Paskal star Theebaan Govindasamy, or simply Theebaan G, never saw himself as an actor.
“I used to have this idea that I’m a fighter, and I must only do that,” says Theebaan in an interview with Star2. “When people approached me with other opportunities like modelling, I never did any of them.”
Indeed, being a fighter has been a huge part of Theebaan’s identity, having practised karate since he was only five.
“My dad signed my siblings and I up for karate because he wanted us to learn how to defend ourselves,” he shares.
At 14, a former national karate coach at his martial arts school saw potential in him and Theebaan began to train intensely under him.
He won his first national karate tournament at 16. A year later, he joined the national karate team.
Theebaan went on to become a seven-time national karate champion and has won three South-East Asian Games silver medals.
At 23, he left the national team to pursue a career as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.
“All this while (in the national team), everything was taken care of. When I switched to MMA, I have to be my own manager, my own PR guy, I have to find sponsors to support me. That was very difficult in the beginning,” he says.
Now, at 28, Theebaan is stepping out of his comfort zone once more, trying his hand at acting in Paskal.
The local action film, which has earned RM27mil in ticket sales so far, chronicles the highly-dangerous missions undertaken by Pasukan Khas Laut, or Paskal, a special operations unit within the Royal Malaysian Navy.
“I was asked to audition for the role of Misi (a Paskal member), and initially, I didn’t want to do it. But I eventually realised I’ve been too picky and I must try to do other things.”
1. What was the most difficult scene to film in Paskal?
The most difficult thing was filming the montage which demonstrated the real-life Paskal training process. My hands and legs were tied up and we had to jump into the water and swim.
A military advisor taught us for weeks how to do it. I fared quite well during the training, but when it came time to film, it was just something else.
In the scene, there was an underwater camera capturing the cast holding their breath, limbs bound, sinking to the bottom of the pool at the same time.
For some reason, I’m always the first one to get to the bottom, which means, by the time I wait for the rest to do the same, I have to get to the surface for air.
In the end, my face wasn’t even in the scene because I popped up too soon (laughs).
But it speaks volume about the care and attention to detail the cast and crew put into the film.
2. Is acting in Paskal just a one-off thing for you? Or will we be seeing more of you?
It would not be smart for me to say this is just a one-time thing. If more opportunities came, I would think about it.
Having said that, at this point, I want to focus on my fighting. I have a few more years left as a fighter, and after that I’ll be too old to fight.
As it is, I have two bad knees now. I want to make sure I’ve really tried my best.
3. If you don’t mind sharing with us, how did you get the scar on your left cheek?
I actually have four scars on my face. The biggest one, on my left cheek, I got when I was two. I was eating off a glass bowl while riding my bicycle at the same time at home.
I accidentally dropped the bowl and fell off the bicycle. My face landed on the broken bowl. I had to get about 30 stitches.
People come up to me and tell me, “You can put this cream on it or do plastic surgery, it’ll go off.” But I really don’t mind it.
Growing up, I had friends who would call me names, but that’s about it. I think because I was the biggest guy in school, nobody bullied me.
I don’t feel self-conscious. It makes me look cooler I guess.
4. Take us through a day in the life of a MMA fighter.
If there’s no fight coming up, once a day, I’ll be in the dojo fighting with my training partner for 1.5 hours.
During fight season, that 1.5 hour-session can go up to two to three times a day.
On top of that, for three or four times a week, I work out at the gym for 45 minutes each time.
5. How do you celebrate Deepavali?
We go to the temple in the morning. And then my mum would cook a big lunch, and sometimes my friends would come over and join us.
At night, that’s when we do our house to house visits. It’s a simple affair for us.