I often get asked by my fellow film lovers to name the most perfect actor. It’s tough to name one because in Cinema there is no actor who has not taken a misstep in their career. The same actors who have gifted us with unforgettable characters are also infamous for playing characters whom we wish we never knew. Hence, I don’t know about the perfect actor, but I can tell when an actor pours his heart and soul into a character. In Vanaprastham (1999), you see Mohanlal immortalizing one such character. The Malayalam actor represents a brand of acting that can show layers of emotions with the subtlest of variations in body language.
Unrewarding as his Job is, while on stage Kathakakali artist Kunhikuttan (Mohanlal) feels like a king, but in life he’s just another actor who’s been condemned to play out a script he never liked. Yup, very Shakespearian, and the film almost reads like a tragedy Shakespeare never got around to write. In addition to being a demonstration of masterful storytelling of rare variety, the film is also a celebration of the great Indian actor Mohanlal. You just watch in admiration as Mohanlal breathes life into Kunhikuttan who then translates his pain and suffering into artistic expression on stage. Art as we know it exists so it can be enjoyed and, more importantly, imitated, but one simply can’t imagine another actor internalizing Kunhikuttan’s emotional turmoil with the solemnity and passion of Mohanlal.