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April 4, 1997


'I celebrate whether a film is a hit or a flop'

MohanlalIt is very difficult to pin Mohanlal (left) down for an interview. It is even more difficult to make him answer questions. But it is very easy to like him for he is one of the most genuine, unassuming and unpretentious film stars in India.

He is also rated one of the most talented actors in India. Some critics even put him ahead of the legendary Kamal Hasan. His range is enviable, his flair for comedy is impeccable and his dialogue delivery effortless. There are not many actors who can portray both comic and serious roles with the same ease. And that may be why director Mani Ratnam has described him as the most natural actor in India.

For the first time Mohanlal is acting in a Tamil film, the eagerly awaited Iruvar. Mani Ratnam's film is said to be based on the lives of MGR, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi. As Mohanlal plays MGR, it is only natural that Tamilians are curious about the actor.

Shobha Warrier had been trying to interview him for the past 18 months. And it was by accident that she got him this time. She called the actor's Madras home to find out when he would be in town, the star himself took the call and asked her to come over the next day.

What is so likable about Mohanlal is his humility. He was in the middle of an interview to a Tamil weekly when Warrier arrived at his home. He excused himself and came to the verandah to greet her. "After a long time we meet again," he said sweetly.

The other journalist was bowled over by Mohanlal's unassuming nature and simple life style. "I cannot believe he is a superstar," he later told Warrier. "He is a far cry from the film personalities that we see here. He is so humble, so simple and so sweet."

Before the interview commenced, the star picked up the empty tea cups on the floor and took them to the kitchen. And there lies the charm of the superstar.

Mohanlal is not very comfortable with journalists. And in this interview -- one of the longest interviews he has granted in a long time -- the star speaks about life, the movies and death.

Iruvar the Aishwarya Rai1997 is going to be a fantastic year for you. Mani Ratnam's Iruvar (right) will be released soon. You are also acting in Shaji Karun's Indo-French production. A great combination of art and commercial cinema. How do you feel about it?

Let those films get released. Shaji's film is only in the planning stages. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Who knows whether it will really be made or not? But there are others films too. Mani Ratnam's Iruvar will be released soon, then there's a big budget film called Guru in Malayalam. The musicians for the film have come from Budapest.

I am producing one film on Punnapra Vayalar, and another film to be directed by Fazil. I will do a film for Priyan (the director Priyadarshan). But let me tell you one thing. These are all only at the planning stage. But can we say anything about tomorrow?

You sound quite philosophical. Don't you get excited when you get an award, or when your film does extremely well? Or do you detach yourself from all this?

I detach myself from all that. See, nothing can be done once the film is completed. No corrections, no changes. So, what is the use of getting excited about something over which you have no control? If it is good, it will be a hit, that's all. But I celebrate whether it is a hit or a flop.

Even if it is a flop?

Yes, I celebrate the occasion in my own way. A film will be a hit or a flop in spite of my worrying about it.

Does that mean you don't get affected at all by the way your films fare at the box office?

It never affects me. Would our worries change anything? Nothing.

Have you been always like this?

Yes, I have always been like this.

Don't you ever feel extreme happiness or sadness?

No. And, that's the truth.

Is this quality developed consciously?

No. Basically, I am that kind of person. Even when I was young, I never felt extreme feelings. Yes, later on I tried to cultivate this feeling of detachment. So, I don't experience any shocks in life. Now nothing jolts me and nothing shocks me.

How did you cultivate this?

It is like this. I have read many spiritual books and met quite a few people who could talk to me about these things. It was only afterwards that I could really detach myself from the happenings in my life. So, tomorrow if I were to produce a big film, and even if it were to flop, it would not affect my mental make-up. It might affect me financially as a producer. But I can say that I will not feel sad.

MohanlalYou said you consciously cultivated this feeling of detachment. Why? Did anything happen in the past to make you look at life with detachment?

See, what every human fears about is death, and I saw death at close quarters. While shooting for a film, an actor fell on my lap and died. One moment, he was acting in front of me and soon he was on my lap without any sign of life. Everything was over in a moment. That was the first time I began thinking about death. And also about life.

I understood then that nothing is permanent in life. Death can come at any time to anyone. Everybody is equal before death. After that I am not scared of death at all.

Don't you plan anything in life? Don't you ever think of the future?

No. I don't. (Laughs). I don't plan anything in life. That is why I said, Shaji Sir's film is only in the planning stages. Can we do anything if it does not materialise? No. It could happen due to many reasons, couldn't it? Suppose they don't get permission to shoot here.... See, the crew has to come from France. Suppose I fall ill... So anything can happen. And if I carry a lot of expectations is my mind, and then something goes wrong, I will feel bad. That is why I don't hope or crave for anything.


I don't hope for anything. Not only in my professional life, but in my family life also. My total life style is like that.

Is it good to have such detachment in life?

But I am comfortable. And I try not to cause any pain to others due to my detachment. I try not to hurt anyone. To others. I am like anybody else. Only my mind, only my real self, experiences this detachment.

The Gita says if we can detach ourselves from material possessions, we can be calm inside. Do you feel so now?

I am trying... I am trying. Wouldn't I be the luckiest person in the world if I can experience such calmness in life? You always hear people say, I don't want anything in life but peace of mind. But is that not the most difficult thing to achieve in life?

It appears you work 365 days a year. Why do you work so much? Is it because you love working? It was after such a long time that I got to meet you today. Every time I call, you are shooting...

That was because I was working for Iruvar. I had to work a lot (for that film). We traveled to many places, including Leh for shooting. Once I start working, I can work endlessly. Otherwise, I am a very lazy person. I like to sit doing nothing.

Doing nothing?

Yes, I can sit doing nothing... absolutely nothing. Sometimes I read something, I talk to people, I watch television. But I can also sit alone, all alone doing nothing.

Mohanlal's childWhat do you do for relaxation?

I am always relaxed. So I don't have to do anything in particular to feel relaxed. (Laughs)

Since you work so much, don't you miss family life, like spending time with your wife and children (right)?

I manage to spend time with them. See, I am like any other ordinary person.

But you are a very busy film personality...

There are people who are more busy than me in various other professions. Like others, I also try to fulfill my duties as a family man. Are you not busy in your work? It all depends on how you spend your time.

Mohanlal, continued