Old Masters

Great Gift of the Gentle Grump
He never succeeded in enrolling in the Academy, but everyone considered him ”academician of acting”. He never graduated from law school, but righteousness was an important feature of his character. He was reporter in Radio Belgrade, actor in the Pančevo Theater. He acted in famous movies with great directors: Voja Nanović, Vladimir Pogačić, Žika Pavlović, Branko Bauer, Aleksandar Petrović, Slobodan Šijan, Goran Paskaljević, Emir Kusturica… He used to say that he was not acting, just behaving. He loved Ada and Belgrade rivers, made ships, but sailed only his own inner seas

By: Mišo Vujović

Expert government. Teams of experts?! Expert assessment? I thought about what the word expert means, and expert for what in our environment?
”For gibberish. Experts for nothing, nobodies!” this is what late Pavle Vuisić used to say. I have been hanging with him these days thanks to Viktor Lazić, ingenious enthusiast, and his ”Adligat”, where this bard of world stage, Serbian Orson Welles, got his legacy.
How would this giant, deserter from glamour, jet set, media… watch the world today and everything happening in Serbian cinematography and country in general?
Anticipating the upcoming chaos, he prayed to slowly travel away from this world.
”I want to die. God almighty, do that and be calm. I will pay. I know you’re corrupted too”, he wrote in a poem. His wish was to announce the news of his death three days after the funeral. Everyone was absent, except God, his wife Mirjana, who he called Sula, and the cemetery priest on duty. Sula told him that the deceased’s name was Pavle, without revealing that the priest was seeing off famous Pavle Vuisić to his journey of no return.
Where would one of the heroes of the TV series of our childhood run away to now, when all of us are cancelled without the right to resist various monsters of the new age?
Many were intimidated by his strength and ”grumpy” nature, where a poetic melancholic soul was tucked in.
They say he could be silent for hours, using wine to holes in time, drilled by pompous fools, due to whom even Hemingway found his inspiration by drinking mojito on the ocean shore, while Paja Čutura (Canteen), as the masses called him, because of his role in the TV series Truck Drivers (Kamiondžije), hugged the river, using every possible moment to run away to the Sava with chosen company. To drink and create. His hobby was making ships, although he never sailed, except in spritzers and his thoughts.


In early October this year, it was thirty-two years since the death of this great man of Serbian acting stage. He spent the same number of years with his beloved wife Mirjana, who enriched ”Adligat’s” legacy on that day with new photos from shootings of different movies, as well as photos from their private life.
– The legacy of the great man of Serbian and Yugoslav stage and his wife, Mirjana Vuisić, is located in this association and is part of the regular museum exhibition in Banjica. Many of Paja’s personal objects can be seen in the legacy, such as a set of his pipes, a set of keys with the key to the truck driven in Truck Drivers, love letters to his wife, handmade sketches for making ships, poetry he wrote along the way and often threw away, which his then wife collected – tells Viktor Lazić, president of ”Adligat” association, emphasizing that Mirjana Vuisić was a real beauty.
– She is a charming lady today, but when you see the photos from her youth, it is clear why Paja fell in love with her.
However, Paja didn’t like to have his picture taken, even less to pose. He loved the river, built ships, wrote poetry, made movies and series unwillingly, but it was the easiest way for him to make money. He used to ask for enormously high fees, even ten times higher than regular, in order to refuse some roles. Producers were rushing after him and often made financial rollercoasters in order to pay him, as was the case in Truck Drivers part two. He then requested a fifty percent higher fee for Čkalja than usual. He didn’t like Čkalja and thought that he was too dramatic in front of cameras, with too much affectation. He used to say for himself that he wasn’t acting, but that he was just behaving in front of cameras. He smacked Mija Aleksić, changing his appearance so much that the shooting was stopped until the main actor’s wounds healed. Money didn’t mean anything to him, he wasted it ruthlessly. He wrote his poems and thoughts on napkins, bills, packs of cigarettes, pieces of paper… In waves of depression, he used to tear his manuscripts. What was saved from the waves of his rage was hidden by his faithful Mirjana.
He transparently defined phenomena, the system, people, he did not like communists, although he was one of the icons in that system, in which it was difficult for opponents and anticommunists to break through. Pavle was both. A brilliant wide-ranged actor. He could play everything in film and on stage, but in his private life, he couldn’t act at all. Not even a frown, except when, inspired by spritzers, he would slowly joke with someone, constructing an event in which the stated person was involved.
He enrolled in law school and never graduated, however he never lacked righteousness. He acted on the Pančevo Theater stage, made his living as reporter in Radio Belgrade.


Ne never fussed around, he was direct and straightforward, grumpy but good-natured, friendly and lonely, cheerful and rainy…
He loved kafanas. He used to order half a liter of wine and the same amount of water.
– Young man, bring me another half a liter of wine, so as not to waste this water – he’d say. Then, a bit later, he’d order water in order to drink the surplus of wine, and so on!
He didn’t like acting; he wandered into it due to strange circumstances, but the more he resisted, the more his popularity grew. He didn’t succeed in enrolling in the Academy of Drama, but he became academician of acting. Is there anyone today who knows professors who didn’t accept him to the Academy of Drama? None of them rose in this artistic and painstaking craft more than Pavle.
I watched him, slightly intoxicated, while the dressers helped him put on a suit for filming. As soon as appeared before cameras – he became an entirely different man. Incredible transformation.
I met him in the early eighties at the filming of movie and series Thirteenth of July. I was a kid, stunt, prop assistant. Pavle asked Živa, the weapons guy, to give him a rifle, to shoot a bullet in the middle of then Titograd – a blank of course, when he heard it was my seventeenth birthday that day, as well as to honor the reunion with his childhood friend, Ruso Đurović, prisoner of Goli otok and dissident, incorrigible Russophile, critic of the system. From the bottom of his heart, Pavle hated communism, which persecuted his father Mišo. And he didn’t hide it, just like he didn’t hide his pessimism and distance from people:
”Sometimes, after talking to some people, a man feels the need to caress a stone, smile to a tree and respectfully take his hat off in front of a donkey”, he once noted.
”I only love people in front of whom I don’t have to deny myself so that they would like me.” That famous thought of Pavle Vuisić was reflected in the attention he paid to his childhood friend, rejected by the society and already evidently ruined by alcohol.
After the shot, Beli Radojčić, producer, famous brother of much more famous journalist Miroslav Radojčić, rushed out of the building. Beli was a very fearsome fellow among movie people, especially among spoiled popular actors. At the time, he was near his sixties, skinny, muscular, red-headed, with piercing eyes, with an uptight forefinger and middle finger of his left hand, resulting from a heart attack, and was always ready to solve problems physically:
– Who was shooting?! – yelled Beli.
– I was looking at this rifle and my friend Ruso from Cetinje came. We haven’t seen each other in years. When I was visiting, he was in prison, when he wasn’t in prison, I wasn’t visiting – answered Pavle laughingly, winking me to be quiet.


– When we were children in Cetinje, my good Ruso, whenever we see the bishop, we were running to kiss his hand – remembered Pavle.
– Better kiss his hand than his ass – replied Ruso Đurović, a revolutionary written off long ago, repeated returnee to reeducation from the moment he ”failed his test in Russian” in 1948.
That day, I was sitting and drinking with Pavle Vuisić. He liked me, whether because my name was the same as his father’s – Mišo, or because of my conflict with Ratko Polič at the shooting in Ćeklići, my temper and affinity to mercilessly spend my fees paid out every evening…?
He spoke about mischiefs from his youth and Cetinje before the war, where his father was employed as district governor. He told us that the priest in the Church of St. Sava, while writing his baptizing certificate, omitted the letter J from his last name, so he became Vuisić, while the rest of his family was Vujisić.
– My father Mišo often came slightly intoxicated from the kafana. He’d sit at the table and fall asleep. I’d put on a white shirt, white cloth over my hand, tap him on his shoulder and yell:
”Closing time, sir!”
”How much do I owe you?” he asks raising his head.
”Five hundred dinars”, I say in a rough voice.
He takes out the money, my brother Dušan and I put him to bed and go out.
Ruso remembered Pavle’s clashes with fists, such as a fight with a certain Kokota, whom Pavle beat in front of a mass of people in the middle of Balšića Pazar.
People avoided Ruso because of his sharp tongue and affinity to use every possible opportunity to ”spit” on his ”comrades”.
– You were a tough communist, Tito’s youth – Pavle teased him.
– I remained the same. They betrayed the ideals about an equal and righteous society. Tito was a little emperor! – replied Ruso loudly.


Until that moment, I thought that my great-grandmother Ilinka was the only person in Montenegro who didn’t like Tito. Pavle didn’t like him either, despite the fact that he was the favorite actor of Josip Broz and his wife Jovanka. There is a story that he once asked for a blanket in a kafana to cover Broz’ picture on the wall.
Ruso used every opportunity to criticize his former comrades. He repeated every day that nudism will not be the privilege of the rich if the red bourgeoisie spreads quickly. It will be the privilege of the poor.
Pavle anticipated the upcoming time of general disrespect and that the masses will ”rather kiss the ass of the devil if it pays off, than pay respect to anyone”!
He used to say that everything is becoming more expensive and only man is becoming cheaper, and time has proven it. He will be remembered by his last will and visiting Tito in a Bermuda shorts, t-shirt and old slippers. The secret police, Udba, took him to the White Palace dressed like that, to a special projection of the Battle on the Neretva movie. They prepared a suit for him, but Pavle wouldn’t hear about it. There was a fierce argument in the wardrobe. Broz was passing by at the moment and suddenly opened the door to see what was going on. Everyone became silent!
Pavle asked Tito whether his drivers wore suits and ties in the war:
– I play driver Jordan in the movie and now I have to wear a suit!?
Tito put a hand around his shoulder and took him for a drink to the room next door. They say that Pavle always wanted to forget the encounter. He never spoke about it.


Last Will
”The last will of Pavle Vuisić, born from mother Radmila and father Mišo, who is writing this will with a clear mind and consciousness on the first day of November 1982. I’m leaving my wife Mirjana everything I have in the case I kick the bucket, whereas she should reasonably sell my or her property. If she is unable to dispose the property, only the court can do it. Mirjana, if she remains after me, should bury me with the rites of the Orthodox church, with six priests to be seen and heard above my body.
She should bury me in our tomb, I don’t want to hear a speech or anything similar. The six priests, who I want in spite of everyone, are to do what’s to be done on the tomb in silence.
They should sing silently. Since I want to die, why would I otherwise write this, I only want that no one is to say a single word or hold a speech, because otherwise I will turn in my grave, and not only turn, but rise from my grave to haunt them by night and fuck them and everyone else in the world.”


(God, Please)

God, please,
Let me die tonight,
God Almighty,
Do it
And be calm
I will pay
I know, you’re corrupted too.


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