Happy birthday, Mohanlal—A down-to-earth superstar

As Mohanlal turns 64 on 21 May, here's a rundown on the actor's scintillating career spanning over four decades.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published May 21, 2024 | 9:30 AM Updated May 21, 2024 | 9:30 AM

Happy 64th birthday Mohanlal

Veteran Malayalam actor Mohanlal is celebrating his 64th birthday on Tuesday, 21 May.

Though he forayed into the Malayalam industry accidentally four decades ago, Mohanlal created a niche for himself along with his counterpart Mammootty.

Apart from films, the actor also hosts the Bigg Boss Malayalam reality TV show, telecasted on Asianet.

He is now working on his maiden directorial venture Barroz, which is slated for release on 12 September.

As Mohanlal celebrates his birthday, here’s a rundown on the scintillating career of the superstar.

An impromptu performer

Mohanlal doesn’t rehearse for the characters he portrays. However, he learnt the Kathakali dance form for his role in Vanaprastham (1999), an Indo-French psychological period drama directed by Shaji N Karun.

The actor played a Kathakali artist in Vanaprastham. He received the 47th National Award for Best Actor for the film.

This apart, Mohanlal is popular for his spellbinding performances in films like Sadayam (1992), Amritham Gamaya (1987), Thazhvaram (1990), Dasharatham (1989), Vanaprastham (1999), Thanmathra, Iruvar (1997), Bharatham (1991), Kireedam (1989), and Ulsavappittennu (1988), to mention a few.

He believes acting is a “continuous process and a habitual experience”.

On several occasions, he stated that “his connection with his roles helps him perform accordingly and impromptu”.

Also Read: Kerala politicians stand by Mammootty in online harassment over ‘Puzhu’

Directors’ take on Mohanlal

Mohanlal is a natural actor

Mohanlal is a natural actor. (X)

Director Fazil, who introduced Mohanlal to the Malayalam industry with his 1980 film Manjil Virinja Pookkal, defines the latter as a person who knows different techniques in acting.

In an interview, the filmmaker recalled an incident from the shooting days of the classic movie
Manichitrathazhu (1993). When Fazil asked Mohanlal to reshoot a scene, the latter said he was not sure he would give the same expression again.

However, during the edit, Fazil retained the original shot as it was perfect. Interestingly, there were no monitors in those days to check the minute moments.

Senior directors Priyadarshan and Sathyan Anthikad also shared similar amusing experiences with Mohanlal.

The veteran actor excelled in comedy scenes when compared to Mammootty, who is mostly known for his serious roles.

Director Sangeeth Sivan, who passed away recently, revealed in an interview that his movie Nirnayam (1995) was initially written for Mammootty. But Mohanlal was roped in as Mammootty had date issues.

The late Sangeeth Sivan and scriptwriter Cheriyan Kalpakavadi added a comedy and romantic angle to the story and made the script suitable for the actor.

Also Read: Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hridayahariyaya Pranayakadha review

Rise to superstardom

Mohanlal is the first Malayalam actor to have a ₹100-crore film - Pulimurugan

Mohanlal is the first Malayalam actor to have a ₹100-crore film (Pulimurugan). (X)

Mohanlal delivered several hits in his career spanning over 40 years.

His works with Priyadarshan—Chithram (1988), Kikukkam (1991), Thenmavin Kombathu (1994), and Chandralekha (1997)—have great re-watch value on television.

Well, thanks to Mohanlal’s comedy timing, the humour in these movies still leaves the audience in splits.

The Malayalam actor rose to superstardom in 1986 with Rajavinte Makan.

Despite his superstardom, the actor has done many path-breaking movies like Dasharatham (1989) and Thanmathra (2005).

On the other hand, after the superhit Narasimhan in 2000, he acted in films like Praja (2001), Thandavam (2002), and Onnaman (2002), which had a similar format.

Sadly, these movies failed miserably at the box office, and the actor was criticised for being monotonous. A few even commented that by delivering only action and mass masala elements in his works, Mohanlal was following in the footsteps of his Tamil counterpart Rajnikanth.

However, the superstar returned with a bang with quality films like Balettan (2003) and Udayananu Tharam (2005).

Interestingly, the actor didn’t adopt any formula in his career but believed in his judgement.

Mohanlal is also the first Malayalam actor to deliver a ₹100-crore film (Pulimurugan in 2016). His Lucifer (2019) opened the overseas market for Malayalam cinema by becoming a blockbuster hit.

Lucifer was the first Malayalam flick to create the ₹200-crore club, including the box-office collection, satellite rights, and digital streaming rights in other languages.

EXCLUSIVE: Shooting comedy films is a big challenge: Cinematographer Manesh Madhavan

Friendship with Mammootty

Mohanlal with Mammootty

Mohanlal with Mammootty. (X)

A “natural actor”, Mohanlal is often compared with Mammootty—a master in method acting.

They entered the Malayalam industry around the same time.

There was a time when the actors delivered both parallel and commercial films. Also, the duo shared the screen in around 55 films.

Despite all this, the superstars never considered one another as competition but shared a great bond. Their friendship and camaraderie have set an example for many young actors in the industry.

Their recent viral video at the Vanitha Film Awards ceremony, where the actors expressed their love for each other through kisses, exemplifies their bond.

Both Mohanlal and Mammootty enjoy a huge fanbase across the globe. But, interestingly, no fan belittles either of the actors.

The new releases of these two superstars are still celebrated with anticipation and love by fans and moviegoers worldwide.

Mohanlal delivered a super hit with Neru (2023). The Jeethu Joseph’s directorial grossed over ₹100 crore worldwide. However, his much-anticipated film—Malaikottai Vaaliban, an experimental folk tale directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, didn’t do well at the box office.

As a result, the actor was criticised for his choice of films.

The big-budget Malayalam movie also faced shocking negative comments on social media, which prompted Lijo Jose to react.

Director’s actor: Devan

Malayalam director Devan, who debuted with Valatty (an experimental love story of dogs) last year, describes Mohanlal as a director’s actor who completely trusts the director.

The filmmaker opines that Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan and Lucifer helped get a pan-Indian appeal for Malayalam cinema.

“The much celebrated Manjummel Boys and other films are just following in the footsteps of Mohanlal, who opened new opportunities for Malayalam cinema across the globe,” Devan tells South First.

He also lauds Mohanlal for being a down-to-earth actor-superstar who encourages young talent.

Meanwhile, Mohanlal is currently working on his debut directorial—Barroz.

He acted in 359 films so far and his 360th movie (L360), under the direction of Tharun Moorthy, is under production.

His L2:Empuraan, directed by Prithviraj Sukumaran, is being shot simultaneously with L360.

After wrapping up these projects, the actor will join the sets of director Joshiy’s Rambaan.

Later, Mohanlal will collaborate with Sathyan Anthikad and Priyadarshan for their upcoming films.