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About Mohanlal

Male actor Mohanlal from India, famous due to tollywood

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Mohanlal Vishwanathan Nair (Malayalam) (born May 21, 1959, commonly known as Mohanlal or Lal, is an Indian film actor and producer , who works in Malayalam cinema. A four-time National Award winner, Lal is famous for his versatility and natural acting style. Mohanlal is best known for his movie roles of the late 80's and early 90's. His most notable films include Nadodikkattu, Kireedam, Bharatham, Devasuram, Iruvar, Vanaprastham, and Spadikam.

Early life (1960-1977)

Mohanlal was born in Pathanamthitta in Kerala, to Mr. Vishwanathan Nair, a government employee, and Mrs.Santhakumari. However, he grew up in Mudavanmugal in Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum)as his father was employed in the Kerala Secretariate in the legal department. He attended the local school in Mudavanmugal and later enrolled into the Govt. Model Higher Secondary School, Thiruvananthapuram. An average student at school, he started his association with the world of acting very early, when he used to participate in school-plays. In the sixth grade, young Mohanlal was chosen the best actor in school, an award that was usually bagged by tenth graders.

After schooling, he joined Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvanathapuram (Under Kerala University) for his bachelors degree. He continued his association with acting and won numerous best actor awards. It was here that he met a group of fellow-students, who were passionate about theatre and feature films. They were instrumental in getting him his first breakthrough and some of them, notably Priyadarshan and Manian Pilla Raju, went on to become popular movie director and actor.

Film career

For a full list of Mohanlal's films, please refer to Filmography of Mohanlal

Early years (1978-1985)

Lal's first film was "Thiranottam" (1978). The film ran into trouble with the Censor Board and was never released. His breakthrough came in 1980, at the age of 20, when he was selected for the role of the antagonist, in Manjil Virinja Pookkal. He had no dearth of opportunities after this and he played roles of gradually increasing importance in a number of movies in the following years. In the year 1983, he was credited in more than 25 feature films. Uyarangalil, a story of cheating and deception, written by noted script-writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair and directed by I. V. Sasi was the highlight of this period. He then expanded into comic roles in his director-friend and college mate Priyadarshan's debut Poochakkoru Mookkuthi.

Golden Era - 1986 to 1995

The period (1986 - 1995) is widely regarded as the golden age of Malayalam cinema with films characterised by detailed screenplays, lucid narration and fresh ideas narrowing the gap between art and commercial films. As a young talent on the rise, Mohanlal obtained roles that gave him ample scope to display a wide range of emotions and started some very fruitful associations with many of the better directors and writers in Malayalam cinema.

1986 was one of his best years. Sathyan Anthikkad's T.P. Balagopalan M.A. got him his first Kerala State award for best actor. His role of an underworld don in Rajavinte Makan saw the emergence of Mohanlal as one of the leading stars of Malayalam cinema along with Mammootty. In the same year, he played an asylum outmate in Thalavattam, a harassed house-owner in Sanmanassu Ullavarku Samadhanam, a journalist in M. T. Vasudevan Nair's Panchagni, a farm owner in love in Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal and an unemployed youth forced to become a Goorkha in Gandhi Nagar 2nd street.

His association with the writer-director combination of Sreenivasan and Sathyan Anthikkad, who excelled in making socially hard-hitting satires, resulted in films such as Nadodikkattu, in which he played an unemployed youth and Varavelpu, in which he played a Gulf returnee who is welcomed back home to greedy relatives and a state with a hostile climate for entrepreneurs. Director Priyadarshan's musical comedies, notably Chithram and Kilukkam had him playing the typical Indian romantic hero and increased his popularity among the teenage movie-goers.

At his peak, he portrayed some of the best roles in Malayalam cinema in movies by Padmarajan and Bharathan. Thoovanathumbikal in which he portrayed a person torn between his twin love interests, broke many stereotypes in Indian films such as the leading man falling in love with a second woman immediately after he is rejected by the first. Amrithamgamaya was about a man who ends up at the house of a boy whom he had unknowingly killed in college during a ragging session. Thazhvaram was another notable film of this period.

The combination of writer Lohithadas and director Sibi Malayil is considered to have produced some of his most haunting roles. His role of Sethu Madhavan, who dreams of becoming a police officer but ends up as a criminal in the film Kireedam earned him a Special Jury Award. Another role of a classical singer who is burdened by the jealousy and final death of his singer brother in Bharatham earned him the Best actor award the following year.

The 90s saw him continuing his success with more entertainers like His Highness Abdullah, where he played a Muslim disguised as a Namboodiri to assassinate a royal. His other notable commercial movies during this period such as Midhunam, Minnaram, Thenmavin Kombath continued the tradition of the 80s with neat well-written scripts and a rich set of characters. Devaasuram, written by Ranjith and directed by I. V. Sasi, set in the feudal atmosphere of central Kerala, was particularly noted for Mohanlal's portrayal of a proud, rich and brash young man who is slowly humbled by a chain of events. Director Bhadran's Spadikam became a cult classic for the revolutionary way in which the stunts were shot. Critically acclaimed films were few in number during this period and were mostly semi-entertainers like Manichitrathazhu, which had the female lead Shobhana bagging a National award for best actress.

Later years (1996-Present)

During this period of his career, film makers cashed in on the immense popularity that Mohanlal enjoyed in Kerala by portraying him as an invincible larger-than-life hero in movies. Movies like Aaram Thamburan, Narasimham, Naran used this image of his to great effect and became blockbusters. After their initial novelty, these films faced criticism from many quarters over their lack of realism and for creating movies around Mohanlal[citation needed]. Priyadarshan's Kalapani, an account of India's freedom struggle against the British that focused on the Cellular prisons of Andaman islands and Lohithadas's Kanmadam were some of his notable films during the late 90's. In 1997 Mohanlal's film Guru directed by Rajiv Anchal (which was based on communalism in Kerala) was selected by the Government of India as official entry for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Mohanlal,Mammootty,Juhi Chawla,Sharukh Khan in the abandoned climax of 'Harikrishnans'It was at this time that Mohanlal started getting noticed outside the Malayalam speaking world. He acted in his first non-Malayalam movie when popular director Mani Ratnam roped him in for the Tamil film Iruvar. It had Mohanlal playing MGR, a cult figure in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu. The Indo-French production, Vaanaprastham, in which he played the role of a Kathakali dance artist with an identity crisis, won him the second National award for Best actor and was the first film that got him international recognition. The film was selected for the competitive section at the Cannes film festival and his performance was critically acclaimed.

In 2002, Mohanlal acted in his first Bollywood movie, Company, which introduced him to the wider Hindi speaking audience in India. It was a critical and commercial hit. In 2006, the film Thanmathra ("Molecule"), won him the Kerala state award for best actor for portraying a person affected by Alzheimer's disease. His second Bollywood movie Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, was the remake of the 1975 blockbuster movie Sholay, in which he played the character of the inspector played by Sanjeev Kumar in the original. Mohanlal won the 2007 Kerala state award for Best Actor for his performance as Valiakathu Moosa in the movie Paradesi. Mohanlal completed 30 years in the film industry on 3 September 2008.

National award winning role as a kathakali artist in Vaanaprastham Mohanlal does not have a theatre background. He debuted on the stage as Karna in Karnabharam, a Sanskrit play that was premiered in Delhi as part of the National Theatre Festival. The play depicts Karna's mental agony a day before the Kurukshetra war, when he thinks about his past and his faith.

Kadhayattam, was a presentation enacted by Mohanlal, depicting 10 unforgettable characters and situations selected from Malayalam literature. He has said that it is his offering to his mother tongue. The presentation was a fusion of stage acting, movie expression, sound and lighting techniques and music, conceived by film director T.K. Rajeev Kumar.

Chayamukhi is Mohanlal's latest play under the banner 'Kalidasa Visual Magic' - a production house promoted jointly by Mohanlal and another well-known Malayalam actor Mukesh.

In 2008, Mohanlal starred in the mega movie Twenty:20 which cast all the prominent actors of Malayalam film industry. On the release of the movie in November 08, controversy was triggered by Mohanlal fans accusing that Mohanlal was not given prime position in movie's posters where he appears slightly behind rival Mammootty. Despite the controversy, movie started with huge initial collection and good reviews.

Professional Outlook

Mohanlal chooses his movies and plays mostly on instinct and likes to let things happen. He prefers and enjoys working in the Malayalam industry with a close group of people whom he has known from his early career. Many of his best school-college mates are with him in the film industry. These include director Priyadarshan, singer M. G. Sreekumar, actor Raju and producer Suresh Kumar.

Mohanlal is viewed as a spontaneous actor with the ability to effectively portray the characters' inner feelings and turmoils and express what the director wants, very fast and convincingly. He is uncomfortable working in other languages and attributes it to his lack of command over the intricacies of those languages.

Director Priyadarshan on Mohanlal's acting style "He never prepares for any role or scene. He is not bothered how he looks or what he does. Once the camera is on, he is a transformed person. As he does only one film at a time, he knows everything about the film, nothing more."

He also recollects what Mani Ratnam told him about Mohanlal "Hereafter, I will never work with a man of whom I am a fan. I often forgot to say 'Cut' in Iruvar."

Shaji N Karun, director of Vaanaprastham speaks about the pride he has for Mohanlal as a country man and colleague. "I can only express one word if I have to describe Mohanlal: wonder. I look at him with awe when he transforms himself from a person to an artiste in front of the camera. I don't know how he transforms himself. It's inexplicable. When we were at Cannes, after watching Vaanaprastham, a European director told him, "You are born in the wrong part of the world." I felt very proud, but I argued back, saying "Who said he was on the wrong side?".

Personal life

He is an avid collector of paintings and antiques and has a private art gallery at his home. He is married to Suchitra, daughter of veteran Tamil actor-producer K. Balaji. The couple have two children, Pranav and Vismaya. He is currently settled in Chennai.


In 2007 he faced criticism from prohibition activists in Kerala for appearing in advertisement of a liquor brand. In India advertising of liquor is banned. Marketers used different methods to get around the ban, for example by promoting non-alcoholic drinks with near-identical labels to the alcoholic ones. In this particular advertisement widely publicised on local TV channels and cinemas, Mohanlal advertises for banana chips with the same brand name as a liquor.

Business ventures

Vismayas Max website, Film post production studio and College for Dubbing artists at Kinfra film and Video Park, Kazhakoottam, Trivandrum
'Pranavam Arts, Film Production Company (Currently inactive)
Pranamam, Film Distribution Company (Currently inactive)
MaxLab Entertainments website - A joint film distribution company of some friends and Mohanlal
Partner and Director of Uni Royal Marine Exports, a major Kozhikode-based seafood export company
Restaurant chain in Dubai called Mohanlal's Tastebuds
Restaurant in Bangalore named The Harbour Market
Partner of Mohanlal's Tastebuds, a pickles and curry powder production company

Awards and achievements

Further information: List of Mohanlalís awards, honors and recognitions
Mohanlal was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian Government in 2001. He was elected as the Most Popular Keralite in a survey conducted by the National news channel CNN-IBN related to the Golden Jubilee of Kerala formation in 2006.

Civilian Honours

Mohanlal receiving Padmashri from the President K.R. Narayanan2008: Lieutenant Colonel designation by the Indian Territorial Army
2001: Padma Shri by the Govt. of India

National Film Awards

1988 : Special Jury Award - Kireedam
1991 : Best Actor - Bharatham
1999 : Best Actor - Vaanaprastham
1999 : Producer of Best Film - Vaanaprastham

Kerala State Film Awards

1986 : Best Actor - T .P. Balagopalan M.A.
1988 : Special Jury Award - Aryan
1991 : Best Actor - Ulladakkam, Kilukkam, Abhimanyu
1995 : Best Actor - Kalapani, Spadikam
1999 : Best Actor - Vaanaprastham
2005 : Best Actor - Thanmatra
2007 : Best Actor - Paradesi

Kerala Film Critics Awards

1988 : Best Actor - Padamudra, Chitram
1991 : Best Actor - Bharatam, Ulladakkam
1999 : Best Actor - Vaanaprastham
2005 : Best Popular Actor - Naran, Thanmatra
2007 : Best Actor - Paradesi
2008 : Best Actor - Kurukshetra, Pakal Nakshatrangal

Filmfare Awards

1986 : Best Actor - Sanmasullavarkku Samadhaana
1988 : Best Actor - Padamudra
1993 : Best Actor - Devasuram
1994 : Best Actor - Pavitram
1995 : Best Actor - Spadikam
1997 : Best Actor - Iruvar
1999 : Best Actor - Vanaprastham
2005 : Best Actor - Thanmathra
2007 : Best Actor - Paradesi

International Indian Film Academy Awards(IIFA)

2003 : Best supporting Actor- Company

Mathrubhumi-Medimix Awards

1999 : Best Actor - Vanaprastham
2003 : Best Actor - Balettan
2005 : Best Actor - Thanmathra

Asianet Film Awards

2003 : Best Actor - Balettan
2005 : Best Actor - Thanmathra
2006 : Best Actor - Kirtichakra
2007 : Popular Actor - Hallo, Chotta Mumbai
2008 : Best Actor - Madambi

Vanitha-Chandrika Film Award

2003 : Best Actor - Balettan
2005 : Best Actor - Thanmatra

Other Awards

2001 : 'Natana Rathna' Award
1999 : Prem Nazeer Award
2000 : M.G Soman Award
2003 : IMA(Indian Medical Association) Award
2005 : Kalakeralam Award

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