This month and the coming months will see the release of a slew of multistarrers in Malayalam - Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Sarathkumar, Kavya Madhavan & Kanihaa in Joshiy's Christian Brothers; Prithviraj, Arya, Prabhu Deva, Genelia, Amole Gupte, Vidya Balan & Tabu in Santosh Sivan's Urumi; Mohanlal, Dileep, Jayaram & Kavya Madhavan in Rafi-Mecartin's China Town; Prithviraj, Indrajith, Shwetha Menon, Parvathi & Rima Kallingal in Lijo Jose's City of God and many more in the pipeline. Malayalam Cinema has had much more multistarrers compared to any other industry in the country and most of our actors/stars are also very close friends and generally the industry is quite closely knit, with few exceptions of course. So here's looking at some of the best multistarrers we've had. I'm not touching upon movies before the 90s in the Sathyan-Naseer-Madhu era or the Jayan-Soman-Sukumaran era and not even the IV Sasi multistarrers. This is a list based on multistarrer films I've seen and enjoyed the most from 1990 onwards. :)
Important - The ranking is not based on the quality of the movies. Its based more or less on how the dynamics between the stars have been utilized in the movie by the writers and directors.
15. Thommanum Makkalum (2005)
Cast - Mammootty, Lal, Rajan P Dev, Salimkumar, Anand, Laya, Sindhu Menon
Director - Shafi
Writer - Benny P Nayarambalam
A cracker of a comedy from the super-successful Shafi - Benny P Nayarambalam team, this movie had the late Rajan P Dev playing a super-awesome father to the awesome Mammootty & Lal. A family of thiefs and the problems they get into formed the story of the movie. The chemistry between the three lead actors were crackling. Lal showed us a great new comic side of him and 'Smart Boys' became an epic dialogue. Mammootty was growing more and more comfortable in the comedy genre through such movies and he was a treat to watch. But the star of the show was Rajan P Dev who made Thomman immortal with his amazing act. Salimkumar provided comic relief, Anand was a good villain, Laya and Sindhu Menon played the female leads. The movie turned out to be a record breaking hit.
14. Friends (1999)
Cast - Jayaram, Mukesh, Sreenivasan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Meena. Divya Unni
Writer, Director - Siddique
Siddique's second independent directorial venture had Jayaram & Sreenivasan working with him for the first time and had his favourite Mukesh in a very important role as well. And when another favourite Innocent backed out, one of the best comic characters in Malayalam, Lasar Elayappan came to life through Jagathy Sreekumar. Jayaram played the flirt effortlessly, Mukesh played the sorted, level headed guy who'd die for his friends and Sreenivasan, the funny guy who keeps getting into trouble. Add them to Jagathy's band of painters, and we get some hilarious sequences inside a palace under renovation. Even though Friends is nowhere near Siddique's best works, it was still an enjoyable watch because of the dynamics between the three leads.
13. Thenkasippattanam (2000)
Cast - Suresh Gopi, Lal, Dileep, Samyuktha Varma, Geethu Mohandas, Kavya Madhavan, Spadikam George, Salimkumar
Writers/Directors - Rafi & Mecartin
A blockbuster, Thenkashippattanam showed us for the first time, the comic side of Suresh Gopi and Lal in a full length film. (Even though Suresh Gopi had done the super-awesome Minnal Prathapan way back in Manu Uncle). But it was Dileep who was the star of the show. Thenkashippattanam made him a darling of the family audiences. His fantastic comic timing and lovable act floored each and every one who saw this movie. Salimkumar joined in and provided much more fun. Lal's friend-turned-villain act was great as well. And Suresh Gopi was rock solid. The ladies Samyuktha, Geethu and Kavya also played their parts very well. This movie sky-rocketed Rafi-Mecartin into the big league of directors.
12. Harikrishnans (1998)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, Juhi Chawla, Kunchacko Boban, Innocent, Rajiv Menon, Nedumudi Venu, Cochin Haneefa, Venu Nagavalli
Writers - Fazil, Madhu Muttom
Director - Fazil
Dont go by the photo, Shah Rukh Khan was not in the movie. This was just a photoshoot done before an actual shoot of another climax for the movie where SRK comes for Juhi Chawla, but the shoot for that never happened. Harikrishnans saw Mohanlal and Mammootty, Malayalam Cinema's two pillars reuniting as main leads of a film after 8 long years, under the direction of long time friend Fazil. Mohanlal produced the movie which went on to become a rom-com where the 2 heroes were busy chasing the gorgeous Juhi Chawla instead of solving the case they were appearing for. The movie pitted the two superstars against each other in many comic scenes and the audience had some good laughs over them fighting with each other for the funny girl. A one film old Kunchacko Boban also had an important role to play in the movie. The movie starts with the murder of Guptan, played by ace cinematographer-director Rajiv Menon. The movie went on to become a big hit even though people werent fully satisfied seeing Mammootty and Mohanlal running behind a girl for an entire movie. And the movie ran into a whole lot of controversies for having two different climaxes as well.
11. Chotta Mumbai (2007)
Cast - Mohanlal, Indrajith, Siddique, Manikkuttan, Bijukkuttan, Kalabhavan Mani, Bhavana, Saikumar, Rajan P Dev, Jagathy Sreekumar, Bheeman Raghu
Writer - Benny P Nayarambalam
Director - Anwar Rasheed
Set in Fort Kochi, this was one helluva roller coaster ride. Probably the most zany comedy to have come out in recent times, this film had superstar Mohanlal having loads of fun by giving space to each other member of the cast as much as himself. He played Thala so adorably. Then there was Bijukkuttan in his only good role as the sidekick Suseelan. Even Manikkuttan was quite okay in this film. Indrajith looked awesome and had a great role too. Saikumar effortlessly transformed into Mohanlal's father Michael Aashaan despite being much younger than him. Benny P Nayarambalam always reserves his best roles to Rajan P Dev and Paambu Chackochan was nothing short of epic. But it was Siddique as Mullan Chandrappan who stole the thunder from everyone else. Playing a comic role after so many years, Siddique just had some great fun playing this hilarious character and its hard not to love him in that role. Bhavana was cast perfectly as Parakkum Latha and Kalabhavan Mani's villain act would send a chill down your spine, one of his best acts ever. And to add to the fun, there was Jagathy Sreekumar playing Padakkam Basheer as well. Anwar Rasheed's kickass directorial skills made this into one of the most watched movies in recent times.
10. Summer In Betlehem
Cast - Suresh Gopi, Jayaram, Manju Warrier, Kalabhavan Mani, Mayoori, Sangeetha, Janardhanan, Sukumari & Mohanlal
Writer - Ranjith
Director - Sibi Malayil
A beautiful rom-com, this one had Suresh Gopi, Jayaram and Manju Warrier playing lead roles with Mohanlal pitching in probably Malayalam Cinema's greatest guest appearance. A vacation at a farmhouse turns out to be much more than that with lots of comedy, romance and suspense unfolding through the plot. Jayaram and Kalabhavan Mani handled the humour department giving us some unforgettable comic sequences. Suresh Gopi played the silent lover with elan. Manju Warrier as the prankster with a sad secret was mindblowing. And then Mohanlal comes in those last ten minutes and just steals the show. He was just too good, for loss of better words!! Ranjith attempted a different genre and it worked fabulously along with Sibi Malayil's able direction.
9. In Harihar Nagar (1990)
Cast - Mukesh, Jagadish, Siddique, Ashokan, Riza Bava, Geetha Vijayan, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Philomina, Paravoor Bharathan, Saikumar & Suresh Gopi
Writers/Directors - Siddique & Lal
A gem. A classic. One of those Malayalis would never get tired watching. It has insance humour weaved into a supremely thrilling plot. Siddique and Lal used to be such good writers back then and this was indeed one of their best works. The first half doesnt even give time for the audience to breather making them laugh every single split second with the antics of these 4 idiots - Mahadevan, Govindan Kutty, Thomas Kutty and Appukkuttan, played effortlessly by Mukesh, Siddique, Ashokan and Jagadish respectively. Jagadish's Appukkuttan was the epitome of dumbness and hilarity. The others were no less either. There was another story going parallel with theirs, which introduced a great villain John Honai through Riza Bava. Suresh Gopi had a great extended cameo along with Saikumar. Geetha Vijayan was very impressive in her debut. Philomina & Paravoor Bharathan were hilarious and Kaviyoor Ponnamma was very good too. Lal made two sequels to this movie. While the first one managed to capture some spirit of the original, the second sequel was pure torture, ruining these characters terribly and making Appukkuttan a Tintumon like figure.
8. Keralavarma Pazhassiraja (2009)
Cast - Mammootty, Sarathkumar, Manoj K Jayan, Suresh Krishna, Suman, Kanihaa, Padmapriya, Jagathy Sreekumar, Thilakan
Writer - MT Vasudevan Nair
Director - Hariharan
An epic in all proportions, Keralavarma Pazhassiraja had a huge cast as well. Mammootty played the rebel king who started a revolt against the British, Sarathkumar played his ferocious lieutenant making his debut in Malayalam, Manoj K Jayan, a fearless tribal warrior, Suresh Krishna, a trusted accomplice to the king and even Padmapriya who played a fiery tribal warrior lady. Kanihaa played the beautiful queen and Suman was the treacherous landlord plotting against Pazhassi and his men along with the British. While Mammootty's character was more subtle and underplayed till the climax, it was Sarathkumar who shined throughout the movie ending in a brilliant fight sequence and a brave death scene. Manoj K Jayan was equally good as well. Padmapriya's act in this movie won her a special mention from the National Award jury. Sarathkumar's role was initially offered to Suresh Gopi, and it was only when Suresh Gopi declined the role, Sarath came into the picture. The rest as they say, is history, quite literally. Its not often that you get to see a movie of such epic proportions in Malayalam, with such a huge cast, MT Vasudevan Nair writing the script and Hariharan directing the film.
7. Kalapani (1996)
Cast - Mohanlal, Prabhu, Amrish Puri, Tabu, Annu Kapoor, Delhi Ganesh, Sreenivasan, Vineeth, Alex Draper, Cochin Haneefa, Tinnu Anand, Nedumudi Venu, Shankaradi
Writers - Priyadarshan, T Damodaran
Director - Priyadarshan
Perhaps the best period movie to be made in Malayalam, Priyadarshan's Kalapani had a huge cast as well. Mohanlal led the cast with his effortless portrayal of Dr. Govardhan who's falsely accused of terrorist activity and sent to the Kalapani jails. He changed his look drastically and portrayed his part with such passion, making it unforgettable. Prabhu played the fiery rebel Mukund Iyengar spectacularly making it one of his most memorable roles ever. Tabu was lovely as Govardhan's lover waiting endlessly for him back home. She was sublimely beautiful in her first outing in Malayalam. Amrish Puri played the terror Mirza Khan so well that you hate him completely. Alex Draper was also brilliant as the British jailer. Annu Kapoor had a great role as Veer Savarkar. Others in the cast like Sreenivasan, Cochin Haneefa, Delhi Ganesh, Vineeth, Tinnu Anand and Nedumudi Venu were brilliant as well. Mohanlal produced this epic movie in association with Shogun films.
6. Classmates (2006)
Cast - Prithviraj, Indrajith, Jayasurya, Naren, Vijeesh, Balachandra Menon, Kavya Madhavan, Radhika, Shoba Mohan, Anoop Chandran, Jagathy Sreekumar
Writer - James Albert
Director - Lal Jose
Lal Jose's contemporary classic must be one of the best movies to have used an ensemble cast in the most effective way. Told in flashbacks, this movie took us back to college campuses of the early 90s. Prithviraj, in his career best role, played the youth socialist leader Sukumaran with the exact intensity it required. Indrajith turned over a new leaf playing a wonderfully charming comic character Pious, who was also the hero's best friend. Jayasurya in a comic-turned-scheming villain role was excellent too. Naren as the talented soft-spoken singer who remains as a sorrow in his friends' hearts was adorable. Vijeesh played Jayasurya's sidekick to perfection. Kavya Madhavan in one of her best roles, was remarkable. Radhika rose to fame with her portrayal of Penguin Razia, the mysterious character in the movie. Balachandra Menon's professor was the pillar around which most of the story revolved. Jagathy Sreekumar as the hostel warden was hilarious. Lal Jose turned James Albert's brilliant script into one of the best movies to have come out in Malayalam.
5. Manichitrathaazhu (1993)
Cast - Shobana, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Vinaya Prasad, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, Sudheesh, Ganesh, Kuthiravattam Pappu & Thilakan
Writer - Madhu Muttom
Director - Fazil,
with the help of Priyadarshan, Siddique-Lal & Sibi Malayil
The best Malayalam movie ever!! Period. This was a super-effective multistarrer as well. Mohanlal and Shobana were at their prime and Suresh Gopi was already on his way to becoming a superstar. The movie clearly belonged to Shobana, but Mohanlal also managed to make it as much into his movie as it was Shobana's, with his unforgettably portrayal of the slightly eccentric but brilliant psychiatrist Dr.Sunny. Shobana's Ganga/Nagavalli is perhaps the most iconic female character in modern day Malayalam Cinema. Suresh Gopi pitched in one of his career-best performances as Shobana's loving and affectionate husband. The rest of the cast were no less either - be it the patriarch Nedumudi Venu, the hilarious Innocent and KPAC Lalitha, the senior priest Thilakan, 'kindi' Sudheesh and the prime suspect Vinaya Prasad. It was magic unfolding on screen. :) :)
4. Traffic (2011)
Cast - Sreenivasan, Anoop Menon, Kunchacko Boban, Asif Ali, Saikumar, Rahman, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Krishna, Lena, Sandhya, Roma, Remya Nambeeshan, Reena Basheer, Prem Prakash & Jose Prakash
Writers - Bobby & Sanjay
Director - Rajesh R Pillai
The movie Malayalis cant stop raving about this year, also had one of the best ensemble casts ever. With no actual stars in the picture, the movie had a bunch of talented actors transforming completely into characters they were playing. Saikumar emerged as the best playing father to Vineeth Sreenivasan who loses his life in an accident. Kunchacko Boban proved that he has matured into a fantastic actor in his role with shades of grey. Anoop Menon was wonderful as the Commissioner who plans and executes the entire operation. Sreenivasan showed us yet again why we all love him so much. Asif Ali showed us that if used well, he could very well be the future of Malayalam Cinema. Rahman got his career best role as a Superstar who has no time for his family. Among the ladies, Lena surprised everyone with a mindblowing performance as the mother of a dying child. The rest of the ladies did a good job too. Jose Prakash pitched in a cameo and it is his words that inspires the entire plot of the movie.
3. Dhruvam (1993)
Cast - Mammootty, Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Vikram, Prabhakar, Gauthami, Janardhanan, Vijayaraghavan, Shammi Thilakan, TG Ravi, Rudra
Writers - SN Swamy, Sajan Babu
Director - Joshiy
A kickass movie in all respects. This was perhaps the biggest multistarrer of it times and if we look at the star value of its actors now, it looks much bigger now. Mammootty played Narasimha Mannadiyaar. He looked so bloody good in this movie and he was awesomeness personified in that role. Jayaram played his brother who gets murdered by Haider Maraykkar, played by Prabhakar. Suresh Gopi played Joseph Nariman, a pasteur turned cop and a young Vikram played Bhadran, Mammootty's trusted left hand. Jayaram was wonderful in his short role. Suresh Gopi was brilliant as the devoted cop. Vikram steps into Jayaram's shoes after his death and gives a brotherly support to Mammootty. Perhaps his best role in his entire Malayalam career during his struggling days. Tamil actor Prabhakar played the menacing Haider Maraykkar brilliantly. The beautiful Gauthami played Mammootty's lovely wife. Only Joshiy could have made this bloody brilliant movie.
2. Twenty 20 (2008)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Jayaram, Mukesh, Indrajith, Kalabhavan Mani, Siddique, Manoj K Jayan, Shammi Thilakan, Bhavana, Kavya Madhavan, Gopika, Madhu, Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar, Lalu Alex, Salimkumar and almost the entire industry.
Writers - Udayakrishna & Sibi K Thomas
Director - Joshiy
The mother of all multistarrers, this was a joint production by actor Dileep and the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists. The biggest blockbuster in the history of Malayalam Cinema had each and every actor (well, almost) joining hands to create a solid commerical entertainer. The writers managed to pull off the tough task of giving each superstar the right space tapping the best in each one of them. Mohanlal pwned the movie with his super cool role as Deva Raja Prathapa Varma. Mammoottty looked dapper and played the advocate Ramesh Nambiar with elan. Suresh Gopi breathed fire into his supercop Antony Punnekkadan's role making it the most interesting character among the stars. Dileep played Mohanlal's younger brother Karthik in a short role but charmed the audiences with his humour and wit. Jayaram didnt get a very substantial role, but he did his comic scenes with Mohanlal and Dileep really well. The ladies had nothing to do except for Bhavana who got a duet in some foreign country with Dileep. Nayanthara came in an item number along with the young bunch including Prithviraj, Kunchacko Boban and Jayasurya. Indrajith, Manoj K Jayan, Shammi Thilakan and Siddique perfected their villain acts. The best parts of the movie where the scenes where the superstars were pitted against each other. The court scene where Mohanlal makes a fool out of Mammootty, the fight sequence between Mammootty and Mohanlal, the bitter cold war between Suresh Gopi & Mammootty and the comic scenes involving Dileep, Jayaram & Mohanlal. Again, none other than Joshiy could have directed this mammoth movie.
1. Number 20 Madras Mail (1990)
Cast - Mohanlal, Mammootty, MG Soman, Jagadish, Manian Pillai Raju, Ashokan, Sumithra, Janardhanan, Sreeraman, Jayabharati, Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar
Writer - Dennis Joseph
Director - Joshiy
It may not have a number of stars like Dhruvam or Twenty 20 did, but when it comes to sheer awesomeness, that too, using our two superstars, No. 20 Madras Mail ranks first. Again, directed by none other than the master of multistarrers, Joshiy, this movie had Mohanlal playing the legendary Tony Kurishinkal, a demi-God for all the alcoholics in the state and Mammootty playing himself. Now, isnt that awesome or what!! Mohanlal's acting in this movie as a cheap, but lovable drunkard was so extraordinary that even Mammootty sat there admiring his colleague. Mammootty got a rare opportunity to play himself in a full length thriller film. Not many superstars have had such an opportunity. And of course, he made full use of it as well. Manian Pillai Raju, Jagadish and Ashokan had very important roles and they were brilliant as well. Nobody can forget Hitchcock Kanjikkuzhi!! MG Soman was the perfect villain for this perfect thriller which spanned across a speeding express train, film studios in Chennai, the Kottayam town, a church in Kollam and again, back to the same express train. The chemistry between Mammootty and Mohanlal was brilliant and we could actually feel a brotherly bond between the two great actors in this film. A film one never gets tired watching, this is, according to me, the best multistarrer Malayalam Cinema ever produced.
There might have been many others which I may have missed out on. But these movies came to my mind immediately when I thought of such a post. If you can remember more such movies after 1990, please suggest them so that I can expand the list. And in the meanwhile, lets wish all the best to the new multistarrer Christian Brothers, by the master of multistarrers Joshiy, releasing this weekend all over the country.