Murali donned the grease for the first time in Gopi’s ‘Njattad’i, but the film was never released. Lenin Rajendran’s ‘Meenamasathile Sooryan’ and Aravindan’s ‘Chidambaram’ soon followed. ‘Panchagni’ of Hariharan gave him the needed break, and he quickly established his position in the Malayalam film industry.
George Kithu’s ‘Ardram’ portrayed him as a hero for the first time. The transformation from villainous to character roles was speedy. He bagged the State Award for the supporting actor through ‘Amaram’. His character Bapputti in ‘Adharam’ fully brought out his potential, fetching him the best actor state award, his first.
Meanwhile, he also made his mark in commercial films. The Malayalee audience accepted him even in villainous roles, as seen in ‘Naduvazhikal’, ‘Adhipan’, ‘The Truth’, ‘The King’, a tribute to his acting prowess. Character roles in ‘Prayikkara Pappan’, ‘Valayam’, ‘Chambakkulam Thachan’, were also widely applauded. ‘Thalolam’ and ‘Kanakkinavu’ brought him more laurels. Now, the excellent depiction of Appamestri through ‘Neythukkaran’ once again brings the state award to Murali’s showcase.
Murali got his first Kerala State Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Amaram, directed by maverick filmmaker Bharathan. He later went on to win the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor for his role in Aadharam. Murali again won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor for his powerful portrayal of Appumestri in Neythukaran, directed by Priyanandan. The same role won him the National Film Award for Best Actor for the year 2002.