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Mohanlal – 34 years of a Superstar who is still not ready to bow out

Its 34 years before on this day, 17th July 1986, that Rajavinte Makan released and Mohanlal was anointed the new Superstar of M-Town. 34 years later, not only Mohanlal has shown no signs of decline as a superstar, he still remains Malayalam industry’s biggest superstar – a feat that is perhaps not enjoyed by any other actor from 80’s in any other industry in India.

A man who loved box-office – Let us look through these years at how Mohanlal found ways in breaking new grounds in his stardom. ( The focus here is on Mohanlal, ‘the star’. Mohanlal, ‘the actor’ is for another day)

At the age of 26, Mohanlal walks into Ambika’s house in Rajavinte Makan, takes out a pen ,writes on her calendar and says -” My Number is 2255″. Not only does it turn out to be arguably Malayalam Cinema’s most popular one-liner, Mohanlal also rose to Superstar within only 6 years of arriving in the industry. The maturity and grace he displayed in his body language, while playing a gangster at the age of 26, was remarkable ! ( Read more on Mohanlal and 1986)
At the age of 27, Mohanlal plays another gangster and finds even bigger success with Irupatham Noottandu, a movie that goes onto gross more than 2 crores in boxoffice. With Ambika once again on the other side, another dialogue becomes iconic and this time ‘number’ was replaced with ‘name’. You hear references to ” Sagar Alias Jacky” in Malayalam movies even today after all these years.
At the age of 28, Mohanlal’s Vishnu walks upto the Jail Superintendent (Soman) in Chithram and begs him – ” Enne Kollathirikkan Pattumo”. A stranger and fraud in the movie, but Vishnu became one of the most beloved characters in Malayalam Cinema as the film broke several records on the way to becoming the first Malayalam movie to run 400+ days in theater.
At the age of 31, Mohanlal gives us Kilukkam. How could you ever followup and top up the success of Chithram again so soon? But then tell that to Priyadarshan and Mohanlal who teamed up here to give Malayalam Cinema its first 5 crore movie. And Mohanlal enjoys his role so much, performing everything you look forward to see from a star in an entertainer – Comedy, stunts, songs, romance. He does it all with elan here.
At the age of 33, Mohanlal gives us Devasuram in Vishu and Manichitrathazhu in Christmas – Once again the actor’s amazing versatility meant he could act in movies that belong to any genre and make them both masterpieces and blockbusters at the same time. Perhaps the most perfect Malayalam movie ever made, Manichithrathazhu needed Mohanlal to complete it. If he is comical at one moment, his ability to turn calm and serious the very next moment, holding our attention throughout, helped the movie immensely.
At the age of 35, Mohanlal gives us Spadikam and Aadu Thoma. There are big mass action classics. There are beautiful family dramas. And then there is Spadikam. Spadikam not only was a huge blockbuster, it also won Mohanlal Kerala State Award for Best Actor. Like they say – Just Mohanlal things.

It is at this point, I have to also note that including Spadikam, lot of Mohanlal’s blockbusters have been remade to other languages. But rarely have any of them matched the standards set by original.
At the age of 37, Mohanlal again gives two huge blockbusters – Chandralekha in Onam and Aaram Thampuran in Christmas. Chandralekha helped the actor bounce back from the debacle of Prince and he made theaters across Kerala laugh out loud with him when he laughed non-stop on-screen. ( Read more on Mohanlal’s masterclass comedy performance in Chandralekha)

Aaram Thampuran changed the way directors would make Mohanlal movies in following few years. Whether it was for good or bad is debatable, but Aaram Thampuran’s Jagannadhan still remains a strong favorite among action movie fans.
At the age of 40 , Mohanlal made “Nee po mone dinesha” a thing for Keralites through Narasimham. Boy – Didn’t this movie make a lot of money, becoming the first Malayalam movie to make 20 crores at boxoffice.
At the age of 41 , Mohanlal looks at the camera and talks directly to his audience for a moment, as he says “Entho enne ishtamaanu alukalku” in another hugely successful movie – Ravanaprabhu. 19 years later, we still agree.
At the age of 43, Mohanlal’s larger than life roles have started seeing failures as audience now find them monotonous. This is where Mohanlal’s versatile skills gained at such an early age comes to fore, as he can bounce back with a family genre movie if action movies don’t work. Balettan becomes a big hit and gets Mohanlal back on track.
At the age of 45, Mohanlal brings us to the edge of the seats during the underwater scenes and the terrific ” Njanoru Naran” song in Naran. The actor’s much famous trait to perform the stunt scenes without dupe makes us enjoy Naran lot more as the superhit film also shows how normal grounded lead characters could also pave way for great action movies.
At the age of 47, Mohanlal becomes the immensely likeable Vasco Da Gama in Chotta Mumbai in perhaps also his last fine comedy performance. The movie’s repeat value is terrific after all these years as the film-makers decide to develop the character normally without any larger than life aspects.

Perhaps no one can top Mohanlal when it comes to portraying a drunkard. And this single fact was put into great use to give another big hit in Hallo the same year.
At the age of 48, Mohanlal walks barefoot outside the court in Twenty20, just as when his associates land at the spot and hand him over a sandal and a watch. He wears them, pulls up his sleeve and the rest as they say is history. Featuring almost about all major actors in the industry, it is safe to say Mohanlal walked away with this blockbuster movie with this one scene.
At the age of 53, after a string of failures and doubts in the minds of his distractors if there would be another comeback, Mohanlal gives us the masterpiece Drishyam and Malayalam Cinema’s first 50 crore movie. In a performance that still keeps growing on you with each viewing, Mohanlal returns to his habit of remaining subdued and restrained through a major part of the movie and then hit you like a ton of bricks when you expect it least.
At the age of 56, Mohanlal gives Malayalam its first 100 crore movie in Pulimurugan which overcome demonetization and all other hurdles to make some phenomenally crazy money. Next year after Baahubali 2 released, National media would go on report this way – ” Baahubali 2 has broken the records of all regional movies in all states and territories except Kerala”. Like they say, Just Mohanlal things.
At the age of 59, Mohanlal gives another top industry hit in Lucifer. Lucifer not only did make money in Kerala, it crashed gates in international markets as well. In its opening week, it ended up in position no.9 in UK Boxoffice prompting some of the popular boxoffice analysts to go in Social media asking more about this unknown movie from the South of India. (Read more on Lucifer and its frames)

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