Malayalam actor Mohanlal, one of Kerala's most beloved stars, made his debut on the small screen through the show Lal Salam on Amrita TV on Friday. The show is meant to take viewers through Mohanlal's journey in cinema and will feature guests who've played a significant role in the actor's life and career.
Hosted by RJ turned anchor Meera Nandan, the first episode began with welcoming Manju Warrier on the sets. Manju has had four releases with Mohanlal so far and is currently his co-star in the mega budget fantasy film Odiyan.
Their most memorable film together is Aaram Thampuran, directed by Shaji Kailas and released in 1997. The show saw Mohanlal and Manju doing a 'dubsmash', with both of them mouthing the famous dialogues from the scene in which they meet for the first time in Aaram Thampuran.
On Mohanlal and Manju working together
Recalling the experience, a smiling Manju said, "I was shivering when I was doing the scene. Even now, when I have to act with Mohanlal, I shiver."
Manju said that when she got the offer, her first thought was that she'd finally get to see the legendary Mohanlal.
Speaking on Mohanlal and the film, Manju said, "He used to do those scenes so easily, I wondered if he was taking it so easy because I was new and that he didn't like me being in the scene. But it was when I watched the film in the theatre that I understood Lal magic. The effect was multiplied several times over!"
Mohanlal was quick to return the compliment, noting that Manju Warrier transformed when she was on camera and that she was a wonder to watch.
In an upcoming film, Manju will be acting as a huge fan of Mohanlal's. "I didn't have to put in too much effort in playing that part at all!" she gushed.
Speaking on Manju, Mohanlal said that he greatly admired her professionalism and approach to cinema. He went as far as to credit the success of that iconic scene from Aaram Thampuran when the fiery Unni Maya (Manju) meets Jagannadhan (Mohanlal) for the first time, to Manju's abilities.
Mohanlal went on to ask Manju ten questions, including whom she'd like to portray in a film - Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, or Kalpana Chawla (Manju chose Mother Teresa since Mohanlal said he'd do the film but added that she'd like to do the others as well) - and whose film she'd pick if she was given offers to act with Mohanlal, Kamal Haasan, and Shah Rukh Khan on the same day. No marks for guessing what Manju's response was!
Director Shaji Kailas joined the two actors who'd starred in his film and recalled how Aaram Thampuran was made. The noted director said that his son was born towards the end of the film's shoot and that he named him Jagannadhan, after Mohanlal's character.
"Malayalis can never have enough of watching an elephant or the sea. Mohanlal is the same for us," said the director.
On Mohanlal's debut
Two other important guests walked in, producer Suresh Kumar and actor TP Madhavan.
Mohanlal has known Suresh Kumar since his school days. Interestingly, he'd shared a room with Suresh Kumar, Priyadharshan and Ashokan at a time when all of them were interested in getting into cinema.
Suresh Kumar recounted how the debut of one of India's most talented actors happened, with Mohanlal chipping in. "I had no faith looking at myself in the mirror that I could act in movies. It was my friends who believed so," said Mohanlal.
Suresh Kumar said, "We saw an ad in the Manorama paper one evening, asking for new faces to send it their photos. We convinced Lal to take his pictures but he didn't like any of them. We went to my house the next day and he just threw them in my room and left. My room used to be a big mess, so it was only the next day that my mother saw them when she was cleaning the room. She asked me why we'd taken these photos and I told her. Though I said Lal was not interested, she convinced me to send the photos...it was the last day to send them...and so I posted the pictures to Navodaya Studios. He got a telegram from them the next day."
Veteran actor TP Madhavan who has appeared in almost all of Mohanlal's films expressed his love for the actor and spoke about how Mohanlal had insisted that directors give him a chance in every movie he did.
Lal Salam and charity
The incomparable KS Chitra also made an appearance, singing one of her most beautiful renditions Paadi from Aaram Thampuran live for the audience.
She also spoke about the Sneha Nandana Chairtable Trust, named after her daughter who died in a tragic accident. The Trust has been set up to provide aged and ill musicians who can no longer support themselves with a pension of Rs 4000 till their death.
The next guest to walk into the sets was Jolly Johnson of Thiruvananthapuram who runs a charitable organisation called H20 which takes care of the disabled and the elderly destitute.
Set up in 2012, the organsiation has 78 registered children. Jolly said that they have no permanent funding but that it was the contributions of several young people which kept H2O going.
The promos of the show gave a glimpse of the next guests who will come in, including Malayalam child actor Esther Anil who acted with Mohanlal in Drishyam.