Nobody who has watched the Tamil film 'Thodari' can easily forget Swarup, the actor who played the rough customary groom of the heroine Keerthy Suresh. Keerthy's 'Muraimaman' is Swarup's monumental role.
Swarup, who has roots in Kozhikode, debuted as a child actor in Malayalam films. He is now making a comeback in Mollywood, playing a major character in the movie 'Padmavyoohathile Abhimanyu' which deals with the life of Abhimanyu, the slain student leader of Maharaja's College, Ernakulam.
Swarup loves travelling and shares interesting experiences during of his travels with Onmanorama.
Earliest memories of travel
Swarup's mother Prema belongs to a Tamil family that had settled in Kozhikode and his father K P Gopalakrishnan, a Malayali, hails from Manjeri in Malappuram.
Since a very young age, Swarup made regular trips from his father's house in Manjeri to his mother's ancestral house at Cherootty Road in Kozhikode city. "Those were my earliest memories of travelling," says the actor.
Swarup hasn't travelled to many places in India. "I've visited Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ooty, Palani, Tirupathy, Madurai, Mysuru, Kanchipuram and other such major spots. In Kerala, I've travelled to all the 14 districts. I am extremely familiar with all the districts, except Kasaragod and Idukki," reveals the actor.
First major trip
When Swarup set out on his first long journey, he was barely six years old. "It was a trip with parents and other family members to Mysuru and Bengaluru," he recalls.
"During the trip, I was fortunate to see a movie shoot for the first time," he adds.
When Swarup and family reached Brindavan gardens in Mysuru, the shooting of 'Rudrathandava,' a Kannada movie, was taking place. Its heroine was Bhagyalakshmi, also known as Bhagyasree, who was once a major star in south India. The hero was Balraj, a Kannada actor.
"The film shooting was a mesmerizing sight. The beautiful Brindavan gardens with flowers and water fountains was crowded with people and there was a mad rush to get a better view of the movie stars. The police had cordoned off the shooting area with a thick rope," says Swarup.
"Bhagyasree looked like a golden idol and she danced gracefully along with Balraj to a beautiful tune in the background. During the breaks, fans created a hustle and bustle to get closer to the location and the police resorted to a minor lathi-charge. All this created a deep impression on my young mind, drawing me to the magical world of cinema," adds the actor.
After the shoot, Bhagyasree left the spot accompanied by her parents, maid, and bodyguards. The police also gave protection to her from the teeming fans. "I was amazed by that sight. Cinema became a sort of addiction to me," says Swarup.
"The incidents at Brindavan Gardens had a major role later in making me a film star. We also visited Lal Bagh, Chamundi hills and other places during that first long trip of mine," says the actor.
Ooty, the favourite destination
The actor says that the place that he loves to visit often is Ooty. "The attraction of the place is mist and the Sun being present at the same time around noon. Ooty is a place which is easily accessible and can be visited whenever you feel like rejuvenating your mind," says Swarup.
"I am in an eternal love with Ooty. The Botanical Gardens, lake, and shooting lawns are all very beautiful," he adds.
Swarup prefers spending time in a cool place and naturally he feels a special affinity for Ooty.
Love for seafood
A teetotaler, Swarup also avoids meat. "I used to gorge on food but during my stay in Europe, I was forced to live on dry fruits and any similar item. However, I relish fish delicacies, especially sardine, mackerel, mussels, and sea crab. Big mussels imported from China are available in Europe and while there, mussels dry fry was my main meal," he explains.
"However, wherever I go, nothing can replace the taste of the fish items available in Kozhikode," he adds.
Ireland, Tramore beach and Europe
The first place where Swarup headed to for work in Europe was Tramore in County Waterford in Ireland. "People from all parts of Ireland reach the pristine Tramore beach to spend their summer vacation. My friend Steven owns two houses near Tramore beach and his property '3 Bramble Court' is one of my favourite spots," says the actor.
During his stay there, Swarup prepares 'mambazha pulissery' and 'kuthari' (cooked hand-pounded rice). "Steven and his family thoroughly enjoy the meal," says the actor.
For lunch, Irish people prefer vegetables like broccoli boiled with salt and yellow turmeric. Swarup had studied at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. His mother Prema, wife and son live in Europe. "So, trips to Europe are a regular occurence," says the actor.
Luas, Liffey and other sights
Swarup is eager to describe the attractions of Ireland. "Luas is glass-covered train service parallel to the roads in Dublin City. The trains are not only cheap but also save time," he informs.
Liffey is a beautiful river flowing through the heart of Dublin city and its waters are crystal clear. Another interesting spot in Dublin is 'Spire of Dublin.' Its official name is 'Monument of light' and is located on the main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street. The monument in the shape of a pin is 120m tall.
Shopping in Ireland is an expensive affair. However, fruits honey and food items are available at cheap rates. "Moreover, they are of excellent quality," says Swarup. Good woolen clothes also come at moderate rates in Ireland.
An advantage of living in Ireland is the lack of pollution. Yet another peculiarity of the country is the absence of snakes. "One can venture into wooded areas without fear," says Swarup.
Easter, St Patrick's Day and Halloween are celebrated with gaiety in Ireland but the biggest celebrations take place from December 1 to January during Christmas- New Year.
"I went to Manchester in England for cabin crew training. The only students from Asia were I and a youth from Bangladesh. But when the training was over, I had made many British friends," says Swarup.
"I wanted to take a tour of London city but it was far from Manchester. However, I contacted an old schoolmate Rajesh Nair, who lives in London. He was senior to me from upper primary to high school. Rajesh invited me to his house. I travelled to London by train and near me sat an Arab youth from Kuwait. He was a student in England. We soon became friends," informs Swarup.
The trains in England are very neat and comfortable, he says. By 10 pm, Swarup reached Watford station.
Swarup set out for sightseeing in London early next morning. He travelled by car and by Tube, an underground railway. "From the London Eye, a giant wheel, I enjoyed a panoramic view of London city. From its top one can see London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Wax Museum and other sights. In a beautiful garden adjacent to the Buckingham palace, seats are arranged for visitors to relax," he explains.
Swarup completed his London trip by buying some make-up items and perfume from the legendary Harrods store.
Wembley resembling Chennai
From London, Swarup travelled to Wembley. "For some time I wondered whether it was not Chennai. There were shops playing Tamil songs and selling Kanchipuram saris and cotton 'mundus.' Many people on the street spoke Tamil," he says.
The area had many Tamil families who had settled there several years ago. "I had food from a restaurant owned by a Tamilian. One can live as if in India at many places in England. There are even several temples in England. I prayed and made offerings at the Sree Krishna Temple there," says the actor.
Trip to Oxford
The following day, Swarup contacted Mahesh, a friend in Oxford who was a student there and travelled to that place. "Mahesh's house was close to the Oxford University. We took a tour of the university campus and went to an Indian shop there from where we bought several items to prepare food," he says.
The next day, Swarup returned from Oxford. The trip to London city and the grandeur of England impressed him very much.