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September 1, 1998


Clinic All Clear-Rahul Dravid

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Perfect foils

Shobha Warrier

Mammootty. Click for bigger pic!
In Kerala, it was described as one of the biggest coups of the year -- bringing together superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal in a movie. It apparently isn't.

For both Mammootty and Mohanlal, wanted to play it down as a 'non-event'.

Says Mammootty, "Since both of us are prominent actors in Malayalam, there has to be a story which should satisfy both of us and also the viewers. People expect a lot from a film in which both of us work. Then, there has to be a producer who can afford both of us. That problem is solved now since Mohanlal himself is the film's producer." Mohanlal seemed as unconcerned.

"We did not get a chance to act together because nobody offered us roles which was acceptable to both of us. We were planning to do a film with Fazil. Separately, of course. But finally we ended up doing this film. I call it pure coincidence. Yes, I know that people have a lot of expectation from the film and we have made it to satisfy them. Let us hope it will. But I do not why people make such hue and cry about this. Don't you know this is our 48th film together? When you have already acted together in 47 films, how can this be a big event? I cannot understand the fuss."

Mammootty, the more articulate and the more relaxed of the two, explained that they had a lot in common other than being the two superstars in Malayalam films.

"We entered the film scene together but grew separately. Do you know we have a lot in common other than just movies? The simplest I can remember is, we use the same soap! Our wives names start with S. My son and his son share the same star, as do and my daughter and his daughter! Our tastes are the same as far as cars are concerned. It does not mean we have only similar likes and dislikes. If I am interested in electronics, Mohanlal has no inclination towards it at all. He does not even know how to switch on something ( laughs)! He is more interested in collecting antiques."

Mohanlal. Click for bigger pic!
There were no extensive or comprehensive preparations before finalising the film. It was Mammootty's idea to act together in a movie and Mohanlal accepted it. They said, it was as simple as that. Fine.

But Mammootty repeatedly said it was just a fun film and not a great film.

"Our roles are just fun roles. They do not tap our acting potential or anything of that sort. In fact, we are playing the same role. The difference is, our attitude is different, our aptitude is different, our approach is different, our acting is different, our interpretation is different... But we are acting the same role."

He went on to say that the people could make it great by making it a success. The duo have plans to work on more films together and Mammootty stressed that these would only be meaningful films with meaningful roles. Not commercial films, but artistic ones.

Both actors share the same name, Harikrishnan, in the film and are both advocates working for a law firm, Harikrishnan Associates. Both are confirmed bachelors, interested only in their profession. Till they reach a village in Kerala to investigate the disappearance of the son of a rich old man, played by Nedumudi Venu. There they meet Juhi Chawla, a poet.

That's where friendship ends and rivalry begins. Thereafter, both men begin acting like juveniles in their attempt to win the young woman.

Kusal Gardens, where the film was shot, is no garden but a gigantic edifice used by all south Indian producers. Dozens of vehicles, including the latest luxury car models, stood silently within the compound. The roar of generator vans killed all the quiet in the area.

Mammootty in Babasaheb Ambedkar. Click for bigger pic!
The last shooting I'd been for was that of Santosh Sivan's Terrorist. I was amazed to see the difference between the artistically and aesthetically planned Terrorist and an out-and-out commercial film like Harikrishnas. Two sets were erected inside the palatial building. Fazil, the director, was present at one set and award-winning cinematographer Venu was independently handling the other. The film had reached the final stages of shooting, and they were in a hurry to get it done with.

Both superstars, comedian Innocent and Nedumudi Venu were relaxing at the left end of the building. The younger stars, Boban Kunchako and Sudheesh, had hunkered down together in another corner. Juhi Chawla looked quite lonely in this Malayali zone. So, she paced outside the set, taking refuge at times in her cellphone.

Soon they hurried inside, pasted on the pancake dressing, and came out all ready for the shots. Nedumudi Venu looked exactly like he did in one of his earlier films, His Highness Abdullah.

Health foods, papaya and tender coconut water were served to all except Innocent, who preferred to have a brown liquid. He was to run behind Mohanlal in the next shot. Which, perhaps, was why he preferred an 'energy' drink. Across the huge room, Mohanlal galloped, followed by Innocent. Just one take and Fazil accepted that shot too. Later on, Juhi Chawla distributed cake. It was, she said, the birthday of her pet Pomeranian.

I was bored to death. But I stuck it out, determined to see the superstars acting together... Soon they were called inside for the shot. There was nothing dramatic about it. Both of them were visiting Nedumudi Venu, who looks pleasantly surprised to see them. There is a small exchange, generally in the type of social banter.

There. It was over, and Mammootty came out again. A little at loss for words, I bid him goodbye and escaped into the yard, reverberating with the boom and roar of engines.

Outside, for the first time ever, I felt the roads outside were placid and serene.

Team of 48

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