Hollywood has its spectacular superhero franchises and Bollywood has Salman Khan as their irreverent cheeky cop Bulbul Pandey in ‘Dabangg’ series, but Malayalam cinema — known for its realistic films — doesn’t boast of such traditions. But there’s one character that has endured for decades – a scrupulous and conservative sleuth Sethuraman Iyer from the ‘CBI’ thriller franchise.
And Malayalam matinee idol Mammootty made this character his own by inserting signature touches and making it a cult character. The 70-year-old actor is now back with the fifth instalment ‘CBI: The Brain’, out now in UAE cinemas. The actor was in Dubai last week to promote the film.
“There’s no need for me to talk up the ‘CBI’ series since every Malayali knows him well. Sethuraman Iyer’s character came to me unexpectedly and admit that his character hasn’t changed much over the years … This film isn’t technologically advanced because he’s conservative in his sleuthing style and that may be refreshing to many,” said Mammootty during a press conference held at the Reel Cinemas in Dubai Mall.
In the latest film directed by K Madhu and written by SN Swamy, Sethuraman Iyer (Mammootty) is on call to solve a series of murders that have a similar pattern. Like his previous instalment, the age-defying actor is seen playing the upright Tamil Brahmin detective.
“Just like the way you trusted Sethuraman Iyer in my last four films, I hope you do the same for the fifth installment too … The film touches upon a real crime that I am tasked to solve … But it’s the audience who must finally give its approval,” said Mammootty.
Actor and director Renji Panicker, who was also a part of the press junket, claimed that he wasn’t even an actor before the first instalment was released in 1988 but working with Mammootty as a fellow actor was a life-altering experience. He also claimed that he had seen the first installment ten times.
“I have been in the field of cinema for 32 years now … Although I have directed Mammootty in my films, to act alongside him is a brilliant process … The biggest capital of this film is this actor himself,” said Panicker.
Even at 70, Mammootty’s charisma and star power are undiminished. Asked if reviews bother him, he said: “People go into the cinemas, not to see the story but to enjoy the experience of watching. I am confident that people like to make up their own minds, rather than read plots or reviews.”
The movie also marks the acting comeback of Jagathy Sreekumar, a veteran actor who faced a setback in his career after a near-fatal accident nine years ago.
“Jagathy Sreekumar is in this film, but his role is one of suspense. So, you all need to watch the movie to see him in action again. It was highly emotional and poignant to shoot with him. Even though he is physically alive, we realised that we have missed out on him as a brilliant talent in Malayalam cinema,” said Mammootty. These two actors were a winning pair in several blockbusters including the CBI franchise in which Sreekumar played his colleague and worthy aide.
“His failing health reminded all of us about the irrevocable loss that the Malayalam film industry has faced with his absence from the cinema field. I felt happiness, sadness, and odd feeling throughout the shoot. But we are content that he’s a part of our film,” said Mammooty.
The film, shot during the pandemic, also saw several challenges for the cast.
“It was filmed during the third wave, and I got COVID-19 so I had to take 15-20 days off during the filming. We had to halt the shoot. The whole world, not just the film industry, was affected. But I hope we get back on our feet soon,” said Mammootty.
“With every film, I feel I could have done better. I don’t have any favourite film of mine,” said Mammootty.
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‘CBI: The Brain’ is out now in UAE cinemas