Walking on air

Murali Gopy   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chellappan blows hot and cold, much like the many moods of the wind. He breezes into the scene and unleashes a storm, rustic and no-holds-barred. And Murali Gopy is in his element as Chellappan, one of the two protagonists of Arun Kumar Aravind’s Kaattu.

Scripted by Ananthapadmanabhan, the late Padmarajan’s son, the two lead characters of Chellappan and Noohukannu have been inspired by a short story of the master storyteller. Chellappan is a quintessential Padmarajan character, never all white or all black. Instead, he is a delightful enigma of black and white, a man who is one with nature, completely free of any artifice.

Spectrum of emotions

“As soon as I read the script, I knew the challenges involved in portraying a man like Chellappan. There is a spectrum of emotions that had to be played out with subtlety although Chellappan lives life king size, without superficial nuances. I had to reach within myself and discover the Chellappan in me to enact him with conviction. Bombastic dialogues or action would not be able contain Chellappan,” says Murali.

Asif Ali and Murali Gopy in a scene from Kaattu

Asif Ali and Murali Gopy in a scene from Kaattu   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Murali likens him to the wind: tempestuous, breezy and unstoppable. “The wind can caress or destroy, soothe or savage. Chellappan is like that. He is capable of romance and tenderness and yet, there is an innate mischief, a streak of violence in him. His loyalty is never at stake and yet his raw words and actions wound and lacerate friends and foe. Capable of deep love, Chellappan also indulges in frivolous relationships,” explains Murali, trying to unravel the complex character that he breathes life into on screen.

Shot in the interiors of Palakkad, the story of Kaattu is set in a rustic environment over two decades ago. A tale of friendship and vengeance, Kaattu is also about man and woman; about basic instincts and those finer sentiments celebrated by poets. “It is our tribute to Padmarajan sir’s genius and the success of the film is proof of the master narrator’s command over his medium. You must remember that he was one author who only put pen to paper when he wanted to. So, there is an innate honesty in his characters and they are all so real. That is why those characters have stood the test of time. And the scenarist has been able to do justice to the characters,” asserts Murali.

It is also a tribute to the camaraderie that exists between the actors and the director and the scenarist. Murali has acted in three films directed by Arun and he played the protagonist in August Club, with which Ananthapadmanabhan debuted as a scenarist.

Playing Madhava Das

While Chellappan was being fleshed out in Kaattu, Murali was enacting the important character of Madhava Das in Kamal’s Aami, a biopic on Kamala Das. “It was exciting to do both at the same time because both are two ends of the spectrum. If Chellappan was unrestrained and unshackled, Das is hemmed in by many considerations – societal, marital, familial… I had to walk a tightrope while playing him,” says Murali.

He adds: “During the shooting, Kamal Das’ sister Sulochana Nalappat came to the sets. She told me: ‘I don’t know whether you are a good man or a bad man. But Dasettan was a very good man. Please keep that in mind when you essay him’. I had that always in my mind when I played Das.”

Murali reads Madhava Das as a man who was patriarchal in some ways, a product of his times. “So his need of his wife did not always concur with what she wanted. And he had no idea what had offended her. Later, he understands his supremely talented wife’s genius and becomes her biggest support and well-wisher,” he muses.

While Aami might reach cinemas during December, Kammarasambhavam, the Dileep-starrer scripted by him, will likely be completed by then. “I have a role in it and shooting is going on. Dileep is expected to join the sets on November 1,” says Murali. Once his role is done in the film, Murali plans to take a break for the scripting of Lucifer, Prithviraj’s directorial debut starring Mohanlal. “I can’t act and write at the same time. I need time to work on the script. But I was disappointed that I could not take up a dream offer that came my way when Sasikumar of Subramaniapuram-fame offered me the lead in his next film. This is the fifth offer I had to turn down in Tamil. I hope by February next, when I complete the work on Lucifer, I would be able to make my debut in Tamil,” says Murali.

In Malayalam, Murali certainly knows which way the wind is blowing. And the evidence of that is blowing in the wind!

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 8:38:46 PM |

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