One of Malayalam cinema's biggest 'rivalries' is all set to revive this week.
The two long-reining superstars of Mollywood, Mohanlal and Mammootty, have a film releasing on the same day, 7 October, after several years.
Both superstars are hoping to cash in on the big puja weekend for their respective films.
In the meantime, their fans have already started a war on social media and the clash has got the trendy moniker of "M vs M".
The clash is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that both films — Mammootty's Thoppil Joppan and Mohanlal’s Puli Murugan — are positioned as mass entertainers, with their heroes playing larger-than-life characters.
The clash is also making news because the famed rivalry is being revived by fans of the superstars at a time when a newer lot of actors like Nivin Pauly, Dulquer Salman (Mammotty's son) and Prithviraj have caught the fancy of a younger generation of moviegoers.
Thoppil Joppan is set in a Christian milieu with Mammootty playing a Kottayam ‘achayan’ (a term used for elderly men in Syrian Christian families). He plays an alcoholic, eternal bachelor clad in spotless juba-mundu, teamed with a pair of Ray-Bans and running a Kabbadi team. The characterisation is one that has worked for the superstar in the past, in films like Kottayam Kunjachan, Sangam and Nasarani which became hits.
In fact, the teaser of the film had heroine Mamta Mohandas waxing eloquent about the arrival of ‘achayan’ without showing even a single shot of Mammootty. Thoppil Joppan is said to be a comedy entertainer; it is directed by Johnny Antony who's had several hits in the past with Mammooty. And oh, the film's tag line says: "50 percent love! 50 percent alcohol!"
Puli Murugan, on the other hand, is Mohanlal’s long-in-the-making big-budget action entertainer set against the backdrop of a forest. The film, directed by Vysakh, was shot deep within the forests of interior Kerala and later, the crew shot in forests near Hanoi in Vietnam. The highlight of the film is said to be a 20-minute climax action scene shot in the forests of Vietnam between Mohanlal and a real tiger (not the CGI ones you see in Indian films due to strict Animal Welfare Board rules), choreographed by Peter Hein. Mohanlal, in an interview to a television channel, has said that the film is about man-animal conflicts, in villages bordering the jungles in south India. The tag line of the film is: "The wild hunter".
Even as their fans take potshots at each other online, both Mohanlal and Mammootty are themselves promoting their puja releases with the latest posters and videos on their social media handles. At the same time, another comparatively small film, Kavi Udeshichathu — an out-and-out comedy starring Biju Menon, Asif Ali and Narain — is also slated for release.
Meanwhile Sivakarthikeyan’s Tamil big-budget comedy entertainer Remo also has a wide release in Kerala along with Prabhu Deva’s Devi. Both Sivakarthikeyan and Prabhu Deva were in Kochi, aggressively promoting their films at popular malls. In Kerala, Tamil big hero masala films enjoy huge opening collections, making the fight more intense.
Now the question is, who will get more screens in Kerala? The state has around 475 screens which can accommodate new releases. The trade feels the film which gets more screens will dominate the five-day holiday weekend.