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Mohanlal: The Legendary Actor of Indian Cinema



Mohanlal, often referred to as “Lalettan,” is a name that resonates with fans of Indian cinema, particularly in the Malayalam film industry. With a career spanning over four decades, Mohanlal has established himself as one of the most versatile and iconic actors in the history of Indian cinema. His remarkable acting prowess, dedication to his craft, and an impressive filmography have made him a beloved figure not only in Kerala but throughout India and across the globe. In this article, we will delve into the life, career, and enduring impact of Mohanlal on Indian cinema. 

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Early Life and Background

Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair was born on May 21, 1960, in Elanthoor, a small village in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, India. He was the son of Viswanathan Nair, a former government employee, and Santhakumari. Mohanlal was the youngest of four siblings. His early life was typical of a middle-class family in Kerala, with no special indication of the stardom that awaited him.

Education and Aspirations

Mohanlal attended the Government Model Boys Higher Secondary School in Thiruvananthapuram and later graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Mahatma Gandhi College. After completing his studies, he briefly worked as an industrial salesman. However, the world of cinema beckoned, and he couldn’t resist the allure of the silver screen.

Early Struggles and Entry into Films

Mohanlal’s initial foray into the film industry was far from glamorous. He worked as an assistant to the great Malayalam actor and filmmaker, Padmarajan. His dedication and thirst for learning the art of acting began to show as he worked behind the scenes. His debut as an actor came in 1978 in the Malayalam film “Thiranottam,” where he had a minor role.

It wasn’t until 1980 that Mohanlal got his big break in the film “Manjil Virinja Pookkal,” directed by Fazil. This film marked a turning point in his career, earning him widespread recognition and praise. Audiences and critics alike started to take notice of the young talent.

Mohanlal’s Acting Style

What sets Mohanlal apart as an actor is his remarkable versatility. He can effortlessly slip into a wide range of characters, making them appear real and relatable. His nuanced performances have earned him a reputation as one of India’s finest actors. Whether it’s comedy, drama, action, or even character roles, Mohanlal’s ability to immerse himself into any role is truly astounding.

One of his standout attributes is his mastery of dialogue delivery and body language. He doesn’t just recite lines but becomes the character he is portraying, making the audience believe in the reality of the story. His expressive eyes, impeccable timing, and natural charisma have endeared him to viewers across generations.

Iconic Roles

Mohanlal’s filmography is replete with iconic roles, many of which have become an indelible part of Indian cinema. Some of his most memorable characters include:

  • Georgekutty in “Drishyam” (2013): This film, directed by Jeethu Joseph, showcased Mohanlal’s ability to portray a common man in extraordinary circumstances. His portrayal of a middle-class cable TV operator trying to protect his family from a crime investigation was critically acclaimed and is considered one of his career-defining performances.
  • Gopikrishnan in “Manichitrathazhu” (1993): A psychological thriller directed by Fazil, this film saw Mohanlal in the role of a psychiatrist dealing with a patient suffering from dissociative identity disorder. The film was a massive commercial success and is still remembered for Mohanlal’s exceptional performance.
  • Sethurama Iyer in the “CBI” series (2004, 2005, 2006): Mohanlal portrayed the role of CBI officer Sethurama Iyer in a series of crime thrillers. His portrayal was so convincing that the character is often associated with him. The series was well-received for its gripping plots and Mohanlal’s remarkable acting.
  • Raja in “Raja Manikyam” (2005): In this crime thriller directed by Ranjith, Mohanlal played the role of an undercover police officer. His performance was praised for its intensity and portrayal of a complex character.

Awards and Accolades

Mohanlal’s talent has not gone unnoticed by the film industry and the award committees. He has won numerous awards, including multiple National Film Awards for Best Actor and several Kerala State Film Awards. Some of his notable recognitions include:

  • Padma Bhushan: Mohanlal was honored with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, in 2019, in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the world of cinema.
  • National Film Awards: He has received the National Film Award for Best Actor on two occasions, for his performances in the films “Bharatham” (1991) and “Vanaprastham” (1999). These awards cemented his status as one of the finest actors in Indian cinema.
  • Kerala State Film Awards: Mohanlal has won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor multiple times for his outstanding performances in Malayalam films.
  • Filmfare Awards: He has received several Filmfare Awards South for his exceptional acting skills in various categories. 

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Contributions to Indian Cinema

Mohanlal’s influence on Indian cinema goes beyond his acting prowess. He has contributed to the industry in various capacities:

  • Producer: Mohanlal has produced several successful films through his production company, Pranavam Arts. His production ventures have been known for their quality and commercial success.
  • Singer: He has lent his voice to several songs in his films, showcasing his talent as a playback singer. His songs have also been well-received by audiences.
  • Philanthropy: Mohanlal is actively involved in charitable and social causes. He has initiated and supported various charitable activities, including healthcare and education initiatives.
  • Cultural Ambassador: He has been the cultural ambassador of Kerala, promoting the state’s culture and tourism on various platforms.

Popularity Beyond Borders

While Mohanlal is an iconic figure in Kerala and the Malayalam film industry, his popularity transcends regional boundaries. He has acted in films in various Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi, gaining a fan base across the country. One of his notable Hindi films is “Company” (2002), where he played the role of a gangster alongside Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn.

Mohanlal’s fan following is not limited to India; he has a significant international fan base. The Indian diaspora around the world has embraced his work, and he is often invited to various international film festivals.

Mohanlal and Mammootty: A Legendary Duo

Mohanlal’s career has been intricately linked with another legendary actor, Mammootty. The two have often been compared and contrasted, and their friendly rivalry has been a hallmark of Malayalam cinema for decades. While Mohanlal is known for his versatility, Mammootty is revered for his commanding screen presence and intense performances. Together, they have been the face of Malayalam cinema for generations.

Mohanlal and Mammootty have shared the screen in numerous films, and their collaborations have been highly successful. One of their most celebrated pairings was in the film “Oru CBI Diary Kurippu” (1988), which marked the beginning of the iconic character Sethurama Iyer.

Their friendly camaraderie and mutual respect have been a source of inspiration for fans and aspiring actors. The duo’s contributions to Indian cinema have been nothing short of extraordinary.

Mohanlal’s Impact on the Malayalam Film Industry

Mohanlal’s influence on the Malayalam film industry is immeasurable. He has been a driving force behind the industry’s growth and recognition on a national and international scale. His consistent ability to deliver box office hits and critically acclaimed films has made him a valuable asset to the industry.

The success of films like “Drishyam” and “Pulimurugan” (2016) demonstrated that Mohanlal’s star power is as strong as ever. “Pulimurugan,” a high-octane action film, became the highest-grossing Malayalam film at the time, showcasing his mass appeal.

Mohanlal’s acting has also inspired a new generation of actors in Malayalam cinema. His dedication to his craft and his ability to adapt to changing cinematic trends have set a high standard for aspiring actors.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

Mohanlal is not just a talented actor; he is a cultural icon in Kerala and beyond. His films are an integral part of the cultural fabric of the state, and his dialogues and mannerisms have become a part of everyday conversations. He has often been referred to as a “complete actor” for his all-encompassing abilities in the world of cinema.

His influence extends beyond the screen. Mohanlal’s presence in social and cultural events, his active engagement with the public, and his philanthropic efforts have made him a respected figure in society. His contributions to various causes, including disaster relief and healthcare, have earned him the admiration of his fans and the general public.

The enduring legacy of Mohanlal in Indian cinema is undeniable. He has created a body of work that will be cherished by generations to come. His impact on the Malayalam film industry and the larger Indian film industry is immeasurable, and he remains an inspiration for actors and cinephiles.


Mohanlal’s journey from a small village in Kerala to the pinnacles of Indian cinema is a testament to his talent, hard work, and dedication. His remarkable acting skills, versatility, and iconic roles have made him a beloved figure not only in the Malayalam film industry but throughout India and the world. Mohanlal’s impact on the industry, along with his contributions to society, have solidified his position as one of the greatest actors in Indian cinema. As “Lalettan” continues to enthrall audiences with his performances, his legacy remains an enduring source of inspiration for all those who aspire to excel in the world of cinema.

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