Stage craft Theatre

‘I’m like a fish out of water’

Typist Gopu   | Photo Credit: M_Moorthy

One understands perfectly when Typist Gopu says, “That I’m sitting at home without going out to act saddens me. I’m like a fish out of water.” Thousands of plays and hundreds of films — stage has been his oxygen for several decades. Age-related health issues have now forced him to step back and he does not like it. “Even now, I’m ready to act. Only I need help to commute. I live away from the city centre and that is a handicap,” he informs.

Well, people do retire and adapt themselves to a new lifestyle, don’t they? “But I was not working,” protests Gopu. “Stage is my passion and I know nothing else,” he declares. “These days, I watch TV serials and call up artistes when I find something good,” he says. Delhi Kumar is a good friend and they have long phone conversations.

“I’m so happy that you have called because I can talk about my pet subject,” he says earnestly. “I was so active that I spent little time at home,” explains Gopu, who has acted in at least 1,000 skits for the State Government to promote its activities. “I travelled all over Tamil Nadu and was greeted with warmth, wherever I went.”

A scene from ‘Kaadhalikka Naeramundu’
Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

A scene from ‘Kaadhalikka Naeramundu’ Photo: K.V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

 

Y.Gee. Mahendra is a bosom pal with whom Gopu has acted in all the plays of UAA. “He treated me like a member of his family. With just Rs. 150 in my pocket, I toured the U.S. and Europe. How could it have been possible but for UAA and Mahendra?” guffaws Gopu.

The affection is mutual with Mahendra unstinting in his praise of uncle Gopu’s dedication. “I call him Chithappa. My father’s demise and Gopu’s entry into UAA coincided. So he is like a father figure to the troupe, myself in particular,” says YGM, an ardent fan, who along with Visu and Mouli made a beeline to the cinema just to watch Gopu.

“You know, he has a peculiar timing that livens up even innocuous lines. His very presence would amuse me and I never tired of seeing him in action,” expands Mahendra. “He has acted in all our plays and I will mention ‘Lights On’ as a noteworthy effort. He appeared as a ‘young’ hero, who refuses to age,” he adds. In ‘Judgment Day,’ Gopu played a serious role. “He is extremely good with pathos, a talent not exploited,” he observes.

Hospitable Sivaji

YGM narrates an interesting anecdote involving thespian Sivaji Ganesan, in whose films Gopu was a regular. “Sivaji Sir used to call him Hitler, after the role he played in Galatta Kalyanam. I often visited him and on one such occasion Gopu came along. It was around 6 p.m.

We were chatting and the ever hospitable Sivaji asked us to have tiffin. It was tempting but we declined saying that we had a play. We thought we were being dignified. ‘What time,’ Sivaji raised his eyebrows and I said 7 and at once knew how he would react.

He didn’t disappoint me. He literally necked us all the way down the stairs and to the door. Setting us free, he hissed: ‘Is this how you run your troupe? With a play in the evening, you are gallivanting. Some example you set.’ We scooted, laughing all the way to the hall.”

A scene from the Tamil play ‘Lights On’

A scene from the Tamil play ‘Lights On’   | Photo Credit: C_V_Subrahmanyam

 

Veteran Chitralaya Gopu, contemporary, known for his comedy classics says:

“I’m happy that Gopu’s contribution has been recognised and that he has been chosen for the award. Theories about cinema have never interested Gopu. In fact, he loved theatre more. Imagine, in his debut as a typist for T.S. Seshadri’s play, Aalayam, he didn’t have dialogue but made the audience notice him with his expressions. He developed that unique delivery style, which went down well with the audience.

“Impressed with his down-to-earth nature, senior artistes recommended him for roles. He walked away with accolades, playing the role of a doctor in a mental health hospital in my film, ‘Kaasethaan Kadavulada.’ Often, fan letters of mine would be sent to him and he would give it to me.

“Nagesh, once told me that he admired Gopu, who, despite domestic problems, never curried favours from senior artistes or lobbied for roles in films. Gopu richly deserves the Life Time Achievement Award.”

Typist Gopu will receive Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Iyakkunar Sigaram K. Balachander Award for Excellence at a function on Sunday

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 8:38:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/life-time-achievement-award-for-typist-gopu/article17985601.ece

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