Actor-Writer Murali Gopy talks to Deepa Antony about the mindscapes of his cinematic expressions.
A man of many talents, Murali Gopy mostly lets his work speak for him. As a writer, actor, and singer he has always communicated with his viewers through the many mediums his craft allows. Away from the bustle of the city, in his writing den of quietude, greenery and books, Murali Gopy allows us a little more insight into his creative persona as he speaks about the mindscapes of his cinematic expressions
- I’ve never seen you back a movie as extensively as you have promoted Kaattu. What makes Kaattu so special?
- First thing is Arun Kumar Aravind is producing this film. He is a dear friend and like a brother, and so is Anandapadmanabhan. This film has been made staying in the milieu of Padmarajan. This is about celebrating the creative world of Padmarajan. And so, it has a nostalgic value. Also, Anandapadmanabhan is paying a tribute to his father.
It is also an organic film. It’s a period film about people who aren’t usually celebrated. I remember reading somewhere that civilization is a thin red carpet over a history of bones and carcasses of yesterday. And so this film is about a period in time that we need to be reminded of. I remember of a time when even television was not there. Back then the nights and days would feel longer than today. We’ve even tried to recreate the pacing of that time. Art has a responsibility towards people to remind you of your past and where you come from. In order to feel it the way it is, people need to come to the theatres and watch this film. That is why I’ve tried my best for Kaattu through social media. I usually don’t do this for the films I write. Asking people to watch films written by me simply isn’t my way. I believe that it is the audiences’ prerogative whether to watch a film or not. And I respect that.
- You play Chellappan, one of P Padmarajan’s characters, in Kaattu. Tell us about him.
- Chellappan is organic, raw, rustic and straight-forward. Infact he is a character we may find in all of us, hidden or chained but eager to spring. He is unapologetically you! He shows a wide spectrum of emotions. Chellappan shows characteristic heights of romance and lust. I find in him the full exploration of a man. I think every trait a man has you will find in Chellappan. It’s a much layered character and yet elemental, like the wind. As an actor I love playing organic characters. When a character is elemental it is a challenge living up to it.
- Have you played a character with such wide spectrum of emotions as Chellappan?
- What I really look in a character that I play is vividity. I make sure that they are spread out from the ones I’ve essayed earlier. For example, Ajay Kurian (from Ee Aduthakalathu) is more fake than real. He is the exact opposite of Chellappan. Ajay Kurian is all about brawn power that he exerts to cover his “incapability”. He uses his brawn to mask his insecurity and would constantly show off. There’s acting within acting, in that character. I’ve always tried to strike this vividity. On the other hand, Che guvera Roy (from Left Right Left) is about silent resolve. He has a kindness in his temperament all throughout. Even his bravery is silent and subtle. Alex (from Ezhu Sundara rathrikal) again is more brawn but also has a moronic quality about him.
All the characters I play are my interpretations of the character. I believe that all the characters are within me. So I search within myself for the traits that define them and when I find it I find the character! That’s my process.
- You keep calling Kaattu an organic film. What do you mean by organic?
- To put it simply, it’s like organic vegetables. It’s homegrown without any chemicals. Organic things are very hard to find. There’s always an element of artificiality in everything that you consume, in art and otherwise. But organic is about the beauty that comes from Nature. Kaattu explores that beauty of the raw and the real. And this organic quality is a constant in all of Padmarajan sir’s stories.
- Kaattu is about P Padmarajan’s characters, and is based on his short stories. Which are your favorites among his short stories?
- Lots of them. Actually it’s really difficult to pick a few, but if I have to it is Kodathividhikk shesham, Aparan, Choondal, Orma, Lola, etc.
- Which other characters of his would you like to play?
- I would love to play all his characters! Padmarajan sir was an original writer. He was a man who had never moved his pen without intent and inspiration. He had never put pen to paper just to make money, atleast from the literature perspective.
- All your characters have a resounding masculine quality in them. How would you define masculinity?
- Masculinity actually entails a very spread out definition. Che Guvera Roy (Left Right Left) is a man who gives his woman a certain shield of protection simply by the strength of personality. Alex (7 sundara rathrikal) is an overprotective man who runs the risk of mentally strangulating his woman. He never applies his higher faculties effectively to gauge emotional situations. Ajay is a victim of sorts, who is also a habitual abuser. Rahul (Vedivazipaadu) is about the carnal misadventures hidden in a man who prefers to hide behind a decent exterior. Siddharth (lukka chuppi) is hopelessly romantic in the textbook way. Chellappan on the other hand is protective, wild and soft when need be. He is grey in all its glory and doom. I think a judicious mix of positively masculine traits is what ideal masculinity is. I think because man has more brawn and brashness in him he has a responsibility to tame and behave himself.
- Your image as a recluse seems to precede you. Asif Ali seems to have said in an interview that he thought that you were a budhijeevi (nerd) before working with you and ended up finding you quite fun to work with!
- I don’t know why he would think that! I’m a jovial person when I’m with friends, though I don’t move in gangs and I am not a party animal at all. Definitely I mingle with people, and I love it too! But I’d say that I’m more batman than Bruce Wayne. (laughs)
- Did you always know that you would be an actor?
- I used to imitate actors and recite movie dialogues as a kid to amuse my father (Bharat Gopy). And he used to say that I had a good timing and hence could act. But he loved my writing because he had proof of it. Infact in 1986 when he was partially paralyzed I would write for him to keep him happy and to prove that I could do something. I never intended to act because I consider my father the best actor ever. And as an actor I didn’t have anything more to prove than he had, neither in terms of statuettes nor citations. I always looked up to him. He was, and still is, my biggest inspiration, but never an influence. He was never the kind of person who would force me to do anything. Regarding me, I was and still am, quite elemental. I would always go where the wind takes me.
- You took a break from cinema after Rasikan. What wind brought you back into films?
- After Rasikan I realized it wasn’t my time yet. I returned to my journalistic ways. Once my friend Ratheesh Ambatt (director of Kammara Sambhavam) had me meet Blessy ettan. Blessy ettan sat me down for 3 hours convincing me to act. “You are basically an actor”, he would say with great conviction. That’s how I become an actor!
- Ee Aduthakalathu was a path breaking screenplay. It was courageous and brash. How did you come about that sort of courage in the beginning of your career?
- We live in a society that’s highly repressed. Most of us don’t know who we really are. And, we care a damn about it as well. This carelessness about oneself is detrimental to social, as well as psychological upliftment. At the height of repression we see us take a moralistic stand. We needed this film to be truthful and unapologetic. So Arun (Kumar Aravind) asked me to just write as it came to me. And EAK was born! That’s the sort of vibe we share.
- I hear you take a break from acting when you are writing. And you are writing Lucifer. What can you tell us about the project?
- When I sit to write my head is all foggy like the clouded sky before a rain. And writing is my way of de-cluttering. So right now it’s too soon for me to say anything about how Lucifer would be. See, when Prithviraj is slated to direct a movie, starring Mohanlal, the biggest superstar of Malayalam, I know, as the writer, there’s a lot of expectation around the project. But honestly, I don’t let it bother me. While the entire craze around the project is an inspiration I try not to let it influence me. All I can tell you now is that it will be a cinema that will have a mass appeal and that in Lucifer entertainment will be paramount.
- Who is the most powerful female character you have written?
- Anitha Roy aka Anna from Left Right Left. She is strong in her resolve, and subtly and powerfully feminine. But then again I prefer to look at these characters as personalities and not in a gender-specific mould. I prefer a unisex view of my characters.
- You played a God-man in Tiyaan. So, what’s your take on God-men and God?
- I made my take on God-men quite clear in Tiyaan. God-men are a new-age phenomenon of business and politics.
To me religion is to search for the subtler you. But today religion has been politicized and ritualized in a very bad and uncouth manner. All religions are engaged in a battle within themselves. And that battle is between wisdom and bigotry. It’s now a battle between Sanatha Dharma and “Hindutva” or true Islam and “Islamism”. We are in the age of personality cult followers, not only in religion but also in politics and cinema.
- Are you religious or spiritual?
- I’m neither ritualistic non religious. I am a seeker, whatever that means.
- Your next release would be Aami. How was it playing Madhav Das, your first non-fictitious character?
- The Madhav Das that we know through Madhavikutty’s supposed autobiography ‘Ente Kadha’, is a product of both fiction and reality. So, when I portray Madhav Das, he is my interpretation of the man he was. I believe he was the “better half” of the relationship. Early on in their relationship he knew that he couldn’t contain the volcanic creative talent that his wife was. After many misadventures to place him in a position of command in the relationship, he adjusted his life around her creativity. Sulochana Nalapat (sister of Kamala Das) had come to the location one day. She told me, ”Murali, I don’t know whether you are a good man or not. But I tell you that Dasettan was a very good man, whatever it that you have otherwise read in Aami oppu’s literature be.” I assured her that I would always keep that in mind while performing the character within the four walls of the screenplay of the film.
- Being a journalist you naturally start looking at matters around you with a certain critical eye. As a journalist, how do you think media handled the actor abduction case and subsequent arrest of Dileep?
- I’ll give you an example. We’ve all heard crickets chirping at night. They are actually quite noisy. But because we hear them often they are now part of our silence. We have automatically become insensitive to the noise. Likewise if you repeatedly make too much noise about an issue you are not helping the cause, infact you are reversing it. The reporting style of a faction of the media is like that of a person with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) wrecking havoc! I don’t think that will help anyone.
- How did singing come about for you?
- I’ve been singing since my first cinema. I love singing because I don’t know anything about it! (laughs)
- You are a man of many talents. I hear you would now soon turn director. Do you have a story in mind?
- Yes, the content has been formed. I should be able to direct the film by 2019. And it will be a tale of the soil.
From Remakant Mahashay in Tiyaan and Chellappan in Kaattu to Madhav Das in Aami, that is yet to release, this year has seen Murali Gopy in a myriad of shades. With Tiyaan, Kammara Sambhavam and the much talked about, Lucifer his pen has also been relentless in sketching out stories and characters that fade the boundaries of genres and compartments of emotions. Like a good story that invites its readers to revisit, this conversation ends only to make way for many more such creative conversations.
CONVERSATION byDeepa Antony
28 Oct 2017 | 06:59 PM
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