Mammootty puts the 'mass' in Madhura Raja
The 67-year-old shows no sign of slowing down as he impresses South Indian viewers with one blockbuster hit after the other
A common slang among Malayalee youth, 'mass' is often used to describe 'extreme', 'completely', and 'in a grand way'. So, when the trailer for Mammootty- starrer Madhura Raja debuted at the Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi on Friday, April 5, audiences punched their fists into the air, whistled and cheered as their beloved star promised to deliver a full-fledged action drama loaded with commercial elements.
"Only he can carry off the 'mass' roles with such conviction," said one fan. Critics said Mammootty virtually pulled off a Rajinikanth as Raja proclaimed, 'Raja will do what he says. He only says what he does,' as the bad guys went flying into the air. The crowd went wild.
Releasing close in the heels of another 'mass' appeal movie Lucifer, the highly anticipated Madhura Raja is slated to hit the theatres in Dubai on Friday, April 12. In the actor's words, the movie is neither a prequel or a sequel. "Madhura Raja is timeless. We shot it without keeping a time frame in mind. It's more of an extension to Pokkiri Raja," said Mammootty. Pokkiri was made on a budget of Rs7.8 crore, and it went on to collect Rs13 crore at the box office.
Mammootty's releases this year have been as different as chalk and cheese. His Tamil movie Peranbu had him in the critically acclaimed role of a father of a spastic child, while the Telugu film Yatra had him playing former Andhra chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
City Times caught up with the veteran actor a week ahead of the movie's release with his co-stars Salim Kumar, Anusree, Byju, and Ramesh Pisharody. He was accompanied by the film's producer, Dubai-based Nelson Ipe, and action choreographer Peter Hein, of Pulimugran fame.
Clad in a white shirt, plaid pants and white sneakers, the actor did not look a day over 45 years old. He was sprightly, and quick to get on his feet as fans greeted him. Comedian-actor Ramesh Pisharody, who plays a journalist in Madhura Raja, joked, "In Hollywood, for franchise movies like James Bond, they change actors as years pass because they change, the looks (change). For us though we are lucky because even after 10 or 20 years, Mammookka is the best person to play the character, as he has stayed the same."
However, Mammootty said the secret to his vitality is that he has not been 'Mammootty for the past 35 years'. Here is are some snippets from our conversation with him.
Do you have an exercise or a skin- care routine?
I've not been Mammootty for many years now. I've not had the time to remain myself. I've immersed myself in playing so many characters over the years. I think over time I became them. Maybe that is the secret to how I look at the moment.
So, is there anything you do to prepare yourself for a movie?
I've been training for various movies in different capacities for the last 35 years, even for the movies that require strenuous physical effort. For example, in Madhura Raja, like Peter (Hein) said, for some of the stunts, there were no ropes or dupes. We trained with animals for eight months. There was K9 training. We worked as a team, with our best foot forward. It was very challenging, and we were pushed to the edge. However, in the end, we do it for the fans.
What about the shooting experience of Madhura Raja?
We have been shooting for nearly 120 days. We finished my portions of the movie in 80 days. It was so hectic that we finished the shooting in two schedules with about 60 artists on-set.
Did anything about the movie take you back ten years to Pokkiri Raja?
Time does not play a factor in this movie. There is no time-frame. It's an entertainer, and my message to the people of UAE would be that this movie will entertain you. I had the excellent opportunity to reprise Raja's role with my co-stars Salim Kumar, who has returned to portray Manoharan Mangalodayam, and Nedumudi Venu, Vijayraghavan, Siddique, and Suraj Venjaramood.
What's Sunny Leone's role in the movie?
Sunny Leone comes in at a huge turning point in Madhura Raja. She has a dance performance in the movie that helps the story take a considerable shift.
What about your upcoming movies? You've been very busy. What's next in store for you?
After this, we are planning on releasing Unda, directed by Khalid Rahman. There are eight young actors in the movie. I play the role of a sub-inspector and their leader. It is based out of Chhattisgarh, and my character is taking up election duty. that's all I can reveal about the movie.
For your upcoming period drama Maamankam, will you be undergoing any training routine- like Kalari?
Maamankam is a historical event. The movie is a martial arts film, and I've done a similar role in Vadakkan Veeragatha and Pazhasshi Raja. The movie is set in the 16th century and is based out of the series of events that took place between the Kingdoms of Kozhikode (present-day Calicut) and Valluvanadu (a town in southern Malabar). The historical character 'Samoothiri of Kozhikode' had a rift with the leader of Valluvanad and the warriors fought.
Would you call Madhura Raja an entertainer for all ages?
There are no time limitations in the movie. It's an entertainer for people of all ages. A seven-year-old, as well as a 70-year-old, will enjoy it.
Does the movie have the potential to be a franchise?
Yes, it does. Moreover, going forward, it could be a trend in Malayalam cinema. For example, the Avengers (Marvel Universe) is on its 14th sequel. Why can't poor Raja reprise his role once?
Why 'mass' films though?
I like doing varied roles, and I'm confident I can pull it off because of the audience support over the 35 years of my career.
Are you still looking for a script that would surprise you?
It is a question that I've been asked for the last 35 years. I am always on the lookout for a role that would challenge me.