As Mohanlal turns 60, people who have worked with him — directors and fellow-artists – choose their five favourite films of the actor for The Hindu. A playback singer who gave voice to some of his most popular songs and an accomplished classical dancer also list their top five films of the superstar.
When I decided to direct Panchagni, Mohanlal wasn’t my first choice. Naseeruddin Shah was; I had even met him at Mumbai and paid him an advance.
Then I felt Mohanlal would be apt for the role of Rasheed, the young journalist. M.T. Vasudevan Nair, who wrote the film’s screenplay, also felt the same.
The young Mohanlal proved we were right. He surprised me while I shot Panchagni. I am glad that I could give Mohanlal one of his best roles early on in his career.
My other favourite Mohanlal films would be Vanaprastham, Thazhvaram, Thenmavin Kombathu and my own Amruthamgamaya.
For a Malayali and someone who loves cinema, it is difficult to pick five from the hundreds of Mohanlal films; it will not be easy to select 50 even.
For each individual, their favourite Mohanlal films would be different. There are many who love his movies that make them laugh, and there are those who adore the movies that make them cry. As a Mohanlal fan, the five films that come to the top of my mind are Nadodikkattu, Kireedam, Thalavattam, Ayal Kathayezhuthukayanu and Iruvar.
As an actor, I have often been astonished by his performances. In Iruvar, I did not see Mohanlal… I only saw MGR, or Anandan. Some of his other characters, like that of the drunken writer of detective novels in Ayal Kathayezhuthukayanu, I don’t think no other actor – from Asia or elsewhere – could have been able to play.
He is too good in too many films. I am glad that I got to be the director of Mohanlal’s first film (Manji Virinja Pookkal). I have loved him in so many of his films, but if I were to pick five, they would be Manichithrathazhu, which also I directed, Kilukkam, Kireedam, Bharatham and Iruvar.
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Lakshmi Gopalaswamy (actress)
It has been a privilege working with him. He has always amazed me as an actor. I have watched him in awe transforming himself into the character within a second, when the camera is switched. I remember the ease with which he did some of the scenes in Bhramaram. He has this ability in pathra pravesham (entering the body of the character).
As a co-actor, he helps you improve your performance, like he did during the Thattam pidichu… song sequence in Paradeshi. I feel he is an artiste’s artiste. He is very refined, and is full of nuances. His acting is always in perfect shruthi (tune).
Aye Auto is the first ever Mohanlal film I have watched, and I liked the ease with each he played the autorikshaw driver. His other films that I like are Varavelpu, Nadodikkattu, Bhramaram and Dasaratham.
Methil Devika (dancer)
I grew up watching his films. His films played a key role in shaping up the way I viewed films, positively. I think he did that to many Malayalis of my generation.
He is unique as an actor in many ways. He has an innate grace and immense likeability, which I don’t think any other Indian actor could boast of. That is why when you see his character in a helpless situation your heart goes out to him.
My top five Mohanlal films would be Amruthamgamaya, Panchagni, Padamudra, His Highness Abdullah and Sanamnassullavarkku Samadhanam. I also liked him in his first film Manjil Virinja Pookkal; I was a little school girl then.
I still remember some of his relatively lesser-known films, like Ulsavapittennu and Abhayam Thedi. I thought he was brilliant in Vanaprastham, especially the way he communicated to Suhasini, using mudras (hand gestures). He didn’t even need mudras, though; his face was enough.
I know he surprised many people with his dancing skills in films like Kamaladalam. Not me. I would have been surprised if he didn’t dance well. He is that complete an artiste.
M.G. Sreekumar (singer)
It was an honour that I could sing for Mohanlal for many of his popular songs. People started saying that my voice suited him after Chithram, in which I sang all the songs.
It is of course great to reflect that we – Mohanlal, Priyadarshan and I – grew up together in Thiruvananthapuram and made it in cinema on our own with our hard work.
My favourite Mohanlal movies are Amruthamgamaya, Kireedam, Mithunam, Bharatham and His Highness Abdullah, which fetched me a National Award, for a song shot on him (Naadaroopinee…).
I am a fan girl! We acted only in two films together: Ividam Swargamanu and Velipadinte Pusthakam. But as any other Malayali, I had long before started to love him through his films.
Among my earliest memories about cinema have him in them. I used to look forward to the movies that used to be screened on Doordarshan. I still recall watching his films and songs on the Videocon black-and-white television we had at home here at Attingal.
My favourite Mohanlal song those days was Doore kizhakkudikkum… (Chithram). I then used to dream those songs; and sometimes I would imagine myself in them. Little could I have imagined that I would one day be acting with him in movies. Meeting him was a fan-girl moment for me.
But, unfortunately, I have not been able to feature with him in a song yet. He has been a huge influence on me when it comes to acting. There is plenty to learn from him for any actor.
My top five Mohanlal films are Iruvar, Vanaprastham, Rajashilpi, Thanmathra and Vandanam. And there are several other films close to my heart, like Nadodikkattu, Kireedam, Padmudra, Thalavattam, Amruthamgamaya and Kamaladalam.