Not many know that veteran actor R Gopakumar was offered a role in Steven Spielberg's 1997 hit 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park'. It was in 1996 that Spielberg began looking for an Indian actor to essay a role in the second installment of his popular Jurassic Park franchise. His casting agents in India contacted noted filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan who directed them to R Gopakumar. After much discussions and evaluating the actor’s performance in many movies, Gopakumar was selected to essay an Indian character in the film. It became a big news then, and even caught the attention of national media. It was for the first time that an Indian actor was chosen to play a role in a Spielberg movie. But fate had something in store for Gopakumar, whose trip to the US got hindered owing to some visa issues.
Later English actor Harvey Jason played the character called Ajay Siddhu, an Indian who joins the group which hunts down dinosaurs. In an interview with the popular women’s magazine Vanitha, Gopakumar talks about his missed opportunity and also about his experiences as an actor.
Are you still disappointed that you missed out on the opportunity to appear in a Spielberg movie?
I was upset for a while, but now I am not. I missed that chance due to mere visa issues. My career would have taken an entirely different course had I acted in that movie. Even then, I never felt too disappointed. However, as far as I am concerned my greatest pain is my debut movie. It was filmmaker Suresh Unnithan who offered me a role in his 1992 movie ‘Ardram’ at a time when I was mostly doing telefilms and plays. I accepted the role as it was a good one. The first day of filming went smooth. On the second day, while I was getting ready to go to the sets I noticed that my father, who was reading the newspaper until then, did not look well. He didn’t respond when I called him. He lost his life while sitting like that. That is how I lost my first Malayalam film. No other later incidents were as painful as that one.
Why are you not seen much in popular movies?
I have acted in the movie ‘Anubhuthi’ (1997) directed by IV Sasi. I had replaced actor Oduvil Unnikrishnan as he couldn’t turn up for the filming due to his busy schedule. Sasi did not speak to me for the first three days. On the fourth day he came to me and said, ‘People say that you are a difficult person to work with. But after seeing you I don’t think they are right.’ I then said, ‘Can we stop people from saying anything? Aren’t you seeing me for the last three days? This is how I am, and nothing else."
Cinema is unlike anything that we expect. When I was acting in 'Pulimurugan', some people asked whether I act in commercial movies. They told me that people usually think of me as someone who would only act in art house movies. I told them that I would act in any movie if the character suits me. However, many in the industry think that I am someone who would act only in the movies directed by the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Spielberg.
I think those who wish that no one should offer me any roles are the ones who keep me on a pedestal. They regard me not out of genuine respect. My role in the 2016 movie 'Pulimurugan' got noticed.
Fond memories on your film career until now
My family shifted to Mudavanmugal when I got a job at Thiruvananthapuram. In the mornings, when I went for work on my scooter, I used to notice two boys in school uniform waiting for the bus. The elder brother, with a good hair cut, had an executive look while the younger one grew hair in a hippie style. Since I saw these boys every morning I enquired who they are. My sister who was studying for MA then told me that they were the sons of one Viswanathan sir, who worked at the secretariat.
I had noticed that the younger brother was a cheerful one, often talking and making merry inside the bus. Later I had seen that boy many times and even acted along with him. That boy was standing right beside me, with his quintessential charming smile when I mouthed the dialogues of ‘Mooppan’ in 'Pulimurugan'. Then I couldn’t help but remember the naughty young boy at the bus stop who was none other than Viswanathan sir’s younger son, Mohanlal.