Monday, February 02, 2009


An appreciation of the movies of Mohanlal and Mammooty leads young people to become members of their fan clubs. The result: they end up promoting the films and doing social service


Mohanlal with a beneficiery of a free wheelchair

Mammmooty fans await the arrival of the star at Thiruvananthapuram

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Nisam Vallakkavadu was getting married in 2003 in Thiruvananthapuram, he told his in-laws that the date would be fixed according to actor Mammooty’s availability. However, he knew the likely date could be September 21, because Mammooty would be in the state capital that day to inaugurate the Soorya festival.

Nevertheless, to make sure, he went to see Mammooty in Pallakad where he was shooting for a Tamil film, ‘Vishwa Tulasi’. “On my wedding card I had introduced myself as Convenor, All Kerala Mammooty Fans Welfare Association,” he says. Initially Mammooty was reluctant.

“Then the marriage will not take place,” said Nisam.

Mammooty said, “If I come what will you give me?”

Nisam smiled and said, “Your favourite ‘puttu’ and mutton curry.”

The superstar kept his word and arrived at Nissam’s house on September 21 at 8 p.m. “He was there for an hour,” says Nisam. “He ate the ‘puttu’ and mutton curry with relish. He met my wife, Sharmila, parents, grandmother and all the relatives. It was the most thrilling moment of my wedding.”

Nisam, 35, has been a Mammooty fan from childhood. “I was enthralled by his personality,” he says. “His voice is unforgettable. He has a muscular body and dresses so well. Cinema, to me, is only Mammooty.”

When he was a teenager he would hang around with other fans at the theatres where the star’s films were being shown. They would see the noon show on the first day and would wait to see whether there was a crowd for the matinee show.

Soon, they became proactive. “We put up banners which read, ‘Welcome to those who are coming to see this film -- the admirers of Mammooty,’” says Nisam, now state general secretary.

Inevitably, the idea arose to start an association. “We only had one desire: to promote the superstar,” says K.J. Kunjumon, Ernakulam district president. “We went to all the 14 districts and set up units.” Advertisements were placed in film magazines to publicise the association.

In 1997, the inaugural meeting was held at Hotel Pankaj at Thiruvananthapuram. There were 100 people present. At the meeting Mammooty said, “You should do social service instead of just putting up posters and banners.”

So, on the star’s birthday on September 7, fans distributed food to the poor. Now, the association holds free eye camps and heart surgeries for the poor. Around 700 people have received eye treatment (cost: Rs 12,000 each) while 38 people underwent surgery (Cost: over Rs 1 lakh per patient). Evidently, Mammooty footed the bills.

Today, there are more than 20,000 members all over the state and the membership fee is Rs 100 per annum. So what are the insights these long-time fans can tell about their hero?

Last year Kunjumon went to see the shooting of ‘Pazhassi Raja’ in Madikeri, Karnataka. “Shooting was from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” he says. It was terribly cold, but Mammooty walked around bare-bodied, because he was playing the Raja. He was impervious to the cold. “We had brought woolen clothes to wear but were reluctant to use it in front of Mammooty,” he says. “However, unlike the star, we were shivering.”

What was a revelation for Kunjumon was the personality changes in Mammooty. “When the make-up for the Raja’s role was put, he became the character,” he says. “The transformation was stunning. There are two Mammootys: there is the character in the film and the human being.”

Nisam says that Mammooty the human being has been frequently portrayed in the media as being snooty and egoistic. “That is not true at all,” he says. “He is a very relaxed person. Definitely, he does get angry when a mistake is made but it lasts a very short time. I admire his knowledge about so many aspects of life, especially his observations on the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. He is a well-read person, despite his busy schedule.”

This well-read person is a colossus in the Malayalam film industry along with another M: Mohanlal.

V.K. Vyshag, 20, is the Ernakulam district secretary of the All Kerala Mohanlal Fans and Cultural Welfare Association. The Mohanlal film he liked the most was ‘Thanmatra’ (2005).

“I was struck by the naturalness of Mohanlal’s acting,” he says. “In the first half he plays a family man with great skill and in the second half he changes completely, becoming a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease,” he says. Vyshag, who has seen more than a hundred films of the actor, joined the association in 2006.

There are 1.5 lakh members all over Kerala. These include lawyers, accountants, IT professionals, teachers, masons and students. “My job is to coordinate with all the 100 units in Ernakulam district,” he says.

When a Mohanlal film is about to be released, a meeting will be held. At least two members from each unit will be present.

“We will inform them about the ticket price, the design on the flex posters and the cost of making them,” he says. Most of the film’s publicity is organised by the association. Posters are put up by fans all over the state. “We also try to create a welcome atmosphere inside the cinema halls,” he says.

So what happens if Mammooty fans make a noise during a screening? “Our members are posted inside to keep an eye on patrons who shout or pass sarcastic remarks,” says Vyshag. “If somebody behaves improperly we immediately inform the security guards who tell them to keep quiet. Most of the time they obey.”

Not many people are aware that the Mohanlal Association was inaugurated by Mammooty in 1998. “Initially, Mohanlal had not been interested in this concept,” says S.L. Vimal Kumar, 34, state general secretary. “When Mammooty heard about the welfare activities he told Mohanlal about it and volunteered to launch it.”

The association regularly conducts free eye and blood donation camps. “We have arranged marriages for poor people,” says Vimal. The association also provided free surgery to repair the cleft lips of 100 people. Each surgery cost Rs 50,000. “Wheelchairs for poor disabled people were distributed by Mohanlal recently,” he says.

Meanwhile, like the Mammooty fans, Vyshag is awestruck by Mohanlal’s talent. “The most surprising thing is how little Mohanlal prepares before a shot is taken,” he says. “He will talk to us right before a scene is shot. But when he faces the camera he changes dramatically and becomes the character he is portraying. It is a magical change.”

For Vimal, who interacts often with Mohanlal, the human being is entrancing. “He is a sweet and down-to-earth person,” he says. “I have never seen him lose his temper.”

Adds Vyshag: “I don’t think I have met a nicer man. He treats everybody gracefully. Even if we make a mistake he does not scold us. Instead, he tries to see the positive aspect.”

Doing their bit

M. Riyas became a Dileep fan after seeing hits like ‘Manathe Kottaram’ and ‘Punjabi House’. A group would always see the first show every time a new film was released.

“Then we came up the idea of starting an association,” he says. “So we established one in 2002, without getting the permission from the star.”

More than a year later they met Dileep when he came to Thiruvananthapuram for some work and told him about the association.

“He said he was fine with the idea but told us we should work in such a way that it creates no problems for anybody, especially other fan associations,” says Riyas, 26, the state committee chairman.

By this time there were several small Dileep fan clubs all over the state. Soon, all of them were called to Kochi and an all-Kerala network was established. “Today, there are 35,000 members,” says Riyas. “Most of them are in the 20-25-year age group.”

Like other fan clubs, the All Kerala Dileep Fans and Welfare Association does a lot of social service. “When a film crosses 25 days, we provide rice to poor people,” says Riyas. “In every district we have provided wheelchairs for disabled people and regularly donate food to orphanages.”

Clubs should be independent, says Gopi

Suresh Gopi has a fan club but it is much more low-key than the other clubs. "I am not in contact with them," he says. "They watch my films and give their opinions." As to whether they are doing social service, like the other clubs, Gopi says, "I don't investigate these things."

Gopi says there is nothing wrong in people setting up fan clubs, but he insists the association should be given a lot of freedom.

"The star should not get involved," he says. When asked about the negative aspects of fan clubs, he says, cryptically, "No comments."

(The New Indian Express, Chennai)

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