(Frequent visitor James left this as a comment. It addresses an important topic and hence it is promoted as an article. If you are leaving a comment, it has to be within the context of the acting differences. If you want to you simply state your favourite actor is superior as a slogan, then this would be the wrong place.)
It is true, in some ways, of the fact that Mammootty’s style in more inclined towards the more famous part of method acting. Whereas Mohanlal’s style seems to be the opposite to it. Due to the fact he doesn’t prepare all that much for a role.
I’m not saying one actor is better to another; I’m just talking about their acting schools. There are many different acting schools, and the most famous among them is method acting, internationally, which was born out of the Stanislavski’s system, but both of them are different schools. “The Method” is popular because of legends such as Brando, DeNiro, Pacino, Dean, Newman etc. who were students of it. My personal fav in this school is Montgomery Clift (recently saw the underrated Hitchcock film I Confess).
Coming back to the point, Mohanlal is more of a spontaneous actor. As he usually says in his interviews. He transforms into the character as the director says ‘action’. One of his best abilities is showing the most inner feelings of the character, the expressions in his face so naturally. In films such as Kireedam, Bharatham, Iruvar, Vanaprastam etc. But an actor like him can’t play historical figures or other characters who are based on real life because his weakness seems to be the inability to transform physically into a character, or to change his accent as to the character. But I wouldn’t completely say Mammootty is a full fledged “method actor”. I’m saying his style is inclined more towards it. With his performances in films such as Nirakkoottu, Thaniyavartanam, Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, Mrigaya, Padheyam, and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
I’m no expert, I’m no actor. I’m just a guy who dreams of being a filmmaker.
I mean all I know is what I here in these documentaries, interviews, wiki, or the performances of method actors where people like DeNiro and Bale change their weight (change physically) to be like their characters in films such as Raging Bull and The Machinist. Or where Pacino changed his accent in Scarface to be like his character: a Cuban. Even Brando changed the outside appearances (physical) to be like a gangster and an Italian-American in The Godfather. I thought this was what Method Acting is all about, or at least the main style of it. But it seems like that just a part of it, there’s more to it.
As Micheal Mills puts in his site the Method
“emphasized an individualized, psychological approach to acting”
“The “Method” required a performer to draw on his or her own self, on experiences, memories, and emotions that could inform a characterization and shape how a character might speak or move. Characters were thus shown to have an interior life; rather than being stereotyped figures representing a single concept (the villain, the heroine), they could become complex human beings with multiple and contradictory feelings and desires. It was the ability to convey the complexity-indeed the confusion of inner feelings that made the Actors Studio-trained Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean such emblematic figures for the Postwar era. ” (this is of course what Mohanlal did best!)
Hence, the Method mainly is an acting school which taught both aspects that Mammootty and Mohanlal excelled at.
So a perfect actor is some one who has mastered both of these aspects. Though “the ability to convey the complexity-indeed the confusion of inner feelings” is a very hard thing to do. Very few can do it, and that’s why I consider Mohanlal to be one of the best actors in the world. As Anthony Hopkins puts it “these people, they come up once in a century”
Now that I think about it, Mammootty can hide himself and become some one else, he can be his character. Mohanlal is able to easily portray human emotions quite easily and naturally. Though the way Lal handled his Aadu Thoma character, it seems to have a “method acting” technique to it.
The thing that made Marlon Brando quite extraordinary in the 50s was that he had both Lal and Mammootty’s abilities.