Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham

It was Malayalam superstar Mohanlal’s long-time dream to play the role of Kunjali Marakkar IV. But, as they say, nothing happens before its time. He had to wait for over 20 years for film technology to become more accessible to the Malayalam film industry to make Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea (Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham).

Even after completing the project, the filmmakers had to wait for over two years owing to the disruption caused by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. After a long wait, the film was released earlier this month in theatres and received mixed reviews from critics. And it was also recently made available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Mohanlal opens up about playing Marakkar, his friendship with Priyadarshan and his newfound love for fitness.

Below are the edited excerpts from the conversation:

What was your first thought when the film was finally released in movies after almost two years?

We made this film to be watched in theatres. Unfortunately, we had to hold this film for over two years due to the Covid scenario. And we released the film in theatres with a 50 per cent cap. We are so grateful to the audience, who came and watched the film and made this film a great success.

The film has travelled with you for more than 20 years.

It is a big film and it was not easy to make such a film in Malayalam back in the day. Marakkar is totally dependent on water. And to create that war effects at sea were not easy at the time. Even for Kaalapani, we found it very difficult to work on its special effects. At that time, we had to go to Hong Kong to work on the VFX scenes. Now, we can do a lot with CGI. We spent one year just working on the special effects for this film. There is a time for everything, and Marrakar’s time is now.

You have been doing acting for a long time now. Does it get easier by the day?

It is a continuous process. Practice helps. But, in movies, we get a lot of freedom to make mistakes and correct them in retakes. Or you can postpone the shoot a few hours and come back and work on it.

marakkar arabikadalinte simham Mohanlal in a still from Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham.

Was there any particular scene in Marakkar that really challenged you?

It is not my expectations (that matter). Somebody standing there and watching me, he’s called the director. I’m 100 per cent dependent on my director. I fully trust him. Sometimes, he asks me if he wants one more take and I think about what was missing and try to deliver it. Performing a scene is not that challenging. I believe that nothing is impossible in acting. Everything is possible. That’s why it is called make-believe. If you are wrong, the director will give you notes and you can do retakes. In Marakkar the challenge was doing action sequences.

How did you prepare for the role in Marakkar?

It is a costume drama so we did a lot of pre-production work. Doing a scene, we don’t need so much preparation or brainstorming sessions on that character. It is a make-believe thing. Nobody knows about Marakkar and you are putting everything together in the film. And doing a film with Priyadarshan is like going on a picnic for me. It is my 46th film with him.

Do you guys ever disagree with each other? If yes, how do you settle?

It is an understanding between us. He knows what I want and I know what he wants when we both go to sets. There is a beautiful freedom in our friendship.

It seems you have become more fitness conscious now.

I have been working out for the last 30-40 years. But, now I have more time and space. There is no one particular reason why I am doing it more now. Definitely, my fitness helped during the making of Marakkar. It is a different kind of feeling when you work out. And I started enjoying that feeling. That is the challenging factor for me, to do more and more exercise within my limits.

Is it true that you are doing a boxing film?

We are planning a film on boxing. That’s Priyadarshan’s film. I’m also preparing for it.

By William Regal

Used to think I was a tad indecisive, but now I’m not quite sure.

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