On the legendary actor’s 70th birthday, The Hindu looks back at some of his greatest performances in film
One of India’s greatest actors, Mammootty, turns 70 today. In a career that has spanned over five decades, he has played several unforgettable roles, mostly in Malayalam. The Hindu picks 10 of his unmissable films.
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Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha
This 1989 period drama, directed by Hariharan, is one of those perfect Malayalam films. Its biggest strength is its screenplay, which is among the finest ever in Indian cinema. M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s retelling of a popular ballad – with a brilliant twist to the original tale – and the superb dialogues made it an unforgettable cinematic experience. In a large, talented cast, Mammootty stood out as Chanthu, the traitorous warrior who was turned dexterously into a much misunderstood, exploited man by M.T. This film, along with Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal, won Mammootty his maiden National Award.
In this 1994 adaptation of Paul Zachariya’s novella, directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mammootty played the cruel landlord Bhaskara Pattelar. The astonishing portrayal – along with his equally superb performance in T.V. Chandran’s Ponthan Mada – fetched him a second National Award.
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The 1987 thriller directed by Joshiy is one of the most significant films in Mammootty’s career. The unofficial adaptation of Irving Wallace’s novel Almighty came at a time when his career was going through probably its worst phase. He wowed the audience in the role of journalist G.K.
This 1985 film directed by Balu Mahendra remains one of Malayalam cinema’s greatest romances, in which Mammootty teamed up with the beautiful Shobana. He played a wrongly convicted man, who wonders whether his sweetheart would still be waiting for him after his prison time.
In Salim Ahamed’s 2015 film that told realistically the travails of the earliest migrants from Kerala to the Middle-East, Mammootty essayed the role of Pallikkal Narayanan with great conviction and empathy. He brought to life the hero’s youth and advanced age with subtlety.
The 1987 film directed by Sibi Malayil marked the debut of scriptwriter A.K. Lohithadas, who would pen many more memorable roles for Mammootty. As a schoolteacher who is supposed to have inherited the mental illness in the family, he gave an unforgettable performance.
This 1982 mystery by K.G. George is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Malayalam films of all time. It was also Mammootty’s first step towards superstardom. He played the police officer Jacob Eraly, which would be his first of many popular roles as a cop.
In this marvellous, 2000 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, directed by Rajeev Menon, Mammootty played Major Bala, the crippled military officer who adores the much younger Meenakshi (played by Aishwarya at her stunning best) from a distance. Rarely did the audience want the hero to get his girl more; such was Mammootty’s portrayal of a man willing to sacrifice in love.
In Mani Ratnam’s riveting retelling of Mahabharata, Mammootty played the don Devaraj. The 1991 film may be known for one of Rajinikanth’s best performances as an actor, but Mammootty was just as superb.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
This biopic on the life of B.R. Ambedkar was made in 1998 by Jabbar Patel, long before it began to rain biopics in Bollywood every other Friday. Mammootty won his third National Award for his transformation into the author of India’s constitution.
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