Before Mammootty in Kaathal The Core, Did You Know Mohanlal Had Played a Queer Character Back in 2003? (Watch Video)

Malayalam superstar Mammootty is receiving unanimous praise for taking a risqué route and playing a gay man in his latest release, Kaathal The Core. Directed by Jeo Baby, Kaathal The Core is a family drama about a well-respected man and an election candidate who has been a family man for 20 years. However, he finds his wife accusing him of being a closeted homosexual in her divorce petition. While he denies these claims at first, as the layers of the story peel off, we realise that the wife is not exaggerating about her allegations. Kaathal The Core Movie Review: Mammootty’s Subtly Superlative Performance in Jeo Baby’s Deeply Moving Drama Deserves Highest Acclaim.

With Kaathal The Core releasing on November 3 to great reviews and decent box office performance (for a film of its theme), fans are praising Mammootty for taking on such a bold role at his age and while still at the height of his superstardom. At the same time, certain Mohanlal fans are claiming that, years before, Lalettan himself played a queer character on screen, and therefore, he did it first. A clip is also going viral of the actor, with queer undertones.

Check Out the Scene Going Viral on X:

So what’s the truth here? This particular scene is from a televised stage show called Kathayattam, produced by Manorama, that was made in 2003. The one-hour special show was directed by TK Rajeev Kumar, featuring recreated moments of popular Malayalam novels like Thakazhi’s Chemmeen, O Chandu Menon’s Indulekha, OV Vijayan’s Khasakkinte Ithihasam, P Kesavadev’s Odayil Ninnu, and more, with Mohanlal playing different characters from each novel. In an interview with Khaleej Times, Mohanlal had called Kathayatthan “a walk through 100 years of Malayalam literature.”

In the recreation of OV Vijayan’s Khasakkinte Ithihasam, Mohanlal played Allappicha Mollakka, an important character in the novel – the mukri of the local mosque in the village where the novel is set, and also a teacher in madrasa. The above scene is a recreation of the moment when Allappicha Mollakka meets the young healer, Nijam Ali. While the novel doesn’t explicitly state it, it injects the vibe of queerness into the equation between these two characters. The show, however, puts it across a bit more explicitly, highlighting the femininity of Nizam and Mollakka’s attraction towards him. Mohanlal, who was known for pushing boundaries with his performances and roles (though his recent movies stuck to tried and tested), gamely took on the challenge in highlighting the homosexuality of his character.

That said, while Mohanlal did play a queer character before Mammootty, we cannot deny that it was for a stage show, and the elder Malayalam superstar took the risk of playing it on the big screen in a commercial venture. Even though neither Mammootty nor Mohanlal were the first Malayalam stars to play an LGBTQIA+ character before. Kaathal The Core Ending Explained: Decoding the Poignant Climax of Mammootty-Jyotika’s Queer Drama and What It Means for LGBTQIA+ Movement.

In 1978, Mohan made Randu Penkuttikal, a movie adaptation of VT Nandakumar’s novel by the same name. The film had popular actors like the late Shobha, Sukumaran, Madhu, Innocent, Jalaja, Sukumari, et al, and was the first movie to deal with themes of lesbianism. In 1990, Babu Narayanan also made a film that dealt with lesbianism called Ponnaranjanam, which starred Usha, a former child artist turned actress, in the lead.

In 1986, Mohanlal himself played the lead in the late (great) Padmarajan’s drama Deshadanakili Karayarilla, that had Karthika and Shari play BFF’s who run away from their boarding school to live a free life. The relationship between the two girls implied a lesbian tenderness, which gets accentuated by Shari’s character’s jealousy when her friend falls for a young man, played by Mohanlal.

A Still From Deshadanakili Karayarilla

One of the most prominent examples of when a lead Malayalam male cis actor played a homosexual character was Prithviraj Sukumaran in the 2013 thriller Mumbai Police, where he played a closeted gay cop. While it was considered a game-changing move then, a reappraisal of the film and its queer context show how detrimental some of the protagonist’s actions were for the pride movement, like killing a friend for stumbling upon his big secret.

Prithviraj Sukumaran and Jayasurya in Mumbai Police

Jayasurya, who was also part of Mumbai Police (who played that unfortunate friend), later played a transwoman in Ranjith Shankar’s Njan Marykutty, for which he won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 2019. Sudev Nair, known for his antagonist roles in Bheeshma Parvam and Thuramukham, had also won a state award for his performance in My Life Partner, where he played a gay character. Nivin Pauly surprised his many fans when he played a homosexual man caught in a doomed love story with his neighbour, played by Roshan Matthews, in Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon. Many still believe it was the actor’s finest performance to date. Moothon Movie Review: Nivin Pauly Stuns You With a Career-Best Act in Geetu Mohandas’ Haunting Film.

Kaathal The Core Movie Review: Mammootty’s Subtly Superlative Performance in Jeo Baby’s Deeply Moving Drama Deserves Highest Acclaim.

With Kaathal The Core releasing on November 3 to great reviews and decent box office performance (for a film of its theme), fans are praising Mammootty for taking on such a bold role at his age and while still at the height of his superstardom. At the same time, certain Mohanlal fans are claiming that, years before, Lalettan himself played a queer character on screen, and therefore, he did it first. A clip is also going viral of the actor, with queer undertones.

Check Out the Scene Going Viral on X:

So what’s the truth here? This particular scene is from a televised stage show called Kathayattam, produced by Manorama, that was made in 2003. The one-hour special show was directed by TK Rajeev Kumar, featuring recreated moments of popular Malayalam novels like Thakazhi’s Chemmeen, O Chandu Menon’s Indulekha, OV Vijayan’s Khasakkinte Ithihasam, P Kesavadev’s Odayil Ninnu, and more, with Mohanlal playing different characters from each novel. In an interview with Khaleej Times, Mohanlal had called Kathayatthan “a walk through 100 years of Malayalam literature.”

In the recreation of OV Vijayan’s Khasakkinte Ithihasam, Mohanlal played Allappicha Mollakka, an important character in the novel – the mukri of the local mosque in the village where the novel is set, and also a teacher in madrasa. The above scene is a recreation of the moment when Allappicha Mollakka meets the young healer, Nijam Ali. While the novel doesn’t explicitly state it, it injects the vibe of queerness into the equation between these two characters. The show, however, puts it across a bit more explicitly, highlighting the femininity of Nizam and Mollakka’s attraction towards him. Mohanlal, who was known for pushing boundaries with his performances and roles (though his recent movies stuck to tried and tested), gamely took on the challenge in highlighting the homosexuality of his character.

That said, while Mohanlal did play a queer character before Mammootty, we cannot deny that it was for a stage show, and the elder Malayalam superstar took the risk of playing it on the big screen in a commercial venture. Even though neither Mammootty nor Mohanlal were the first Malayalam stars to play an LGBTQIA+ character before. Kaathal The Core Ending Explained: Decoding the Poignant Climax of Mammootty-Jyotika’s Queer Drama and What It Means for LGBTQIA+ Movement.

In 1978, Mohan made Randu Penkuttikal, a movie adaptation of VT Nandakumar’s novel by the same name. The film had popular actors like the late Shobha, Sukumaran, Madhu, Innocent, Jalaja, Sukumari, et al, and was the first movie to deal with themes of lesbianism. In 1990, Babu Narayanan also made a film that dealt with lesbianism called Ponnaranjanam, which starred Usha, a former child artist turned actress, in the lead.

In 1986, Mohanlal himself played the lead in the late (great) Padmarajan’s drama Deshadanakili Karayarilla, that had Karthika and Shari play BFF’s who run away from their boarding school to live a free life. The relationship between the two girls implied a lesbian tenderness, which gets accentuated by Shari’s character’s jealousy when her friend falls for a young man, played by Mohanlal.

A Still From Deshadanakili Karayarilla

One of the most prominent examples of when a lead Malayalam male cis actor played a homosexual character was Prithviraj Sukumaran in the 2013 thriller Mumbai Police, where he played a closeted gay cop. While it was considered a game-changing move then, a reappraisal of the film and its queer context show how detrimental some of the protagonist’s actions were for the pride movement, like killing a friend for stumbling upon his big secret.

Prithviraj Sukumaran and Jayasurya in Mumbai Police

Jayasurya, who was also part of Mumbai Police (who played that unfortunate friend), later played a transwoman in Ranjith Shankar’s Njan Marykutty, for which he won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 2019. Sudev Nair, known for his antagonist roles in Bheeshma Parvam and Thuramukham, had also won a state award for his performance in My Life Partner, where he played a gay character. Nivin Pauly surprised his many fans when he played a homosexual man caught in a doomed love story with his neighbour, played by Roshan Matthews, in Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon. Many still believe it was the actor’s finest performance to date. Moothon Movie Review: Nivin Pauly Stuns You With a Career-Best Act in Geetu Mohandas’ Haunting Film.

Nivin Pauly in Moothon

Asif Ali began his leading man career playing a closeted homosexual in Shyamaprasad’s cult film, Rithu, where his secret lover was played by Vinay Forrt, who is now a very popular actor. Some of the other Malayalam movies that dealt with LGBTQIA+ themes include Sancharram (2004), Ardhanari (2012), Udalaazham (2018), Aalorukkam (2018), B 32 Muthal 44 Vare (2023), etc. Also, let’s not forget Mohanlal’s own Monster, that came out in 2022 and showed a lesbian couple as killers, which is often mentioned as a bad example of using homosexuality merely for shock value.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 27, 2023 02:52 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).

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