By Shobha Warrier
Narasimham, directed by Shaji Kailas with Mohanlal and Aiswarya in the lead, has been described as the biggest hit in the history of Malayalam cinema.
Aiswarya's earlier film with Mohanlal was a comedy, Butterflies. Aiswarya explains why Mohanlal remains one of her favourite co-artistes:
Even though it was in 1993 that Lal and I acted together in Butterflies, I had met him on different occasions as a child -- he had worked with my mom (Lakshmi) in a few films.
I was a great fan of his even before we did Butterflies. I don’t know how many times I had watched films like Chitram, Kilukkam...
I had already done a couple of films with Mammootty, and was dying to work with Lal. Butterflies happened because of a Hindi film called Gardish, which I did with Priyadarshan.
The same unit was making Butterflies. When Priyan told Lal that Lakshmi’s daughter Aiswarya would be his heroine, Lal asked, 'Is she not a small girl?'
Priyan told him I was not a small girl, but a very tall young lady playing Jackie's heroine!
We went on a 60-day shoot to Bangalore. Ayyo, it was fun, fun and lots of fun there!
Lal is the best co-star anybody can have. He will help you with your dialogues, your make-up... anything. If your make-up is patchy, he'll tell you. He has no ego hassles at all. From the light boys to the technicians, he is very cordial and friendly.
"Mone, please keep it there and not here," is the way he talks to even the spot boys if he wants something to be moved. He is the most simple, down-to-earth man I have seen.
And what a sense of humour! We both share tremendous on-screen and off-screen chemistry, as both of us belong to the same zodiac sign. His birthday is on May 23 and mine is May 27. We hit it off like a house on fire.
I did Narasimham with him after a seven-year gap. But I found that he hadn't changed one bit. He is the same.
I had nothing much to do with the success of Narasimham. I am just basking in the glory of Lal's success. I am just part of a successful project, that's all. I just shot for ten days for the film.
One incident really touched me. Sabu Cyril (the set designer) had put up a huge tank for a song. I had to kick myself up from under.
When I did, a loose nail at the bottom of the tank sliced in between my big toe and the second. I didn't feel any pain as I was inside the water.
After the shot, I sat down to read a book. Suddenly, my feet started throbbing. I looked down and saw blood getting pumped out of the slit in the leg. I was so shocked that I cried out loud. The next thing I saw was Priyan, Lal and Ranjit near me.
In no time, it was bandaged and I felt much better. I had to do a couple of shoots more, and I was supposed to shoot till nine at night.
But Lal told Priyan to finish my shots first so I could go and rest. And he stayed back. When he finished, it was 11 pm. There are very few in the industry like him who really care.
Another time, I was to shoot for 10 ten days but I was stuck for 30 on location at Cheruthuruti. My daughter's birthday was coming up, and I was still stuck there. I desperately wanted to get back to Madras to be with my daughter.
One day, I was sitting near the swimming pool, thinking of my daughter. And I started crying. Suddenly, a car stopped near me and Lal got out.
He immediately asked, "What happened? Did anyone do anything?"
I just said I missed my daughter. And you know what he said? He said, "You go, spend a week with your daughter, celebrate her birthday and come back. I know. I have kids, too."
What's more, he immediately arranged a ticket for me. And the very next day, I was put into a train.
I spent a week with my daughter and went back to Cheruthuruti happy. All because of Lal.
I share that equation with very few other stars (some of whom are Rajni-uncle, Prabhu Sir, Anand Babu and Rajendra Prasad).
Lal also has a keen ear for music. I am very comfortable when Lal holds me -- he is such a decent person. He is not a pile-on like some others. He is pure class. Even when he is holding me, he will ask, "Are you comfortable? Is it okay?"
As an actor, he's the best. We don't have a versatile actor like him. His forte lies in reacting to others' performance. That's why he's such a great actor. And a wonderful human being.
How many can you say are both?