On the birthday of our Father of Nation, veteran Malayalam superstar Mr. Mohanlal had posted in his Facebook page a beautiful message with the intention to propagate Mahatma Gandhi’s theory of non-violence so that young generation is reminded that they are enjoying the holiday of October 2nd only because, on that day in 1869, thousands of miles away, in Gujarat, a western coastal State of India, an obscure women named Putlibai gave birth to a baby boy who was christened Mohandas and when he grew up, strengthened into a barrister, human right activist, journalist, writer, philosopher, thinker and founder of nonviolence theory and went on to become the captain of the freedom movement that liberated India from its colonial yoke. A salutary act on the part of the superstar.
Mohanlal is a versatile actor, capable discerning the soul of whichever character he is asked to do. He lets himself to be possessed by the character in the story, a quality which all aspiring actors must try to acquire. Few actors are munificently blessed like this. According to me, late Sathyan master and Sukumaran too, belong to this genre.
However, an actor can remain in his profession only till viewers want him to be there. It is not necessary to point out that amongst viewers there are people from all walks of life, including children and adolescents. Due to his characteristic style of performance which is stunning, viewers have anointed Mohanlal as a ‘Superstar’ and rightly so. However, Mr. Mohanlal ought to know that, by doing so, viewers have, though unwittingly, bestowed some social responsibility too on him. He, like many other actors of his ilk, may be tempted to deny this. However, if he does so it will be a gross injustice to his audience, not to speak of his fans. There are legendary artists who can blend their acumen and social commitment in their creations. A glaring example is late Vayalar Ramavarma’s much acclaimed song, nay, poem ‘manushyan mathangale shritichu’ from the film Achanaum Bapayum, which depicts the perils of communally divisive minds, relevance of which is felt even after four decades, witness the mayhem and riotous atmosphere that claimed lives of dozens of innocents in the aftermath of uploading in You Tube of an imbecilic film produced by an American amateur. This (Vayalar’s) kind of involvement is what is expected of from an artist. As a big fan of Mohanlal and avid viewer of films in which he appears in lead roles, I am unsure as to whether or not he is discharging this responsibility towards the society at large.
Now that he has come up with a striking message on his Facebook page extolling the virtues of non-violence propounded by Mahatma, he will do better to make the most of his prime medium, i.e. Films, too to instil some merits of Gandhian thoughts in the younger generation, in whose eyes he is, even at this age, the icon of youthful machismo. This singular stature confers on him the potential to make their future better or worse. On this count, I am afraid, he is stumbling badly.
His initial roles were of run-of-the mill type. He could be excused for that since nobody expects too much from a novice, more so in a world, where many in the lower rungs just eke out a living, that is, the fantastic world of Cinema.
Once he attained his current stature, he became a marionette in the hands of gluttonous producers who are misusing this superb art form that M/s Lumiere Brothers gifted to the humankind in the late nineteenth century for minting money, paying scant regard to the ill effects of their films on the society as a whole, whether by way of appealing to the prurient interests of youths or by inciting them to violence. Instances of juvenile crimes inspired by Crime Shows can be cited. In my humble opinion if, in today’s Kerala, law and order is a problematic issue, mainstream cinemas are to be blamed at least partially.
Most of the characters he played, right from Narendran of his debut film Manjil virinja pookal to Sethumadhavan of Kireedam, to Neelakandan of Devasuram to, of the recent, Christi of Christian Brothers, resort to violence, though, in some cases, they were portrayed as emanated out of necessity. Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, being an actor he has little role in the flow of story or actions of characters. However, there is this undesirable practice in the commercial cinema field, that is to write stories to suit personality cults of the actors who they intend to cast as heroes. After watching some of his movies, e.g , ‘Prince’, viewers, at the very least I for one, got an impression that they were scripted after casting him as the hero beforehand. Hence he too has to shoulder at least a part of the blame for the ill effects of some films.
Since he has donned robes of an apostle of nonviolence and peace, he will do well to send out this same message to his filmmaker friends and urge them to keep this in mind, while scripting and directing films. If villainous characters engage in violence, no problem. But violence resorted to by heroes in the stories and glorifying it, emit wrong message to viewers, especially immature ones, who will think that it is OK to act violently if situation so demands. This cannot be accepted. Many of his characters precisely do this.
He too can walk the talk by becoming choosy while accepting roles keeping his own message in mind. If he plays purely villainous roles, no harm and there will be no frowns.