Darling Of The Masses: One Who Brings The Essence Of Music To Our Screens
by Elizabeth Menon
Mohan Lal -- the name brings instant responses from malayalees, and mostly it is intense adulation; but indifference is never one of them! Mohan Lal is possibly one of the most popular actors on our screens. His ‘Embarrassed smile’ that lights up his whole face and his typical way of tying the ‘Lungi’, have become his ‘Trade marks’ for the adoring fans! Even his most ardent critic admires the versatility in his acting. Therefore it is no surprise that Mohan Lal is the proud recipient of the most coveted ‘Bharat Award’ on three occasions, for his splendid acting in ‘Kireedam’, ‘Bharatham’ and ‘Vaanaprastham’. He is a man of many faces: actor, film producer, and playback singer, to mention a few.
‘Manjil virinja pookkal’ brought Mohan Lal to our screens. The effortless transformation from villain to romantic hero was applauded by the masses, to the utter dismay of the actor himself; he thought that he would be laughed at, if he burst into songs on their silver screens! Nobody was prepared for what followed; his effortless, in depth acting brought a new dimension to such scenes. Mohan Lal is one of the very few actors who can capture the deep emotions and the hidden depth in Yesudas's songs, which is an almost impossible task. I would consider this as the ultimate accolade anyone could bestow on an actor! ‘Ramakatha’ in Bharatham, ‘Gopika vasantham and ‘pramada vanam’ in ‘His Highness Abdulla’, ‘Harimuralee ravam’ in ‘Aaram Thampuran’ and ‘Nanni aarodu njaan chollendu’ in ‘Aham’ are few such examples. ‘Theerchayilla’ in ‘Usthaadu’, made Mohan Lal a playback singer, yet another golden feather to his crown! His famous dialogue in ‘Aadhipathyam’ is as memorable as that of Murali’s closing sentence in ‘Aadhaaram’ or Balan K Nair’s classic comment about Chandu in Vadakkan Veera Gatha.
His versatility is such that he could feel at ease playing with children, as one of them; he is equally at home playing the role of an idiot, mentally disturbed, villain, gangster, political leader, singer, dancer, loving brother or son, comedian or a romantic hero. His performances involved intense research and training in Bharatnaatyam and Kathakali for ‘Raaja Shilpi’, ‘Kamaladalam’ and ‘Vaanaprastham’. His acting in ‘Vaanaprastham’ was admired by many, at the International Festival in London last year. Shaji Karun and Mohan Lal deserve all the acclaim they get, for bringing the ancient art of Kathakali to the forefront, in the new millennium. ‘ Yodha, Kalapani, Lal salam, Dasharatham, kalipattam, kilukkam, kanmadam, Agnidevan, maaya mayuuram, Raktha sakshikal, Januvari ororma, Guru, Noketha duurathu, Thalavattam, Kizhakkunarum pakshi, Vandanam, Chandralekha, Vietnam colony, Narasimham’, are few of his many films that captured the attention of Malayalees all over the world.
‘Rajavinte Makan’ was the film that made me notice Mohan Lal and films such as Lakshmana rekha, Aadhipathyam, Sanmanasullavarkku samadhanam, Bharatham, His Highness Abulla, Onnu muthal poojyam vare, kamaladalam and Kireedam followed; his exemplary talent could not be overlooked in such films! Mohan Lal shows his splendid acting ability over a few telephone conversations in ‘Onnu muthal Poojyam Vare’; who could forget him in ‘Sanmanasullavarkku samadhanam’! Bharatham, His Highness Abdulla, Onnu muthal poojyam vare’ are my favourite Mohan Lal films so far! Lal’s parents, Mr Vishvanathan Nair and Shanthamma hail from Nellikkala/Elanthur and perhaps this may have influenced me to follow his career. I take this opportunity to say that people from this small village, more than the rest of Kerala, are very proud of their famous son. One hopes to see greater things from this accomplished actor.
(This article was originally written for the souvenir, to celebrate Mohan Lal’s visit to the UK)