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The Extraordinarily Ordinary Man

As one of Thailand’s most versatile actors, Tuck Napassaran Mitrteeraroj has never disappointed the audiences. With more than 20 years of acting experience under his belt, Napassaran managed to nail every role he was cast in. From an impeccable nobleman and a bloodthirsty villain to Mr. Nice Guy and a fearsome warrior, the 52-year-old could pull off all the roles and delivered brilliant performance. But Napassaran also has another passion: the traditional Thai performance art of Khon.

As years passed, his interest in Thai performance art has kept growing into a lifelong passion, leading to the doctorate degree in Thai traditional dance at Chulalongkorn University. The actor is now also a Khon teacher for the Khon Performance Dance Club of Mahathat Temple.

As successful as his career is his marriage with his wife and leading actress Pok Piyathida Mitrteeraroj. Since they met 21 years ago, the couple has been inseparable since. Their love story is one of the most celebrated in the show business. The secret to the successful marriage, says Napassaran, is understanding and acceptance of each other’s nature – something he has learned since childhood from meditation practice.

Before the Khon class begins, students must do meditation. Is that required for all classes of traditional Thai art?

Meditation is actually a ritual practiced worldwide before a performance starts. In acting, characters are people who move and do things. That means those characters are alive. If they don’t breathe, they die. For the last 30 years, what I learned from my teacher Patravadi Mejudhon (renowned teacher of dramatic arts and National Artist in performing arts in 2015) is all about breathing: a runner’s breath, a guitarist’s breath, a professional driver’s breath, an astronaut’s breath – do you think they’re the same? I don’t think so. When we understand their breathing patterns, we will understand the characters. That will empower our performance…this is a common acting technique. The meditation that the students practice is what is taught in Buddhism because Buddha was the person who always told everyone needs to understand their own breathing.

Do you regularly meditate as well apart from the moment before shooting and performing?

Yes. My mother and aunt regularly pray and meditate every evening. When I was little I also sat in meditation with them. They also took me and my siblings out to the meditation place on weekends when impossible…I’ve meditated since kindergarten and for as long as I can remember.

How has meditation shaped your personality and attitudes?

Let me say that although I did meditation since I was little. Teenagers are still teenagers. There were times I was wayward…when I had misconceptions about something, I got messed up. Meditation has been a reminder that I cannot be arrogant nor reckless. Once you miss it, it’s gone. Earlier, I spent my life in a glasshouse, when I ventured into the outside world, the glass could easily be broken. During those times, it was hell.

But everybody makes mistakes. The good thing about meditation is that it brings you to your senses quickly and repaired the broken glass because I remember the inner peace I felt from meditation.

What does Dhamma mean to you?

It’s nature. Whatever that brings joy in a natural way, without exploiting nature nor ourselves. In fact, we never own ourselves. If we understand that Dhamma is nature, we won’t exploit ourselves and others and want to do whatever is happiness and not against nature. This is a simple Dhamma which fits the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Sublime States of Mind that includes lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

The full version is available in the 5000s magazine issue 55. Subscribe Now.