Veteran theatre actor and activist Alencier Ley Lopez is making a mark on the big screen as well
Burly and jovial, Alencier Ley Lopez does not fit into the image of the brooding or eccentric actor of offbeat movies. On the contrary, he is all smiles when he comes for the interview. He was leaving for Goa the next day where Kanyaka Talkies was the opening film of the ‘Indian Panorama’ section of the International Film Festival of India. Alencier, a veteran theatre person, plays one of the leads in the movie that tells the story of a B-grade cinema theatre in a rural area that is turned into a church.
“I am happy about Kanyaka Talkies making a mark among cineastes. But what makes me happier is the experience of working with a team that gelled so well. I am passionate about acting. In fact, I see my work in theatre and cinema as a labour of love. Money is not an issue. But I am particular about the team that is involved in a film. In all these years, I have only worked on those terms,” says the 49-year-old actor.
K.R. Manoj, national award-winning director, had promised the actor a plum role in his film. Manoj kept his promise and by January 2013, when work on Kanyaka Talkies began rolling, Alencier was playing Yakoob, the owner of a small theatre, in Ponmudi. While Kanyaka Talkies gathers accolades in Goa, debutant director Shambu Purushotthaman’s Vedivadipadu, a black satire, will soon open its account in theatres in Kerala. The actor has an interesting role the film as well.
“In Shambu’s flick, I play a Brahmin from Tamil Nadu who has settled in the capital city. Shambu’s dialogues were a bit formal and so I sought the help of a friend from the same community to breathe life into them. He dexterously transformed the dialogues into the kind of Malayalam laced with Tamil that is spoken by many in the community. It was great fun essaying Swami,” he says, breaking into laughter. He points out that it is that freedom to improvise and give his own inputs to a team that makes him comfortable in any kind of artistic venture.
The bonhomie and ready laugh masks the diligent actor who gives each character his best shot. Be it a one-minute appearance, a cameo or an important character, Alenceir gives it all, his attention and concentration.
In fact, Alencier’s life itself reads like a film script. Hailing from Puthenthope, a scenic coastal area in Thiruvananthapuram district, Alencier was attracted to the gaslights of the active theatre scene in the region. Many years ago, Puthenthope was the venue for a seven-day theatre festival in December. “Football and theatre are the twin passions of my coastal village where many of the men work overseas. The festival was the major event in our area. While other places had temple festivals, choirs and so on, the ‘Leyon Lopez Nadakaolsavam’, organised by Jai Hind Granthashala, a local library, was the mega event in our village. By the way Leyon Lopez was my grandfather. It attracted the best of amateur dramas from all over Kerala. Unfortunately, the scene changed when theatre was forced to take a back seat due to the onslaught of television and it came to an end about 25 years ago,” says Alencier, regret writ large on his face.
However, by then, the actor had been born in the teenager. Having made his debut at the age of five, he went on to form his own troupe, Netaji Theatre, and direct and act in plays by the time he was in class eight. “By the time I reached college, I was hungry to learn more about theatre despite my father’s disapproval,” he remembers.
College days in University College put him in touch with stalwarts such as Narendra Prasad and Vinayachandran. He began taking part in plays put up by them and was also deeply involved in C.P. Krishnakumar’s troupe, Kavalam Narayana Panicker’s Sopanam theatres and Raghu’s Natakayogam, a kind of street theatre that was active in the city. “From morning till night I was neck deep in different kinds of theatre. But the minute the focus moved from theatre to politicking and other peripheral issues, I moved on,” he explains.
Alencier decided he would only be an actor or a priest and when fate made him an actor, he decided to follow his destiny. “As an actor I can be so many people,” he says. He also played many roles in real life. He became a television actor, a director of award-winning documentaries (Ashoka and Buddha for State Institute of Educational Technology) and a character actor on the big screen.
Although Alencier never canvassed for work, his wide circle of friends always remembered to cast him in their movies and each time, the actor delivered what was expected of him. As such, the new spring in Malayalam cinema has borrowed many fine actors from theatre and Alencier too is one of the finds who is being celebrated on the big screen.
In December, Punthethope will be the location for a new film by Rajeev Ravi. And Alencier will be right there, all set for action.
Baker’s Vipplavathinte Shukra Nakshatram (which was never released)
M.P. Sukumaran Nair’s Shayanam and Ramanam
Raghunath Paleri’s Kaneerinnu Madhuram
Alencier played Meesha, a Congress politician in the sitcom ‘Munshi’ on Asianet for three years.
His act in a tele-film was filmed by Rajeev Ravi, who had just finished his cinematography course from FTII. Amal Neerad was the associate director and Anwar Rashid was the stil photographer. All three are now leading lights in Malayalam cinema, with their own distinctive body of work. When Rajeev Ravi turned directors with Annayum Rasoolum, he cast Alencier in the role of a policeman. “In fact, the film opens with my face,” say the actor.
In the meantime, filmmaker Arun Kumar Aravind, producer of Vedivazhipadu, spotted the talented actor on the sets of the film and cast him in his movie 1 by Two as well.
Alencier is married to Suseela George, a teacher of Mathematics. He has two sons, Alen Savio and Alen Steve.