Aaraattu made me introspect Mohanlal and Mammootty’s movie choices!
Stardom in Malayalam cinema has found new successors almost every decade or two. From Thikkurissi (the first known superstar in Malayalam cinema) to Prem Nazir and Jayan, stardom has been handed over to the best actors of the generation. With the success of Rajavinde Makan, Mohanlal, and with the success of New Delhi, Mammootty became the new superstars. And once the baton was handed over to Mohanlal and Mammootty in the 80s, there has been no more succession. They have remained the undisputed kings of Malayalam cinema for more than three decades. No competition, no threat, the throne has been theirs for a long time now. With versatile acting and establishing a connection with the audience, they have maintained their stardom for decades. Their movies always possessed that starry aura but didn’t always confine and depend just on that. Cinema as art was valued in most of their movies.
Cut to the present, while the duo is still the undisputed kings of Malayalam cinema, let’s have a look at how things have changed now. Many talented actors have come and gone but nothing threatened the throne. Their children took over the stage but unlike in a monarchy, the crown was never handed over to anyone. Several questions have come about who might be the next superstar of Malayalam cinema, but we have years to go before we can come to a conclusion. Mohanlal is currently in his 60s and Mammootty is in his 70s. The movies they are currently pursuing are different in style and representation. As a dynamic duo who started off with some gravitas and mass appeal, their direction seems to be heading in different ways recently.
Mohanlal over the years
If you take the list of Mohanlal’s films over the past few years, we can see a pattern of marketing strategy. Most of his movies are nothing but desperate attempts to thrive on the actor’s glory and reputation. They have had poor quality content and have been marketed purely on the actor’s market value. It is not possible to fool the die-hard movie-loving Malayali audience as they are settling for nothing less than a good film. Many of these movies flopped. Content-driven movies like Lucifer, Drishyam, and Drishyam 2 were celebrated by the audience all over. While movies like Ittimani Made In China, Drama, Big Brother, etc. failed to make a business. The highly anticipated film Odiyan wasn’t a bad one, it’s just that its marketing was heavily dependent on the star value of Mohanlal and hyped in an unrealistic way. The recently released Aaraattu is one of the most desperate attempts to revive the “Vintage Lalettan” persona. It tries so hard that all the Mohanlal references used in the movies get annoying at a point.
Mammootty over the years
There was a point when I did feel like the actor was just stepping aside for the new generation and doing films just for the sake of it. But then he came back with some of the finest films in Malayalam cinema, like Unda and Peranbu which were so rich in content and performance. His upcoming movie lists like Puzhu, Bilal, and Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam only induced excitement among movie enthusiasts. The glimpses of these movies show Mammootty on a unique, exciting canvas and promise something refreshing from the actor. If you observe the pattern of Mammootty’s movies, you will notice the passion and commitment of someone who has always admired cinema throughout his life. His movies may use the advantage of his market value but do not entirely rely on them. In fact, they rely on the uncompromising performer that he has always been.
The market value of actors does have a significant contribution to the film, but setting up an entire movie on this foundation may not work in Malayalam cinema. In the end, people want good content from the actors they have loved and adored all these years. Being selective in their movie choices is the least they can do to repay the love that their admirers have showered on them for decades. I hope Mohanlal soon realizes this and focus on the actor that he is and not the star.
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