Mammootty, Mohanlal and their long-delayed journey to ‘mass’

Posted on September 18, 2020


When did two award-winning performers turn mass heroes and what was the trigger? And, who among the younger lot will take their place?

BR: We started this series about a Telugu star (Prabhas) and we went on to discuss Tamil stardom (the Vijay/Ajith phenomenon), so this time I thought it would be interesting to visit the big heroes of Malayalam cinema and see how the star system works there. You’re clearly the expert, but from what I’ve seen in the eighties and early nineties, even the big names (the 2 M’s) were more like “character actors” than heroes. Why do you think the oversized stardom of Tamil and Telugu cinema did not make it to Kerala in a big way until the Narasimham era, the early 2000s?

VM: There are many reasons for that. For one, we’ve never really had MGR-NTR levels of stardom before Mammootty and Mohanlal. Our stars before that, Sathyan and Prem Nazir, created their niche in movies that may have been melodramatic, but never really over the top. They played real people in reasonably realistic movies. The main exception may have been Jayan, who was considered a legit action hero. Had his career been longer (he died during the filming of a movie) we may have seen some of those Narasimham-type “hero” films even before.

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