2 Nov 1937 – 29 Jan 2008 | Remembering Bharath Gopi

Bharath Gopi in Kodiyettam (1977)Bharath Gopi was to me, one of the last ‘living art institutions’ in Malayalam Cinema. I say this with all the respect, love, admiration and affection for an actor who always seemed to cross the barriers of the process called ‘Acting’ into ‘Being’ and then back effortlessly. He also did in between, play the craftsman, by even creating his interpretations of the very art form that he was a part of  (can one ever forget Ulsavapittennu (1989) and the deeply moving Yamanam (1991), earning accolades for the too. These souls come scarce. And 3 years post his untimely passing away, that too in the middle of what he loved best, Bharath Gopi is terribly missed. If ever you could associate the term luminary to Malayalam Cinema, Bharath Gopi would be the perfect choice. He was a veteran from the Malayalam Theater, perfecting his craft under the tutelage of the likes of  G Shankara Pillai, CN Sreekantan Nair and Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

In fact, I think  it was Bharath Gopi’s brilliant portrayal of Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot that must have made Adoor sit up and take notice of the genius in front of him. Swayamvaram (1972) was a screen test for Bharath Gopi, if you ask me ! Satisfied with what he saw in the young Gopi, it must have been also the reason why he wrote his next screenplay with the central character modeled on this budding actor! It must be also an inside joke that it was Bharath Gopi who sat down and put to paper the entire screenplay as and when Adoor Gopalkrishnan kept at it verbally. Shankarankutty in Kodiyettam (1977) gave V Gopinathan Nair a titular prefix to his name, a commendation recognised by the Nation for his brilliance as an Actor, The National Award (called the Bharath Award till 1978), something that he proudly carried in his time. It could also be sheer coincidence that the other Bharath awardee in Malayalam Cinema happens to b the legendary  PJ Antony.

From Kodiyettam (1977)

Bharath Gopi, like the seasoned veterans of the theater who eventually followed on to movies had this amazing ‘malleability‘ to be the character in every sense of the term. To say he was flexible to the needs of the script would be diluting his amazing repertoire. Bharath Gopi became the character, for the 120-odd minutes, in the darkness, in front of you, and demanded every single moment of your intense attention onscreen, while a small but audible voice in the back of your mind kept on repeating “Wow, Wow, Wow” like a broken record. Not many can make you go Wow, and no one else but Bharath Gopi could sustain it during the experience and afterwards.

To me, he was also the first New Age ‘Hero’ of Malayalam Cinema who took the established and prejudiced notions of  conventional ‘Hero looks’ by the throat, strung a steel wire around it and strung it up from the nearest jackfruit tree, and must have also given a reasonably painful kick on its face for good measure. A balding hero who flaunted his baldness?!! It was unthinkable. Bharath Gopi’s every single central character defiantly and consistently proved your notions wrong , and somewhere along the process flipped you the bird too.

There is a flood of emotions as you go through the characters he brought to life on screen as you look back in you mind’s eye, be it  Shakespeare Krishna Pillai from Kattathey Kilikkoodu(1983) – ( you can find a great review of the movie here), Mamachan from Kallan Pavithran (1981), Ayyappan from Yavanika (1982), Justice Balagangadhara Menon from Sandhya mayangum Neram (1984), Vasu Menon in Palangal (1982) – it was unforgettable.

A clip from Kattathey Kilikkoodu(1983)

Bharath Gopi was better when he took complete charge of the craft –  he became better with each, earning State, National and International accolades along the way. Kerala State’s Best Actor Award in 1977, 1982, 1983 and 1985, National Award for Best Actor in 1977 followed up with Padmashri in 1991.  Bharath Gopi directed 4 movies ( Yamanam, Njattady, Ente Hrudayathinte udama and Utsavapittennu) and co-produced a 5th one, Patheyam directed by Bharathan { theirs was an endearing friendship that started with Palangal in 1981}. I personally consider Mohanlal’s role as Aniyan Thampuran in Utsavapittennu, in my Top 10 of his finest performances. And Bharath Gopi could elicit that from him in the only production he did with Mohanlal as director !

The ethereal Pularithoomanju thulliyil from Ulsavapittennu (1989).

Most of the cineastes talk about Bharath Gopi’s career before he fell to a debilitating stroke during the times of Revathikkoru Paavakkuty (1986) and his comeback as the producer of Patheyam in 1992, and the subsequent roles that came his way after wards. I would think of it as the 6 years that helped him gain more deeper and clearer perspectives on his life and thereby recoup the divine aspirations that drive his creative brilliance that helped him sail through the later years.

Bharath Gopi explained once about what defines a good film. To him, ” A movie that can communicate to you in an extraordinary fashion is a good film.”  This fond tribute is to one who proved it with making every single character that he took on celluloid communicate with you in an extraordinary manner, even when the movie as a whole fell at the wayside.

They don’t make consummate performers like him anymore.

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7 thoughts on “2 Nov 1937 – 29 Jan 2008 | Remembering Bharath Gopi

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      My pleasure. Anything valued and worthy needs to get visibility 🙂 Ulasvapitttennu is a beautiful movie – the kind that keeps gnawing at your innards. Regards..CM

  1. This is a brilliant take on the Master and your apt observation “Bharath Gopi became the character, for the 120-odd minutes, in the darkness, in front of you, and demanded every single moment of your intense attention onscreen, while a small but audible voice in the back of your mind kept on repeating “Wow, Wow, Wow” like a broken record. Not many can make you go Wow, and no one else but Bharath Gopi could sustain it during the experience and afterwards.” just about says it all for me.

    The 2 minute vid from Kodiyettam up there sums up that prowess which he wore like a second skin.

    1. Dear Mr Pillai,
      There is absolutely no doubt as to the extraordinary degree of versatility and creative brilliance that Bharath Gopi brought on screen. I believe that actors like Bharath Gopi are beyond superlatives.. Thank you so much for writing in..Warm regards..CM

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