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‘Engane Nee Marakkum’ Marked the Rise of Mohanlal from Shankar’s Shadow

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Shankar, the ruling Superstar of Malayalam films was churning out hits after hits. His close friend Mohanlal was also getting meatier roles especially in the films of Shankar. Mohanlal was given good screen space in Shankar films, thanks to his friendship with Shankar.

Mohanlal started getting positive roles in films like ‘Himavahini’ and ‘Iniyengilum’ in 1983. Meantime M.Mani, producer and director decided to make a family love story under his banner Sunitha Productions. He decided to cast Shankar, Menaka and Mohanlal in lead roles for the same.

He had the movie scripted by Priyadarshan and Priyan made sure that his friend Mohanlal is doing the author backed role and he wrote the script that gave Mohanlal the opportunity to excel in comedy scenes. As Priyan knows Mohanlal’s comic timing from school days he was sure that Mohanlal will pull it off with ease. The triangle musical film had melodious songs by Chunakkara – Shyam team.

The movie was the tale of friends Premkumar (Shankar) and Shambu (Mohanlal) who was an illegally born. Shambu’s greatest foe was the head of a royal family. His childhood was pathetic as he loses his mother. In a frantic attempt to save himself Shambu runs away and ends at Premkumar’s home, thus starts a camaraderie between them.

Years later when Shambu returns for revenge, he finds his enemy as a ruined pauper. Now Shambu back in the city have a life of spoiled brat and he takes Premkumar to city and makes him a celebrity singer. Enter Sobha (Menaka) who falls for Premkumar, but Shambu also starts loving Sobha. He ends up as a buffoon trying to woo Sobha.

The climax had Shambu committing suicide after uniting Sobha and Premkumar. Priyadarsan had written the climax as Premkumar dying in the climax, but Chunakkara Ramankutty suggested a twist that ended up as Shambu’s death.

When the film was released, it became a blockbuster and Mohanlal ended up getting audience sympathy. Shankar understood that the damage has been already done as the audience sympathy always goes only to the actor who loses the girl in a triangle love story.

Even though the film had all the hit songs of Shankar-Menaka pair, the audience remembered it only as a ‘Mohanlal film’. Shankar became crestfallen and when he called Chunakkara later, he expressed his disappointment and sadness.

Shankar predicted the rise of Mohanlal as he knew Mohanlal can play romantic roles now, a territory where Shankar had the authority, which ultimately proved true. Mohanlal’s next films like ‘Aattakkalasham’ and ‘Kaattathe Kilikkoodu’ also became huge success and earned him a huge share of family audience, again the best bet of Shankar. Slowly Shankar’s monopoly in romantic family films began to crash, thus losing his stardom.

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