Remembering Bharat Gopy, a one of a kind actor

Gopy's was a shortish career with consistent brilliance.
Remembering Bharat Gopy, a one of a kind actor
Remembering Bharat Gopy, a one of a kind actor
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My earliest memories of being at the movies come with the creak of old fans and the smoky taste of canteen coffee. They are also about an introduction to Bharat Gopy. I remember watching him with what I would now call awe, in the packed theatres of Kollam and Alappuzha.

I remember sensing a vague sort of pride while I watched him in Govind Nihalani’s Aghaat (1985) on Doordarshan. Older and more aware of Gopy's overwhelming reputation as an actor, I would later go on to revisit these films.

I still do, every time astounded at the range the actor could traverse. Gopy's was a shortish career with consistent brilliance (he did the five vastly diverse characters listed here in just about three years) – performances that did not draw from gimmicky physical makeovers.

Rather than analyze one of the finest of actors we’ve had, I’ll stick to the sheer joy of watching him or rather the characters that he essayed come alive on screen.

Picking five of the favourites also means leaving out some of his less thespianic but equally enjoyable comic turns  -which includes Punnaram Cholli Cholli (1985), an underrated Priyadarsan film which had him in crackling form, in the able company of Nedumudi Venu.

This list –I reiterate- don’t quite tell the whole story:

1. Ayyappan – Yavanika (1982)

The tabla player in K G George’s classic mystery-drama defines brute, unbridled force. Ayyappan plays like a man possessed; the blistering talent of the artist -in some ways- accentuates the imperfections of the man.

Gopy inhabits this fascinating character with such frenetic energy that you start plotting different versions of his murder in your mind for the woman he so ruthlessly owns and oppresses.

Ayyappan is a drunk, a violent abuser – but what makes him more dangerous is his chilling, wobbly-leg-unpredictability. Thirty-four years later, it’s still sacrilegious to even wonder who else could have played the protagonist.

2. Nandu – Ormmakkaayi (1982)

In Ormmakkaayi, Gopy plays a character lighter in tone when pitted against his roles in other Bharathan movies. Nandu is a deaf-mute sculptor; his tragedy is something which forms the core of Susanna’s (played by the lovely Madhavi) story.

But there are no mawkish vibes at play.

Gopy is a delight here, clowning around on the beach, playing the perfect husband; a man so full of life, a man with so much to say that Susanna – during the song Mounam ponmani thamburu meetti – perhaps even wonders how his man is unable to speak. She can -well, almost- hear him speak.

3. Shakespeare Krishna Pillai – Kaattathe Kilikkoodu (1983)

Another Bharathan film, Kaattathe Kilikkoodu has Gopy in the company of the wonderful Srividya, Revathi and a young actor rising in stature, Mohanlal.

Krishna Pillai is quite like the ‘thala mootha, gama kaattana kaarnnor’ mentioned in a song from the film. Much-loved and settled in happy domesticity, the professor is a picture of contentment and quiet dignity before trouble starts brewing at his home.

The actor flits between the familiar manner of husband-father and the new bounce of an ageing lover with characteristic effortlessness.

4. Justice Balagangadhara Menon – Sandhya Mayangum Neram (1984)

Sandhya Mayangum Neram is written and shot like a grim morality play; it’s about a regular family anchored by a very non-regular man. Menon is a judge grappling with the perceived impact of his decisions.

His mental disintegration which leads to the family’s tragedy is not explained in conventional cinematic terms. Gopy puts together this performance with the right touch of crazy – this is not one of his popular outings but is a compelling take on a broad-stroke character.

SMN is a Bharathan film in spirit, with an undercurrent of soft-eroticism and almost always a hint of death and imminent violence. But it’s also about its lead actor and a performance which intrigues without fear of an overstatement.

5. Dushaasana Kurup – Panchavadipaalam (1984)

Panchavadipaalam, a superb political satire from K G George and writer Veloor Krishnankutty, also has Gopy ‘lighten up’, as critics would say at the time of its release. For the actor, Dushaasana Kurup was an interesting departure from his collaborations with art-house and parallel cinema of the time.

Humour however is serious business – and Gopy obliges with a performance which, in tune with the film’s material, borders on caricature. There’s an endearing silliness about Kurup; the guffaws, the slouch and the exaggerated flakiness make this a very un-Gopy performance.

There is the additional perk of getting to watch him in an ensemble which has Srividya, Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Sukumari, Innocent and Jagathy Sreekumar. 

This article was first published on Read the original story here.

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