Mohanlal in Chandralekha – A Masterclass in acting comedy

I don’t think there is another lead actor in India who does comedy better than Mohanlal used to do in his prime. There is also perhaps no other better testimonial to it than the uproarious Chandralekha. If Mohanlal is rib-tickling loud in some scenes, its about his subtle change of expressions in others. He walks a thin line of balancing both with so much success in Chandralekha. Let’s take Chandralekha and look at factors that made Mohanlal an unbeatable force in comedy in 80’s and 90’s.

The perfect start – Chandralekha starts straight away with how Appukuttan(Mohanlal) lands in Mumbai and how he has to push through a big crowd to get out of the train. You are given a hint at the beginning itself on what is to follow.
Mohanlal and Sreenivasan in Chandralekha
Timing– In this scene when Beeranikka(Mamukkoya) says that he has to meet Appukuttan’s brother in law, Mohanlal out of nowhere hatches a plan and says he would be out in a Delhi trip for 3-4 days. Its the timing of the dialogue delivery what makes the scene humorous.
Sync with other actors in a frame – One of Mohanlal’s biggest assets is his ability to form great chemistry with his co-actors and sync with them beautifully on screen. Here the focus should be on Maniyanpillai Raju, but you cannot help but notice Mohanlal who opens his mouth and jumps in sync with Raju while the latter is actually the one who sneezes.
Mohanlal in Chandralekha
Ability to get comedy out even in serious situations- When he is jammed between the hospital attendants and doctors as they take Chandra to the operation theater, Mohanlal tries to roll around and find a way out. He brings comedy even in that helpless situation
Scenes that do not have lines – Appukuttan keeps an eye on the nurse all the while he tries his best to open the suitcase. The expressions are gold.
Using objects in the frame– While Appukuttan is back and explains Noor(Sreenivasan) the predicament he got in the hospital, Mohanlal pours water from a jug to a glass. But then he drinks the water from the jug itself. There is a great chance you may not have noticed this the first time. But then great performances or movies are all about letting you find more in subsequent viewings.
Using objects in the frame(again)- This particular sequence where Mohanlal keeps a cup of tea in his hand and then lifts it up and down while greeting every relative in the room is another hilarious scene.
Repeating lines – Another technique that Mohanlal uses often through Chandralekha or even through his career is repeating a line multiple times. Here when he pays the owner Rs.1000, he says the line – ” randu moonu divasathil kondu vannu tharaam” ( “Will pay the rest in 3-4 days”) at least 3 times !
Mohanlal in Chandralekha
Reacting to a situation– When one of Chandra’s relatives( Sadique) tells Appukuttan about an impersonation case that he is handling, Appukuttan tries his best to put up a straight face and act normal, but what he ends up having is another series of hilarious expressions.
Mohanlal in Chandralekha
Reacting to a situation (again) – When the bank manager( Raju) tells Appukuttan that he can sanction the loan without issues, Appukuttan is first surprised. Then puts up a wide smile, but again becomes doubtful if it is true or not. All this changes on Mohanlal’s face within the matter of seconds.
Scenes that don’t need lines(again) – Coming back to how Mohanlal doesn’t need lines to leave you in splits, you have another instance where the Nurse asks him to lift Chandra’s dress and he proceeds with closed eyes.
Speed and Energy – This is perhaps an important aspect in comedy and you have this sequence where Appukuttan throws away the helmet, slides through the rails and lands in time to save his friend Noor. How many takes would he have taken to perfect this ?
Mohanlal in Chandralekha
Voice – This is the scene where he arrives to meet Lekha ( Pooja Batra) not knowing how much she knows about the real Alphy. And this is where Mohanlal takes a dig at his own voice that had undergone change in 1997. You realize he uses his voice perfectly in this movie even when it was not at his 100 % !
Making you laugh while laughing -I still remember how the entire theater was laughing along with Mohanlal in this scene, when Appukuttan realizes there is no other way out of this situation and when he decides to laugh non-stop and then slowly slide out of the room.
Making you laugh while angry– Now this is where Appukuttan acts angry at the office Manager(who is actually his brother in law) and says he doesn’t want to see him. But the result for the viewers is same. Here once again you notice how Mohanlal repeats the same line “Enikkayaale kananda” ( I don’t want to see him) for impact.
Continuity(1) – One of the biggest challenges for Mohanlal in Chandralekha is that he has to switch from one scene to another in no time and yet maintain the same intensity. Take for instance this scene which starts from where Appukuttan is relieved that the photo which Lekha found is not that of Alphy. He then immediately meets Lekha in the hallway and threatens her to stop chasing behind him.
Mohanlal in Chandralekha
Continuity (2)– He ends his conversation with Lekha, just turns back and then finds Beeranikka in front of him. Not only does Mohanlal have to turn to a shocked state quickly in a second, he also has to bring out the emotions of how Appukuttan would be hatching his next idea to get out of that situation. This is brilliant job.
Dialogue presentation – And then ladies and gentlemen, there is the iconic ” Nee ethra bagyavathiyaanu, Njan ethra bhagyavananu” sequeunce. This is classic Mohanlal bringing the house down with his way of presenting dialogues.
Finally when the movie ends where it started, Mohanlal had given us both a movie and performance to remember for long. After Chandralekha, even Mohanlal couldn’t surpass this comedy performance in any of his other movies. It was a work that deserved the biggest awards out there but then it is a shame that we always overlook comedy when it comes to awards.

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