life image? Please comment.
I try to experiment with characters and roles that I play. I think that no one has still understood the success formula for a hit film in film industry. I have not tried to thrust my so called larger-than-life image into the characters that I played so far. The audiences are always on the look out for a new experience. I would say that Rasathantram and Keerthichakra worked as they had strong scripts. A Star may get an opening but the ultimately it is the content which is the king.
How come there were no Thanmatra’s this year(2006)?
A film like Thanmatra happens once in a blue moon. If you are talking about meaningful cinema, I am doing Aakasha Gopuram, which is directed by K.P Kumaran and is my next release in January. I have a very good role .This film is inspired from the renowned Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen's play named Master Builder. Then there is Pardesi, by director P.T Kunju Mohammed in which I play the life and times of Valiyakathu Moosa, an alien in his own land. I am sure you will like both these films.
You were voted as the most popular Malayalee ever by CNN IBN opinion poll . Please comment
I believe that it was the power of cinema as a medium that got me this distinction as the most popular Malayalee. There were other people like EMS and K.R Narayanan who were far more deserving than me. Still I may have got it for the 280 films that I have done and being in the industry for the last 26 years. I consider this as a reward from my well-wishers.
What according to you was the reason behind the colossal flop of Photographer?
(Smiles) Audience did not accept Photographer as they may not have like it. According to me, the script that was narrated to me was not the final product that we saw on screen. I agree that the film flopped. In my career I have always trusted my directors as I believe that they are the captain of the ship and I never interfere.
But your critics say that you don’t go through the scripts with a fine comb. Please comment.
I definitely listen to my scripts. Sometimes what looks great at narration stage may backfire because the persons involved may not be able to visualize it on celluloid. Remember I have worked with some of the best directors in industry like Bharatan, Padmarajan, Fazil, Sibi Malayil, Priyadarsan, Sathyan Anthikad and so many others. I placed my trust in them and they have created characters which created Mohanlal the actor and the persona around it
Have you ever thought of directing a film?
(Laughs) Oh no, it’s a tough job and I don’t want to do it. I am amazed by the way some of our directors conceptualize and click in commercial cinema. I am an actor and would love to remain so.
But now most of the scriptwriters are turning into directors. What is your opinion about it?
I strongly feel that some of today’s script writers do not understand the nuances of film making especially commercial entertainers. A script writer when he turns director refuses to acknowledge his weakness over the medium. Even the late Padmarajan whom I consider as a great script writer was able to convey his story best when he worked with directors like Bharatan and I.V Sasi.
Baba Kalyani is a hit. How did it happen?
It happened due to a combination of factors like script of S.N Swamy, racy narration by Shaji Kailas and above all a producer like Perumbavoor Antony. Antony is one producer who understands my strengths as a commercial hero and he makes the team work around it.
These days you are moving around with a laptop?
Internet is a powerful medium, I am also using it for some of my work . Added to that, I love browsing Sify.com…. (Burst out laughing).