Mammootty, an actor without parallel in Kerala, turns 64 today. He has won three national awards, five Kerala state awards, and 12 Filmfare awards in a career spanning 44 memorable years.
Born Muhammad Kutty Ismail Paniparambil in 1951, in a village in Kerala’s Kottayam district, today the actor has a huge fan base in and outside Kerala today. He began his career with a single scene in the Malayalam film Anubhavangal Palichakal in 1971, which was also legendary actor Sathyan’s last film. Mammootty’s oeuvre includes films from several genres, ranging from period dramas like Oru Vadakkan Veera Gadha to pot-boiler crime thrillers like Aavanazhi.
Here, we list 8 of his most memorable roles, as a tribute to Mammootty, a genius of our times:
Captain Thomas (Koodevide, 1983)
In this brilliant Padmarajan movie, Mammootty played a jealous lover, who gets spurned when his girlfriend, a school teacher (Suhasini), starts spending time with her student (Rahman), for whom she has a motherly affection. Thomas accidentally murders the boy and surrenders to the police. This grey shaded character had fewer scenes in the film than the ones played by Suhasini and Rahman, who was a newcomer then. But Mammootty’s powerful performance in the climax stole the show, and Captain Thomas is considered one of the best roles in his career.
This classic romantic-drama, directed by Balu Mahendra had Mammootty playing a young forest range officer, Unnikrishnan, who falls in love with the ‘village belle’ (Shobana). The couples dreams shatter when Unnikrishnan is convicted and jailed in a murder case. Mammootty portrayal of the lovelorn, innocent Unnikrishnan, who inadvertently gets caught in miseries, was unforgettable.
Sethurama Iyer (Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, 1988)
Sethurama Iyer can be justifiably called Kerala’s Sherlock Holmes. The intelligent, disciplined CBI officer, played effortlessly by Mammootty, became a cult character. First seen in Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, he appeared in four additional movies as a part of the CBI franchise, directed by K Madhu and written by SN Swamy. Mammootty had the perfect body language for a sleuth from an orthodox Tamil Brahmin background.
Manu (Manu Uncle, 1988)
In this national-award winning film, Mammootty played Manu, a law graduate obsessed with space research. The actor, who had been doing serious roles at that time, demonstrated his versatile craftsmanship with his effortless handling of the comic scenes in the film.
In this film, directed by Harikumar and written by renowned writer MT Vasudevan Nair, Mammootty played a journalist, who slides into depression after he’s diagnosed with blood cancer. Ravi Shankar travels to his home village, wanting to spend his last days in the ancestral house, where he meets his childhood sweetheart. A nuanced role was handled with another masterful performance.
Raja Manikyam (Raja Manikyam, 2005)
The distinct style and slang Mammootty used for this character still remains popular. Mammootty played Raja, a self-made business man, who returns to his home town to manage his late foster father’s properties. The film was a perfect potboiler, with stunts, and comic one-liners in plenty.
Bilal (Big B, 2007)
Big B, the debut film of cinematographer-director Amal Neerad, was commercially unsuccessful, yet critically acclaimed. The film had Mammootty playing Bilal, a gangster who returns to Kochi, his home town, after his foster mother’s death. The film was known for its punchy dialogues stylised cinematography, and novel filmmaking style.
In this mystery thriller, Mammootty played a prisoner, convicted for twin murder. Raghavan is befriended by an ambitious, young journalist, who asks him to pen down his memories. The film had an edgy, out-of-the-box climax, and Mammootty’s performance was the icing on the cake.