CHENNAI: ‘BEEDI’ Rayappan’s character from Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai became an instant hit. Gajapathi, a veteran boxing trainer, was hand-picked to play the role of a crusty fisherman-cum-boxing coach, who leads the protagonist to success at a crucial time. Express caught up with the grizzled 69-year-old who shot to fame through the character that strikes resemblance with the Mickey Goldmill character from Sylvester Stallone’s sports-drama series ‘Rocky’. Excerpts from the interview:
How did you land this opportunity?
Director Ranjith used to visit the ICF playground two years ago. We happened to strike a conversation and that’s how it all started.
Tell us about Ranjith’s three-month-long training?
He used to turn up for training every day. He is adept with boxing techniques. However, the training was just confined to shadow boxing, fitness exercise and pad work. He ensured he knows the craft before going about with the movie.
Do you want to talk about your experience in acting?
I have no experience in acting and expressed it frankly. Ranjith and his assistant directors made me feel comfortable by telling me to be myself and talk naturally.
Do you want to comment about the politics in the movie?
No. I am a sportsman, I would not want to comment on that. Boxing is open to everyone.
Is there caste discrimination in the sport as there seem to have been clans?
I do not want to comment about that. The sport is open for all and sports persons true to the sport do not get into such things. One thing is sure, there used to be ugly fights in the past.
How many bouts have you won and lost?
I developed an interest in the sport during my teenage when I was living near Thiruvottiyur. I was trained by professional boxers and won a couple of bouts in the initial years. Soon, I had to take up a job in Railways due to financial constraints. Since then, I have been training myself and teaching.
You seem to have a belief that education is important for boxing. Why?
Absolutely. Without education, chances of people developing discipline are lesser. Besides, there are chances of boxers misusing the sport for illegal activities. Also, education throws up other opportunities, in case boxing does not work out.
How is the sport thriving in Tamil Nadu?
It is good. But there are no places for boxers to practise. Also, underprivileged students do not have access to basic gear. A cause for concern is that students are not regular to training. And that may affect the sport in the long term.