Great cameos could be the cherry on top, a bonus element of surprise for the audience before they leave their seats. Mollywood has never shied away from bringing in the big guns for short appearances and many such castings have earned the approval of viewers from across the spectrum. Here are some highly successful cameos that Malayalam movie lovers find hard to forget.
THILAKAN | 'SANMANASSULLAVARKK SAMAADHAANAM'
The Sreenivasan-Sathyan Anthikad collaboration handed Thilakan, one of Malayalam's finest character actors, undoubtedly the best comedy role of his career. Mohanlal is 'house owner' Gopalakrishna Panicker, desperate to evict his tenants who are hell-bent on not leaving.
As Panicker tries his all to send the family packing, they are left with no choice but to ask their uncle, 'from the Bombay underworld', for help. This is over an hour into the family entertainer and, predictably, the don is going to be a paper tiger with his share of laughs to deliver.
But it is still a surprise when Thilakan, who was handpicked for the role, arrives. The veteran in his long kurta and heavily accented Hindi delivers (unsurprisingly), gifting the viewers some priceless moments of laughter as he engages with the equally natural Mohanlal.
MOHANLAL | 'SUMMER IN BETHLEHEM'
Sibi Malayil's star-studded directorial featured Mohanlal as Niranjan, the lover of Manju Warrier's Abhiramy, who is on death row.
Ten minutes long, the emotionally-charged sequence involving Suresh Gopi and Manju Warrier along with the superstar provides the answers to the melancholic mystery surrounding the otherwise jolly Abhiramy.
MAMMOOTTY | 'NARASIMHAM'
The megastar's lawyer roles are pure bliss. It's impossible to imagine anybody but Mammootty as Advocate Nandagopal Marar -- known as the tiger for his aggressive attitude.
When Induchoodan (Mohanlal), a dear friend from college calls for help, the busy man flies down from the national capital. Framed in a murder case, Justice Karunakaran (Thilakan) is helpless until Marar arrives on the scene.
Written by Ranjith, the intro scene showcases Marar's toughness as he tells a group that they could bring the RBI's money-minting machines before him and still fail to buy him off. When he enters the courtroom in the succeeding scene, it's a pure blend of mass and class, offering goosebump moments from start to finish!
Released in 2000, the Shaji Kailas superhit gives us a fulfilling experience involving Mollywood's two giants in the post-superstar era.
INNOCENT | 'SANDESHAM'
"Ye budhu kaa aadmi, naariyal paani laao na..."
Sathyan Anthikad's political satire released in 1991 featured Innocent as Yashwant Sahai - a Hindi-speaking politician in Kerala as part of an all-India campaign. The movie remains iconic due to many reasons and the cameo that lasts less than 15 minutes plays its part. The national leader finds himself in a tough spot among the party workers whose Hindi skills are abysmal.
Tired and lost dealing with them, Sahai rushes out the warning that the "100% literate bandar ka bachaa" will get nothing from his government unless they learn Hindi.
Ironically, over two decades later, Innocent, a real-life MP then, was destined to give then Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan a tough time with his speech in Malayalam.
SURAJ VENJARAMOODU | 'ACTION HERO BIJU'
Somewhere in his prime as Mollywood's most successful comedy actor, Suraj started doing a string of career-defining 'serious' roles.
A year after winning the National Award in 2015 for his performance in Perariyathavar, Suraj made a cameo appearance as Pavithran in Abrid Shine's police drama. Suraj's brief appearance as the man clashing with his wife over the child will well up your eyes.
In an interview, the actor later revealed that the entire movie set gave him a round of applause when the shot was completed.
SURESH GOPI | 'THE KING'
A cameo appearance becomes even more exciting when it gets the viewers surprised.
A year after introducing Bharatchandran IPS in 1994 superhit Commissioner, director Shaji Kailas returned with The King starring Mammootty as Joseph Alex IAS. Towards the movie's climax, an interrogation specialist is brought in from Bombay to get the truth out of one of the bad guys in custody.
The man in white and white donning the black sunglass is brutal in his style till he breaks into small talk with the hero's band after getting the job done. The mention of academy training and angry cop references makes us wonder if it was Bharatchandran all over again.
RENJI PANCIKCER | 'PREMAM'
"Don't you bloody ever try to trouble me ever again with such petty flimsy issues!" George's father admonishes the college principal before storming out with his son and co.
Renji Panicker's cameo appearance was fun. While some had an issue with a father defending his ward's drinking, the way he mocks the worthless 'macho' teachers by countering their complaints that he finds ridiculous was received with rounds of cheers in theatres.
Besides, Alphonse used the background score from the movie Commissioner (which Panicker himself scripted) filling the heads of multiple generations of Malayali film lovers with nostalgia. After the scene, we are left imagining what if our parents ever showed such a cool attitude before teachers.
KALPANA | 'CHARLIE'
The late actor's last Malayalam movie was a memorable cameo alongside youth icon Dulquer Salmaan in 2015 chartbuster Charlie.
The Martin Prakkat directorial had National Award-winner Kalpana in a brief flashback sequence alongside Chemban Vinod and Dulquer. With little to no dialogue, Kalpana delivered an impactful performance as Queen Mary - an HIV positive sex worker who had forged a special bond with the nomadic protagonist.
She is taken on a surprise sea venture by the kind youngster to celebrate her birthday, but then Mary decides to take things in her hand...
SURESH GOPI | 'MANU UNCLE'
Dennis Joseph's 1988 film with Mammootty in the lead featured Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi in guest roles. However, the latter's performance as the restless, incautious policeman 'Minnal' Prathapan was more impactful.
Arriving on the scene with a band of subordinates, the cop jumps into the lake from the speed boat, gets his revolver damaged and asks a kid to bring down a gangster with a cricket ball. Naturally hilarious, the bragging cop is a standout role among Suresh Gopi's many avatars.
PARVATHY | 'PONMUTTAYIDUNNA THARAVU'
We hear the possessive Khalamayi from the inside of Hajiyar's (Karamana Janardanan Nair) house many times in the movie. The character is of little significance to the plot since we don't expect her to be seen outside the gates at all.
However, the loving wife runs past unfamiliar county roads and fields when informed that Hajiyar is being beaten up. The scene hints at Hajiyar's intention to hide his beautiful wife from the vile eyes of the villagers as a final fun element to the eventful climax scenes.
MOHANLAL | 'UNNATHANGALIL'
Jomon's action flick was experimental with Lal and Manoj K Jayan in lead roles. The 2001 movie was supposed to be a non-superstar parallel entertainer until Mohanlal makes entry literally from nowhere.
Stuck on the rail track with the train fast approaching, Shiva (Lal) mutters the Almighty's name subconsciously and gets saved by Mohanlal's SUV. The 'Saviour' then delivers a lengthy monologue that kills the excitement of an otherwise inventive cameo.