Gavin Packard has never played a good man on screen.Yet people loved him, as an appreciation for the foreign villain who happily played the bad guy in Indian films. Gavin, who has acted in more than half a dozen Malayalam films and nearly 30 Hindi films, breathed his last on May 18, 2012, at a nursing centre in Vasai, Mumbai due to a respiratory disorder.
Born on June 8, 1964 in Mumbai, Gavin was the eldest of the five children of a computer expert, Earl Packard and Barbara. His grandfather John Packard was an Irish man who settled in India after he came to the country as a member of the US army.
Though he gained standing as a model and body builder in Mumbai, Gavin’s entry into the big screen was through Malayalam. In 1988, when he was 24, Gavin shared screen space with Mohanlal in ‘Aryan’. He was handpicked by director Priyadarsan for the role of Martin, a local goon, in the film which had Mumbai as its back drop.
Though the role was a cameo, it did make a mark as Martin was instrumental in transforming the shy hero into an underworld don in the film. “The director saw him first when he was riding a bullet,” remembers his younger brother Daryll Packard.
The next year he entered his home turf, Bollywood, with ‘Ilaaka’. Though he went on to do some 30 films in B-town, his best was again in Kerala. P Padmarajan pitted him against his hero, Mohanlal, in the 1989 film ‘Season’. Fabien, a full length character in the movie, could stand up or even above of that of Lal’s Jeevan. Even though the film bombed at the box office, Gavin continued to visit kerala.
In the meantime, he became busier in Bollywood as a ‘white guy’ who could be bashed by the hero. A notable film was Sadak(1991) where he played the henchman of an extraordinary eunuch villain ‘Maharani’, played by Sadashiv Amrapurkar. The film had Gavin’s buddy Sanjay Dutt as hero.
Sanjay has said before that Gavin was almost a like a brother as he introduced him to body building and paved way for his image as the muscle man of Bollywood. Gavin was a dedicated body builder much before the heroes and villains began boasting of their six packs. He was a national award winning bodybuilder, and winner of many awards at state level.
Contrary to the dare devil screen image, Gavin was a man who feared heights. Remembers G S Vijyan, who directed him in ‘Anaval Mothiram’ (1991), “I remember him as a good, simple man. But I cannot forget how he behaved when we were shooting the climax of the film. Sreenivasan, the hero, was cool about shooting a scene at the top of a building but Gavin, despite all his villainy in movies, was shaking with fear.’
He did Aayushkalam (1992) and Jackpot (1993) and did not return to Kerala after the role of Bruno in Boxer (1996).
‘He was little hesitant to accept run-of-the -mill roles. So he chose to stay away though he loved Kerala. He was supposed to continue acting after a short break with ‘Rocky the Slave,’ said Darryl.
Like many other baddies on screen, Gavin too was known to be a good person to those who were close to him in real life. Apart from being the trainer of Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty and Shera(Salman Khan’s trainer), he was a good friend to many.
Daryl intends to carry on with his elder brother’s legacy by organizing body building and fitness contests in his name in the future as Gavin was an inspiration for many a teenager, body builder and budding model.