Actor Gopal Singh who plays Birbal in Jodha Akbar
speaks of what it takes to play an epic historical character
Q1: Tell us a little about your background …
A: I was born and brought up in a town called Chirmiri near Bilaspur, which is now a part of Chattisgarh. My native town is Banaras, but since I was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh, it is very close to my heart. Now, as an actor, have moved and settled in Mumbai. But, I really wish that I get to shoot in Madhya Pradesh sometime soon.
Q2: Jodha Akbar is such a big show, how did they approach you and how did all this get finalised?
A: The creative team approached me and called me for auditions. Luckily, I only had to go through one round of auditions, given that they had already seen my work earlier and they immediately called me confirming my role. Without second thoughts, I took it up for the love of the character of Birbal. Birbal has been my favorite character since my childhood. I used to love reading ‘Akbar- Birbal’ stories, which I’m sure most kids do and I’m glad that I’m getting to portray him onscreen.
Q3: What kind of preparations did you do for Birbal’s role? For this role, did you have to adapt or learn any specific kind of dialect?
A: We have all grown up reading Akbar- Birbal stories. Many of these stories have stayed with me since childhood and are stored in my sub-conscience, which help me play Birbal’s character effectively. As far as my look is concerned, I didn’t have to undergo any drastic changes. The creative required me to sport a moustache and wear the costumes that Birbal was known to wear. I need to talk in chaste Hindi given that Birbal was a Pandit, which works for me given that I come from a Hindi background. His name was originally Mahesh Das Bhatt. I glad that I am actually getting to relive such a character and moments, what could be better than that.
Q4: Birbal’s original name was Mahesh Das Bhatt. How was he then named Birbal?
A: Mahesh Bhatt was a Brahman Pandit in Akbar’s palace. After various instances, Akbar was charmed by his clever wit and went on to name him Birbal.
Q5: How is your experience on the sets of Jodha Akbar?
A: I am thoroughly enjoying shooting for Jodha Akbar. Everybody on the set is very sweet and cooperative. On my first day itself, I made friends with all of them, as the environment itself was very friendly. I believe if the coordination and rapport between actors and the makers of any show is good, the final outcome and the ease with which we shoot is very high. I feel this is the reason why the show is amongst the top-rated shows on Indian Television today. I am glad to be a part of such a successful show.
Q6: How will your role evolve, as the show proceeds?
A: As of now I have not been given the name Birbal by Akbar. Later Birbal becomes Akbar’s right-hand man and his confidante. So there is a lot left to Akbar and Birbal’s story.
Q7: You’ve played quite a few negative roles in films. You said somewhere that you have a specific aim for your career in films. Do you have an aim for yourself for television as well?
A: As far as television is concerned, as long as I get roles which are interesting and challenging like the one I am playing in Jodha Akbar, I will happily accept them.
Q8: How is your chemistry with Akbar on the sets and in real life?
A: Rajat is extremely cooperative on the sets, just like other cast and unit members. The two of us sit and rehearse and read our scripts together before we begin shooting. Otherwise too, Rajat and I get along really well. We sit and chat up even post pack-up. So, my chemistry with Akbar both on-screen and off-screen is great.
Q9: After films you are now venturing into television, and like you many other actors are following the same route. Do you think this is becoming a trend in the industry?
A: In a way you can say that it is becoming a trend as one can see a lot of famous and established actors coming back to small screen. But as far as I am concerned, I personally loved the character of Birbal which was offered to me, hence took it up without second thoughts. There wasn’t a conscious move to shift mediums!