Earlier last month, a sexagenarian took a #postworkout #mirrorselfie and posted it on his #gram. Within minutes, the picture started trending wildly and the funny one from every WhatsApp group ever started sharing it with the caption 'Dulquer's Younger Brother'. How does a man nearing 70 remain a style icon among boomers, the generation X, millennials and now even Coronials? Instead of analysing this mystery, here's a series of looks Mammootty owned like nobody's business.
In films like Kottayam Kunjachan, Oru Maravathur Kanavu and later, the disastrous Nasrani, Mammootty classed up thoroughly 'local' characters by pairing the mundu with Ray Bans, cropped hair (Oru Marathur Kanavu) and a bunch of accessories such as the kara to give us people who think they are ultra-stylish. Give them a local bus, a jeep or a helicopter, and these characters looked like they belong wherever they're placed. Add a Kottayam accent and you've got a great Halloween costume.
There's no other actor in Malayalam who looks as good while playing an officer in uniform. From the gait to overall uprightness, terms such as Major or Colonel feel most at home when used to describe a man like Mammootty, especially in films such as Megham, Sainyam and, of course, Nairsaab. Given how these films also gave the actor options like dressing gowns, waist coats, suits and hats, we also saw the other extreme of suiting up, to give us the look of Raymond's complete man.
In Vidheyan and Paleri Manickam, we saw Mammootty like never before. The moustaches reflected the respective time periods but the brutality in them was the same. Add the shot of the horns in the background and the tiger tooth locket and you got the look of a beautiful beast. With the headscarf and the ensemble in white, Murikkinkunnath Ahmed Haji personified evil to create a man impossible to not hate.
The man fit right in even in the role of a police officer. While his look as Tharadas in the IV Sasi sequel might go down as his worst look ever, his look as Inspector Balram and later as Narendran in Renji Panickar's Roudram will go down as some of our best looking characters ever.
The opposite of the characters he played in Vidheyan and Paleri Manickam are people like Madhavanunni from Valiyettan and Narasimha Manadiar in Dhruvam. Both of them technically wear the same exact outfits but little things like the black wrist band in Valiyettan and streaks of reddish hair in Dhruvam make them unique. Of course, they both come from immense wealth but there's a personality to these looks that makes them desirable for the characters of younger brother.
Mammootty has also had the opportunity to be seen in outfits that are really odd in the Malayalam cinema landscape. I mean, he's not acted in a wannabe Western but he's had many roles where he is seen sporting a cowboy hat. From the pipe he smokes in Azhagiya Raavanan to the colour-coded biker outfit in KG George's Mela, the man has worn them all.
These are a set of films that will be remembered purely based on how good Mammootty looked in them. Expensive but failed ventures, these films celebrated Mammootty's look more than anything else. Dubai and Gangster are more a collection of money shots than enjoyable movies, but he's extremely good looking in both.
It's not easy for Malayalis to imagine royalty or noblemen from hundreds of years ago without using the images from Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha and Pazhassi Raja as a reference. If not done perfectly, these roles in costume dramas could have easily become a joke. But Mammootty owns them, and we see why no one else can even come close in such characters.
Until the release of Big B, the Mammootty gangsta look to beat was his character in Ranjith's Black, shot by Amal Neerad. But when the film's DOP became a director, he created Bilal, which is arguably the most stylish Malayalam film character of the 2000s. Everything he did and wore went on to become instant pop culture legend, with the film's posters becoming instant works of art. With the sequel announced, let's wait to see if Bilal…indeed has remained the same. His fans certainly have.
Thirty years ago, around the same time, we saw the release of Samrajyam by little-known director Jomon. Mammootty had two looks (one for the flashback), but older Alexander's wardrobe choices made him the baap of style. The star's son Dulquer Salmaan agrees, and we've never really had a don like that ever before or ever since.