Mammootty has always been known for his versatility, his ability to shine in multiple genres, accents and languages. With two of his much-awaited films - Peranbu (Tamil) and Yatra (Telugu) - set for release, we take a quick look at some of his best works in other languages.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (English): It is said that Dr Jabbar Patel scouted the length and breadth of the country and abroad for his Ambedkar and even went to Sylvester Stallone but all that ended when he saw Mammootty on the cover of a magazine. The actor at first laughed it off, then refused outright and finally it was left to Adoor Gopalakrishnan to convince Mammootty to give it a try.
Apart from the striking resemblance, Mammootty imbibes the integrity and intelligence the anti-caste revolutionary is known for into the character. He uses silence brilliantly, there is dignity and resistance in his body language and equally expressive is his face that reflects the pain and humiliation that society piles on him. He also gets the aging process of the character bang on. One of the finest acts of his career in fact.
Thalapathy (Tamil): A larger-than-life don like Devarajan requires an actor who can work intensity and style with equal ease. And when you have the flamboyant Rajinikanth who plays Karna in the same frame, it seems fitting that the equally layered Duryodhana is handed to an actor who can match wits with him in every scene.
It begins from the first frame and you can see how Mani Ratnam smartly stages the shift in power between the two. Apart from the most talked about sequence where Devarajan steals the thunder from Surya in a scene that was tailor-made to glorify Rajinikanth, I would pick that emotional one where Surya reveals that Arjun (Aravind Swami) is his brother. Mammootty plays up drama effectively, with his voice and eyes, and he goes the whole hog—anger, shock, disbelief, resignation and overwhelming love and gratitude. Fantastic.
Anandam (Tamil): In this debut film of Lingusamy, Mammootty plays his favourite trope—the sacrificing elder brother. But then the actor brings his own variation to this cliché. With an ensemble cast of actors, the film revolves around a middle-class joint family headed by an elder brother, his parents and younger brothers. Friction trickles in with the entry of their wives. What looks like an archetypal '80s family drama is spruced up intelligently by the director who sets the characters against each other engagingly.
The actor is at his subtlest, processing the character’s emotional upheavals with ease but careful not to overshadow his co-actors in the bargain.
Kandukondain Kandukondain (Tamil): Major Bala is an aberration to a typical celluloid hero. He is a war veteran, and along with his wooden leg case, he also carries memories of having lived an unrewarded life. He carries a silent torch for Meenakshi (Aishwarya Rai), understanding too well it won’t be returned.
In one of the earlier scenes, a drunk Bala has a meltdown at a party, and Mammootty is superlative here, maintaining a posture and speech that’s garbled but emotionally knotted. And of course, that famous climactic proposal scene where he showed he can be as intense as a lover too.
Swathi Kiranam (Telugu): Between Mammootty and Mohanlal, when it comes to lip syncing for song sequences, the latter makes it a no-contest. So, it seems impressive that Mammootty nails this veteran Carnatic singer, who out of jealousy for his prodigy, takes a route of self-destruction. That too in a language not very familiar to him.
Not only does he ace the internal journey of the musician but he also gets it right with the language and the nuances of a classical singer, be it his mannerisms or his lip syncing.