“Chance favours only the prepared mind,” said Louis Pasteur more than a century ago. A befitting statement to sum up the entry of Gautam K urup, the famous baddie of South Indian films, into the glitzy world of cinema.
But it didn’t just happen overnight for the forty-something Kurup, who had no filmy connection to boast about. He spent most of his youth toiling hard as a line producer, assisting and easing production woes of filmmakers of all hues — short, documentary, feature, advertisements — across the length and breadth of the country, and all the while yearning to be in front of the camera, somehow. He knew that someday would be his day. He has slogged hard to be where he is today, having made a small corner for himself in the crowded cinematic street with his grit and determination. “It has been good so far to be the bad man in the movies,” he chuckled.
Stars in his Eyes
Hailing from a middle-class Malayali family from Mumbai, he was born in Chennai, and did his initial schooling in Bengaluru and later in Mumbai. But he always wanted to become an actor. “I realised it early that studies were not my cup of tea. I loved to face the camera. My uncle was a documentary filmmaker, and I acted in his films when I was five years old. The acting bug bit me hard, and I knew that it was my calling.” In his growing up years, he idolised Vinod Khanna, Al Pacino, and Michael Jackson, and in the same order. But with no filmy connection, the going was tough from the word go.
Kurup soon dropped out of school and started doing rounds of studios and meeting producers and directors, looking for an opportunity to show his mettle to the world out there. “I knocked on many doors but was shown the exit. But I never gave up. When I realised that it would be difficult to get work as an actor, I decided to get behind the camera. I started off as a line producer and worked as one for more than two decades. Finally ‘Lady Luck’ smiled and I faced the camera in 2009.” It was two years after his son made his debut in the National Award winning Tamil film in 2007, Vaaranam Aayiram. Directed by Gautam Menon, the film had Surya, Sameera Reddy and Simran in lead roles.
One Fine Day The big day came quite unannounced in 2009. While doing rounds of meeting directors for production, Kurup met filmmaker Ishan Kapoor, who was casting for his short film Murdering Innocence. Kapoor asked Kurup if he would like to play a police officer’s part in the movie? “I readily agreed but two days before leaving for Sri Ganga Nagar for the shoot, Ishan called to inform that the antagonist of the film had backed out. He offered me that role, and I quickly grabbed that opportunity. Lo and behold, I was facing the camera and living my dreams at the age of 39.” The short film marked Kurup’s muchawaited entry into tinsel town as an actor. He had a dream debut as a bisexual Afghani terrorist in the Malayalam feature film, Kandahar. “I was over the moon when Major Ravi offered me the role in the movie that boasts of a stellar star cast, Amitabh Bachchan and Mohanlal in the lead. What more could I ask? It seemed surreal, but it was real.” One thing led to another. If Major Ravi offered him to play the negative lead in Kandahar after watching Murdering Innocence, AR Murugadoss offered him Thuppakki in Tamil with Vijay in the lead after seeing his intense performance in Kandahar. He shared an interesting anecdote from his Thuppakki days.
“I had worked with Vijay as the line producer in Nanban, but he was unaware of the fact that I was going to share screen space with him. When I told him, he was pleasantly surprised. While shooting, he doled out bits of advice to improve timing while working with other actors in the same frame.” Holiday, starring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha was a remake of Thupakki. In Dictator, his cinematic outing in Telugu, Kurup shared screen space with Nandamuri Balakrishna.
Kurup, popular for playing a terrorist or mostly seen in negative roles, doesn’t mind being the baddie as these roles have established him in the film world and kept him busy. “After Kandahar, I have been mostly offered negative roles. But that doesn’t bother me as long as I am in front of the camera. There is a huge range of emotions to be essayed even in as negative characters, and I want to explore all of it,” he said. Even though Murdering Innocence was in Hindi, he chose to stay in the South and scorch the silver screen with his menacing looks and dreaded acts in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films. “I am a multi-linguist. I can speak many languages. So I am open to the right roles, language is not an issue,” he added. But the regional language films from South India hold a lot of hope not just for actors like him but also cine-goers even in North India, he believes. “And Bollywood too has realised that these films have a lot of potential. So either these films are being dubbed in Hindi or remade.” So it is a win-win situation for Kurup. Since his debut in 2009, Kurup has acted in several movies in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, and even Punjabi. “I have three untitled projects, of which one is in Kannada,” he said. His soon-tobe- released cinematic outings this year include Bhanwarey in Hindi and Sardar Saab in Punjabi. For Kurup, who has won accolades for his onscreen performances, acting is heuristic and makes his small world go round. “I love being in front of the camera. It encourages me to learn, discover, understand, by experimenting, evaluating and in the process improvising and improving as well.” His zest for acting as a craft is infectious. “I take every film as my debut so that I can push my limits beyond the boundaries,” he summed up.
written by : SHILLPI A SINGH