He strode in and moved languidly across the wooden floored room to a vacant treadmill. He stood beside the equipment for a moment, surmising its luck, before gliding onto it with the ease and elegance he would normally display while getting into his caviar hued Jaguar.
I continued my drab drill on a treadmill nearby, now straightening the slouch and holding my breath, tucking in a wobbly tummy just in case he chanced to glance in my direction. There was no one else except the two of us in the gym. I tried to remain calm, but my heart was galloping at the speed of Bolt.
But over the last couple of years his choice of films have been quite shocking to say the least. His Onam release Utopiyayile Rajavu, being another ‘facepalm’ moment for his legions of fans.
As megastar Mammootty or ‘Mammukka’, as he is known all over Kerala, celebrates getting younger today by one more year, here is a look at five of his memorable roles over the decades.
Both Mohanlal and Mammootty have acknowledged that it was the perfect mélange of meaningful scripts, directing acumen and taut screenplay that helped them churn out evergreen classics in the 80s and early 90s. And somewhere on top of Mammootty’s list would be Padmarajan’s masterly take on love and obsession. Mammootty literally scorched the screen as Captain Thomas, the jealous fiancé to Suhasini who has a soft spot for an adolescent student played by Rehman.
As an emotionally distraught Mammootty accidentally runs his jeep over Rehman towards the end, this is a movie one fervently hopes had a different finale each time it is viewed. Accepting a role that had grey overtones never ruffled Mammootty, and he would have definitely wondered what the brouhaha was all about when up north Shah Rukh Khan stammered his way to stardom playing the anti-hero a decade later.
A classic in the true sense, crafted sensitively by Sibi Malayil taking AK Lohithadas’s script and translating it onto screen with so much pathos that even today it leaves you numb. In the heart-wrenching climax his mother, played by Kaviyoor Ponnamma, releases him from life’s cruel stranglehold as he lies chained like others before him.
Ably supported by a stellar cast that includes Thilakan and Mukesh, a haunting background score comprising mainly of the mridangam and a dark and brooding camera work that lingers on all the murky fragments of the dilapidated tharavadu, the film holds a mirror to blind superstition, rigid religious beliefs and heresy and its tragic effect on an ordinary joint family. Trivia has it that it was Thilakan himself who recommended Mammootty to the makers for the lead role.
Ore Kadal (2007)
Released back in the Onam of 2007, this was a gem that brought together the powerhouse talents of Mammootty, Shyamaprasad and Meera Jasmine. An adaptation of Sunil Gangopadhyaya’s novel 'Hirak Deepthi', it had Mammootty mouthing heavy economic jargon albeit with a drunken swagger at his young much-married lover played by Meera Jasmine.
Sadly the two never worked together after this. A role that could easily have gone over the top, Mammootty lived the character of Dr Nathan to perfection with Jasmine holding her own against the maestro with a performance so realistic that none of her other starring roles could match it.
Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha (2009)
If anybody needed proof of what Mammootty was capable of then this one film would suffice. Mammootty plays a detective out to solve an old murder case that had taken place in his hometown of Paleri, the day he was born (1950s).
Mammootty’s portrayal of the three pivotal characters in the film is so seamless that the words ‘triple role’ is the last thing that comes to one’s mind. A complex film without a doubt, it was Ranjith’s mastery over the medium coupled with Mammootty’s brilliance and the casting of some remarkable clutch of supporting actors from the theatre field that made this a tour de force and a cinema connoisseurs delight.
Pranchiyettan and the Saint (2010)
Mammootty made Cherammel Eenasu Francis all his own with his lovable Thrissur accent in this satire by Ranjith. The movie that went on to become a super hit brought a novel format of filmmaking that rode mostly on the histrionics of Mammootty.
Playing a well to do businessman, who wants to be a celebrity at any cost, the actor slipped into his character with so much ease that the name ‘Pranchi’ is still fresh in people’s minds. The film’s casting again was spot on with veterans Khushboo, Siddique, Innocent and Jagathy supporting Mammootty well. It also had Priyamani in an author-backed role displaying what she was capable of before she boarded Chennai Express and disappeared nowhere.
I have a recurring fantasy since that chance encounter about an imminent desi version of Temple Run 3. If Imangi Studios were not based out of Raleigh but somewhere in Kochi, Mammootty taking that idol and sprinting from the evil Cuchanck or even a homegrown Asaram would be possible, surely.
(The writer is a Social Development Consultant based in Delhi working with The World Bank and met Mammootty in Thiruvananthapuram a few months back.)
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 7 September 2015. It is being republished to mark Mammootty’s birthday.)