Pankaj Tripathi speaks to DARPAN about his journey, life after Covid-19, and nepotism in the industry.
Pankaj Tripathi is no ordinary man. He entered the movie business in 2003 but it took nine years for him to get his break with Gangs of Wasseypur. After which there was no turning back for the actor who has become a must-add ingredient in every movie. His popularity went multifold with his role as Guruji in Sacred Games and Akhandanand "Kaleen" Tripathi in Mirzapur- both web series.
The actor has important roles in upcoming movies like 83, Ludo, and Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. Pankaj Tripathi speaks about his journey, life after Covid-19, and nepotism in the industry.
How has the lock-down changed you?
I am getting to spend a lot of time with my family which I was not getting to do previously thanks to crazy shooting. I spend a lot of time with my daughter. I also cook, maybe once or twice a week, and make simple North Indian dishes like dal-chawal, sabzi, etc. I think I will be a changed man after this. If someone doesn't see a change in them, if the pandemic has not changed you internally, there's a lot of thinking you need to do. I personally feel much closer to nature.
What’s the future of Bollywood especially after the lockdown? Is OTT the new way out for moviemakers?
I truthfully don't go beyond my acting profession. I finish acting, come home, don’t attend parties, and I am no trade expert. I don't know about the business part of things. But I guess OTT has paved way for makers to reach the audience. People are constantly looking for new content and with OTT they get it, albeit it is no match to community viewing.
We have seen you do comedy and crime. But what’s your favorite genre?
I do a lot of crime but don’t advocate it on or off-screen. I never understood how people enjoyed watching movies showing cars flying. I like social dramas - life se relatable. I like a slice of life kind of movies that entertain but also teach an important lesson about life. I look for dialogues in movies, not shouting and violence. I, however, noticed that mainstream movies don’t do much about rural genre. 70% of India’s population is on farming yet no stories about village life have come to the big screen in a long time.
How do you make every character relatable? Do you follow a process?
Everyone is a method actor- whether your method works or not tells you how successful you are! Everyone has their own way of doing things. I am from drama school and a trained actor, so I do have a process. But my thing is I don't get too involved. I let things take an organic route and don’t go to the set with a preconceived notion. Sometimes, two days after starting the shoot, I get a breakthrough with the character and I understand it fully. The thing is, it took me 20 years to get prepared to be an actor. That itself is a long process. The thing with acting is you need to make it look like it is happening for the first time even though you took 20 retakes for the shot. Personally, I find it difficult to maintain continuity which is why my editors get super irritated with me.
Is Extraction your gateway to Hollywood?
I was told that Russo Brothers are big, and my role as a guest appearance. I saw it as a good opportunity, a scene that sees impact throughout the movie. I would be glad if I get offers but that’s not my goal. I honestly, got into acting to enjoy getaways and go on vacations, while someone else is spending cash on you. I don't take acting too seriously. I just want to have fun. But your movies have a lot of impact on the society…
I agree but I can't change the world with my acting. I know movies have a social impact which is why I sometimes add satirical lines to my dialogues. In Stree, there's a dialogue, "woah purush nahi hai ki jabardasti karegi. Woah stree hai, pehle tumse tumhara naam poochegi," This one line changed the view towards the movie. I believe a doctor can save a dying man, but an artist can save a dying society.
You don’t seem to market yourself enough. Do you agree?
I don’t need to market things. I don't need gym shots and the airport looks to be closer to the audience. I want to be memorable, not popular. My acting will do the marketing, I don’t need special tactics. I am not saying this with arrogance but with confidence. I come from the school of thought where I believe an actor needs thought building more than body building. Tell us about your upcoming movies.
I play PR Man Singh, the manager of the Indian cricket team during the 83 win. I met the man in Hyderabad, and it was a delight playing this role. I also have Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, a sweet and emotional movie. Then I have Kaagaz based on a real-life story about a man who was declared dead when alive. He fought for 18 years to prove that he is still alive. This one was super interesting to me. Post-production is on for Mirzapur 2 and I cannot reveal much about Ludo, but the movie is unique and will be relatable with the audience.
What is your take on nepotism? Have you experienced it?
I have never experienced it. Nepotism comes into picture when a hero or a heroine needs to be launched. If someone not-so-talented is launched, they would maximum have a three-movie run and then face disappointment I never got launched. You need a new term for us (character artistes as they call us). I have a problem with that word. All actors in a movie are paying a character, not just character artistes. That word screams hierarchy, like the side actors, are next in line. Every actor is important for the movie. I have realized that people suddenly wake up and ask for equality then forget all about it. It is the way society works.
What do you have to tell those who are struggling to make a mark in the industry, with the recent events in Bollywood?
It is very important. We keep ignoring but if you are coming into cinema, or any other field for that matter, a farmer, teacher - everyone faces it. You must be strong, and this world will trouble you no matter what. You won't get everything in life and that’s a fact. You need to look at the positives in life than the negatives that are the way of life.