Aparna Gopinath : Breaking All the Stereotypes!

Mollywood Actress Aparna Gopinath Has Carved Her Own niche With Her Unconventional Style! 

Her short hairdo, horn-rimmed glasses and bold attitude surpass all conventional stereotypes that came with being a Mollywood heroine. Her very first movie, ‘ABCD’, opposite Dulquer Salmaan was a super hit which earned her both awards and critical acclaim. Her next film ‘Munnariyippu’ with Mega Star Mammootty, catapulted her to stardom and there’s been no looking back since. This free spirited lady absolutely enjoys being an actor and cherishes every project, every character she portrays, irrespective of the stage. Her celebrity status doesn’t stop her from being herself or doing the things she loves to do! RITZ catches up with Aparna Gopinath who has reinvented the way audiences perceive the conventional leading lady in Malayalam cinema.     

Photography: Shafi Shakkeer

Costume Courtesy: Seamstress, Kerala

Venue: Crowne Plaza, Kochi

Movies were never on her agenda and happened to Aparna Gopinath by chance when director Martin Prakkat and writer Naveen Bhaskar spotted her picture on Facebook. They wanted a particular look and attitude for the character in ‘ABCD’ and Aparna fit the bill perfectly! She has had the opportunity to work with brilliant actors and directors in a very short span of time. “I feel blessed to have worked with so many veterans. I have observed different styles of acting and learnt so much from each of them”. When asked about working with the father-son duo, she says, “Working with Mammootty Sir and Dulquer has been an awesome experience – they are both very beautiful individuals and are very cool to work with.”

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Her short hair has become her signature style and she agrees that sometimes it does get her into a ‘typecast mould’. “Usually, when I get a script, I think about the story and understand what my role contributes to the story. But yes, there have been instances when the director has come to me and said that, “this is the look I want for my character” and I don’t question the director’s vision. But I am very comfortable with my hair and I am open to cutting it or growing it as the character demands. Honestly, I have never played ‘Aparna Gopinath’ till date, all my roles have been very different from the person I really am,” she smiles.

Mastering Malayalam has been the biggest challenge for this actress. Although she’s getting comfortable with the language, she has never dubbed in her voice for any of her movies – except for ‘Gangster’ in which her dialogues were mostly in English. But she is working hard at pruning her language skills and is determined to listen to her own voice on screen. “As an actor, I feel incomplete every time I watch my movie as I don’t get to hear my voice. If I were dubbing in my voice, I would know the exact emotion to convey and I think my performance would be much better. I am striving hard to achieve that,” she says earnestly. “In terms of language, ‘Munnariyippu’ was the most challenging role for me – I haven’t spoken that much Malayalam in my entire life! The level of emotions are completely different and it was very intense! The script was not given to me prior because they did not want me to by-heart the dialogues as it needed to be delivered in a particular way.” All her efforts paid off as she won rave reviews for her brilliant performance in the movie!

In Aparna’s last Mollywood outing ‘School Bus’, she portrayed the role of a working mother, whose son absconds from home. “I have worked with little children for my theatre roles but I have never worked with older kids in front of the camera. Roshan Sir arranged a workshop for us before the shoot, which gave us the opportunity to break the ice. It was real fun, I felt like a child once again being in their company and I cherish the bond we share even off screen. In terms of the role, it was a bit difficult. We draw from our own experiences as an actor and since am not a parent, I had to draw inspiration from people around me. I have watched my friends with their children and their kids are like my very own. Of course, the extra bit comes in when you put homework into it.  But honestly, the message in the movie is very apt in today’s demanding world where children are so bound by their school, exams, activities and other peer pressures. It’s shocking to see children so addicted to their iPads; you can’t take it away from them either as they need to be up to date with technology. I feel we are jammed in that space and we need to let our children break out of it, be aware of nature and the little things in life.”

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“As an actor, I feel incomplete every time I watch my movie as I don’t get to hear my voice. If I were dubbing in my voice, I would know the exact emotion to convey”

Although Aparna has her roots in Kerala, she was born and brought up in Chennai. As a child, she was passionate about dance and theatre and she actively participated and choreographed various events while at school and college. She still enjoys choreographing dance events for friends and family and loves to dabble with different forms of dance like the dappankuthu, folk, Bollywood, salsa, hip-hop and jive. The actress started her career with theatre and had the opportunity to act and direct plays with groups like the Masquerade, The Little Theatre, Madras Players, Magic Lantern, Koothu–p-Pattarai and is presently working with the theatre group, Perch, in between her movie assignments. “I worked with Koothu-p-Pattarai, a contemporary folk theatre group in Tamil Nadu for a couple of years. It was an amazing experience working with them under the guidance of Mr. Na. Muthuswamy, who is also my mentor. Even after being in Chennai all my life, I didn’t speak good Tamil. This group opened me up completely and allowed me to get comfortable with the language and I should say, taught me a totally different style of body language. It was a huge learning experience for me.”

So how has theatre influenced her career in movies? “Theatre teaches you to be independent and confident, to be present in the moment and be sure of what you are doing. It has made me who I am and taught me and even continues to teach me a lot about acting and body language. It has been the most amazing experience for me!” says Aparna who has completed over 50 performances of the play, “Under the Mangosteen Tree” by Perch Theatre. When asked about her favourite play, she quickly responds saying that, it would be her very first performance, ‘The Wisest King’, where she plays ‘Wisdom’. Her character ‘Saramma’ (from the story ‘Premalekhanam’ by Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer) in the play ‘Moonshine and Skytoffee’, directed by Rajiv Krishnan is also very close to her heart.

Just as we wind up for the photoshoot, she adds, “I for one, believe in feeling the sand under your feet, getting wet in the rain, dancing around, feeling the wind in your hair, eating like there is no tomorrow and doing the things that you love, don’t get bogged down by what you are ‘supposed’ to do – you are never poor if you can enjoy the simple things.”

Rapid Fire:

  • Must Have Accessory: My watch!
  • Make up Essentials: Kajal and lipstick
  • Favourite Read: The Alchemist
  • Favourite Holiday: Spending time with my family
  • Favourite Dish: Anything my mom cooks!
  • Greatest Inspiration: My mom!
  • I Love: Bikes and Riding but sadly, I am not a biker!
  • Dream Role: I want to play every character I can possibly portray!