Actor Jacob Gregory – ‘Girigiri’ of ‘Akkara Kazhchakal’-fame – talks about making his debut in Mollywood with Martin Prakkat’s ABCD
Talking to actor Jacob Gregory is as amusing as an imaginary conversation with his more famous alter ego Gregory John a.k.a. ‘Girigiri’, one of the lead characters in ‘Akkara Kazhchakal’, Malayalam’s first online sitcom that narrates the tale of expatriate Malayalis living in the United States (U.S.) In fact, Jacob seems so very like the bumbling and loveable insurance agent, who speaks with a pronounced stutter in the series that you can’t help but slip up and address him as Girigiri!
“That’s alright, I like being called Girigiri,” insists Jacob, in his slight American accent. The actor, a native of Alappuzha, has been based in Dumont, New Jersey, for the past 20 years. “In fact, after acting in 50 episodes of ‘Akkara Kazchakal’, travelling across the U.S., Canada and Europe doing 30 stage shows based on the show and Akkara Kazhchkal – The Movie, Girigiri has became so much a part of me that it’s a case of art imitating life. For around two years after the show ended, I even used to speak with a shutter – inadvertently, of course!” says Jacob, bursting into laughter. If for the past several years Jacob endeared himself to Malayali audiences across the globe with Girigiri’s online antics, now the actor is all set to charm Mollywood as the spunky Korah in Martin Prakkat’s new film ABCD.
“I’ve always had a passion for films and I’ve always wanted to act. I enjoyed my stint in ‘Akkara Kazhchakal’, which I got to do because Jose Valiyakallumkal who played the lead role of George Thekkinmootil on the show, goes to my church. Now, I’m really excited – and a tad nervous too – about my mainstream debut film. Korah is very different from Girigiri,” says Jacob.
ABCD, an acronym for ‘American Born Confused Desi’, is about Johns and Korah, two U.S. born and bred youngsters, and their escapades when they come to back to their roots in Kerala. Once again, it does seem rather like life is imitating art… “(laughs) Oh yeah! Korah somewhat resembles me in real life. For example, the way Korah dresses in hip hop clothing favoured by African American youth, complete with bling, baseball cap and Afro haircut. As a teenager, I used to dress the same because I had a lot of African American friends,” says Jacob, with a smile.
So, he is a typical Americanised ‘desi’, then? “My family – my parents, my two siblings and I –migrated to the U.S. only when I was in high school. So yes, I have imbibed a few stereotypical mannerisms of Americanised Malayalis. At the same time, I am very Malayali at heart. Actually, Malayalis who live abroad are, in a sense, more Malayali than those living in Kerala! Most of us, at one point or the other, tend to gravitate towards other Malayalis and anything to do with Kerala is done with gusto and is almost sacrosanct. Onam, for instance, is as huge and as elaborate an affair as it is here. Maybe, more so. People are very serious about sadyas and dressing up in Kerala costumes for the occasion. Back home in New Jersey, I am part of a group of 30 youngsters called Beats of Kerala and we regularly organise stage shows, musical evenings, cricket matches and so on.”
For now though, the actor is so “enjoying his Mollywood experience” that he says he would like to do more films, “If I get good offers.”
A mutual friend suggested the young actor’s name to Martin when the director was on the lookout for someone to play the lead along with Dulquer Salmaan. “I auditioned for the role and I’ve been in Kerala for two months now. Martin has been kind enough to put me up in his own home and introduce me to the ways of Mollywood. So, I’ve been part of the film from the scripting process itself. Dulquer too is a chill dude; great fun to hang out with, as is the film’s heroine, Aparna Gopinath. Actually, everyone in the cast and crew have been very welcoming,” says Jacob.