"Baap re baap, ab itne log jaanne lag gaye hain," actor Pankaj Tripathi exclaims in acknowledgement of the love and praise he has received for his versatile roles across films and web series over the years. He says he is swarmed with good scripts, but doesn't have enough time to devote to all.
"People have really liked 'Mirzapur'. The public is giving a lot of love. Two years ago, I used to feel I have done so many films... who knows me. Now I wonder... Baap re baap, ab itne log jaanne lag gaye hain (so many people have started recognising me). I don't know what's happening. I am only doing my work with sincerity. Rest, I don't know what is happening," Pankaj told IANS here in his distinctive style.
From playing Sultan Qureshi in "Gangs of Wasseypur" to leading the cast of the film "Gurgaon" to playing pivotal roles in web series like "Sacred Games" and "Mirzapur" -- Pankaj's growth trajectory is a shining example of how character artistes are coming into their own with the changing landscape of Indian showbiz.
It is convenient to say he has almost become synonymous with gangster characters, but one cannot miss his roles in films like "Newton", "Bareilly Ki Barfi" and "Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain".
"I feel people want to watch crime stories and explore the genre, but honestly, I don't like a lot of 'khoon kharaba (bloodshed)'. Even in 'Mirzapur', I am not seen indulging in any bloodshed. Even in 'Gangs of Wasseypur', my character was brutal, but he was seen in shooting once or twice.
"Personally, I am not fond of brutal bloodshed scenes. I like simple, ordinary tales, but I think youth is liking such crime stories and so they are made," said Pankaj, who will be seen in "Sacred Games 2".
He will be seen in comedy and satirical films like "Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai" and "Luka Chhupi".
"There are so many offers, but I am booked till August. I'm getting some wonderful scripts in the independent cinema space, but there's no time.
"Either I am telling the filmmakers to wait for me...but nobody will wait for me till next year. Still, I am taking out time in between everything and managing what I can," the National School of Drama alumnus told IANS on the sidelines of the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
A National Award winner, Pankaj, who comes from Bihar, will also be seen as a flamboyant south Indian film star in Indrajit Lankesh's "Shakeela" and as a farmer in Satish Kaushik's "Kaagaz".
"There's not even a slap in the whole film 'Kaagaz'. It's a simple, ordinary tale and I like simplicity. I don't understand crime, but in that also if I get some interesting role with a layered character, then I get interested."
Citing the example of his "Mirzapur" character Kaleen Bhaiya, Pankaj said: "He creates a fear in your mind, but he doesn't do anything. He keeps sitting on a chair without saying much. In fact, he comes across as a caring father, a good husband and a son... So I enjoy doing such characters."
There is a lot that Pankaj adds to his roles, taking it beyond the written character.
"I do some writing in all my roles. There are small things that I improvise on. I read a lot, and travel a lot, so there is a reflection of that when I talk," he explained, adding that while improvisation is important tool for an actor to immerse himself or herself in a role, it is not something that all actors can do.
"If you have experience, if you are widely read and have lived life, then you can do it. Otherwise, for improvisation, your basics need to be very strong."
All in all, he says it is a "good phase" for him.
"I feel responsible and in every performance -- be it independent cinema or commercial cinema -- whatever kind of storytelling it may be, I try and engage the audience so that whoever is coming to watch the content, they are entertained.
"I try to entertain, but not with anything over-the-top... I believe I should bring a smile to people's face, and that's what I always attempt. That's why whether I work in the indie space or commercial cinema, the audience doesn't get disappointed as they find me entertaining. But my work is not just to entertain... It is also to say what the director and writer want to convey."