ENTERTAINMENT

36 Years After His Debut, Mohanlal Is Experimenting And Telugu Film Fans Are Loving It!

He is at that stage where he can be Bachchanesque in his daring.

16/09/2016 7:38 AM IST | Updated 16/09/2016 9:07 AM IST
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Indian Malayalam superstar Mohanlal poses during the announcement of two new 'Celebrity Cricket League T20' teams for season three in Mumbai on October 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Onam festivity has not ended in Kerala. A week after Mohanlal's 'Oppam' clashed with Prithviraj's 'Oozham' at the box office, here comes the post-Onam gift. Mohanlal will play the lead in Prithviraj's directorial debut titled 'Lucifer' that will go on the floors next year.

The announcement, made by Prithviraj on social media, got Mollywood and fans of the two actors chattering excitedly. More so, because the script for 'Lucifer' is being written by Murali Gopy, son of legendary actor, the late Bharath Gopi. Murali is considered one of the brightest sparks in the industry, as a writer-actor. The fact that Prithviraj himself is the son of another Malayalam cinema legend, Sukumaran, only heightens the interest quotient.

Prithviraj's fans are now able to put two and two together and understand why the actor took offence to some of them taking a swipe at 'Oppam' which received a better response than 'Oozham'. Prithviraj earlier this week put out a message on Facebook telling fans "when you degrade another actor's film, it causes me a lot of pain and embarrassment. Kindly refrain from doing such things.''

The collaboration only confirms that 36 years after the release of his first film 'Manjil Virinja Pookkal' and several National and state awards later, Mohanlal is looking to experiment. His choice of projects in 2016 is a clear indication.

Obviously Prithviraj did not want animosity between his fans and Mohanlal's fans to create bad blood between the first-time director and the Malayalam superstar.

The collaboration only confirms that 36 years after the release of his first film 'Manjil Virinja Pookkal' and several National and state awards later, Mohanlal is looking to experiment. His choice of projects in 2016 is a clear indication.

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Bollywood actor Prithviraj Sukumaran during promotion of upcoming film Aurangzeb at HT House on May 15, 2013 in New Delhi, India.

This year, Mohanlal made a foray into Telugu cinema with 'Manamantha' (All of us) that released in August. The movie that released in Malayalam and Tamil versions as well, took Mohanlal to a larger market. Though 'Manamantha' did not create a huge splash, it made Tollywood aware of the commercial possibilities if Mohanlal was brought on board.

Telugu producers see in Mohanlal an opportunity to tap the Kerala market. For long, Telugu films have had to choose from a Prakash Raj, a Jagapathi Babu or a Suman in the role of the elder brother, father or the menacing villain but Mohanlal, thanks to his superior acting calibre, presents a choice that has got the filmmakers salivating.

Mohanlal followed up 'Manamantha' with 'Janatha Garage' with Junior NTR. The fact that the film was a huge commercial success both in Telugu and Malayalam means Lalettan, as he is called in Kerala, could spend a lot more time shooting in Hyderabad now.

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Mohanlal attends the Celebrity Cricket League 2013 (CCL) Finals between Karnataka Bulldozers and Telugu Warriors at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on March 10, 2013.

Mohanlal in fact, had appeared in a cameo role in Telugu film 'Gandeevam' in 1994. But this time he seems to have invested in the language for good. He took the effort of dubbing himself to give his character credibility, even though the Telugu is laced with a heavy Malayalam accent. In fact, he even posted a photograph with his Telugu notes on Facebook in December, prompting Telugu superstar Venkatesh to respond : "Welcome to the Telugu film industry, Mr Mohanlal.''

'Bahubali' director SS Rajamouli was another excited soul. He publicly thanked 'Manamantha' director Chandrasekhar Yeleti for bringing Mohanlal into Tollywood. Stories of Mohanlal's awe-inspiring acting and voice modulation have already got film crews eating out of Mohanlal's hands.

In the Malayalam space, Mohanlal has no more frontiers to cross. Mohanlal would also realise that his audience space in Kerala too has shrunk a bit as the younger lot flocks more to see a Nivin Pauly and a Dulquer Salmaan flick.

Mohanlal had reserved the best for the last as he completed a hat-trick of movies that made a mark within two months. Malayalam movie 'Oppam' saw him playing the role of a blind man -- for the second time in his career -- in a thriller directed by his good friend Priyadarshan. There is already speculation over whether 'Oppam' will go the 'Drishyam' way and its rights bought in other markets just like the latter was remade in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.

In the Malayalam space, Mohanlal has no more frontiers to cross. Mohanlal would also realise that his audience space in Kerala too has shrunk a bit as the younger lot flocks more to see a Nivin Pauly and a Dulquer Salmaan flick. He is at that stage of his career where he can be Bachchanesque in his daring and choice of roles even though it must be said that Lal's body of work is already far more impressive than Big B's.

It is not as if Mohanlal has not stepped out of Mullaperiyar territory before. He has done an 'Iruvur' with Mani Ratnam and a 'Company' with Ram Gopal Varma. But he would never leave the crease back home in Kerala regularly, one reason why the consummate actor along with Mammootty ruled Mollywood for three decades.

But the success of 'Jilla' in 2014 with Tamil actor Vijay was like the good appetizer. Lal realises that acting in different languages will mean he will be out of his comfort zone and will need to make minor adjustments depending on the cultural background of the character he is essaying. Highly unlikely that 'The Complete Actor' would not relish this challenge to prove he is indeed complete. Just like being directed by someone like Prithviraj who is a superstar in his own right, would be a new kind of experience for Lal. Similar to how Amitabh Bachchan must be feeling, working with new-age directors.

On a chat show on Vijay TV in 2014, Prithviraj had expressed interest in directing a movie, if the script was good, with Mohanlal and Manju Warrier in the lead roles. This is what they say life looks like, when things go according to script.

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