National Award-winning actor Pankaj Tripathi, in a conversation with IANS on the occasion of his birthday, looks back at his journey and three projects of his career so far that are very close to his heart.
Born and brought up in Belsand village in Gopalganj district in Bihar, Pankaj shared how nobody in his family and neighbourhood ever imagined that he would become famous as an actor or even travel to any international destination beyond Nepal.
Pankaj Tripathi told IANS: “I remember it was my sister’s wedding when an astrologer said to me in front of everyone, as all family members gathered during the wedding – that I will travel the world and I will be into a profession that will allow me to earn money and respect. My family members thought that would be so great, as we come from a humble background.”
“They thought maybe I will get a job and go to Nepal because it is an international destination and many people from our village have gone to Nepal as workers. They thought if I become chef, I will work in a hotel, the big hotel will pay me a handsome amount and that will serve everything, financial security as well as a steady, happy family life.”
He continued, “(Laughs) Nobody, and honestly speaking including me, ever imagined that I will get so much love and appreciation from audience and critics alike. I know, now, those memories sound like folklore but I still count myself as a very fortunate person because many talented people take 10 years just to meet the right person at the right time. It has happened to me as well.”
Starting his career in 2004, Pankaj went through hard times and did television shows, before getting his breakthrough in cinema.
When we asked to choose his most favourite three works so far, Pankaj shared the best memories behind them that made these projects all so special.
It was a television series aired on Sony Entertainment Television in 2010. The series was a crime thriller and Pankaj played the character of Naved Ansari, a drug kingpin of Mumbai. He said, “Back in those days, a show that unveils the dark side of the world of business, drugs, etc. was not made in our TV or cinema as it is today. My character Naved was really appreciated by critics and members of our fraternity. I was noticed by other actors and they started getting to know that I exist because that I was just struggling to get acting jobs.”
However, Pankaj when he looks back feel he could do the role of Naved better now.
“I come from a theatre background so I did not have much experience of the camera and how we create a cinematic moment through performance. Of course, acting is acting but few things need to be finetuned depending on the medium. That time, I was quite raw, now I can do the same character differently because I have experience in cinema,” he said.
Directed by Shanker Raman the film revolves around the story of Kehri Singh, a business tycoon. Recalling that phase of his life, Pankaj Tripathi said, “Back then in 2017, in my career I was going through so much uncertainty. Quite interestingly my character Kehri also has an arch from zero to a rich businessman, who became abusive, alcoholic etc. Our director Shankar sir was a wise man who told me, ‘Pankaj the script is your map, now you build the character.’ That made me invest my mind to the whole process of making it. But it was tough for me because the character ages within the film and I did not have that much experience in life.”
He then gave himself another challenge.
“I thought how about using the minimalistic use of craft, be it dialogue delivery, body language and every other tool of an actor that we use in theatre and make it a very internal performance? I think that worked in favour of the character,” Pankaj shared.
Released in 2017 the film was directed by Amit Masurkar featuring – Rajkummar Rao, Anjali Patil and Raghubir Yadav. The film was an Indian entry to the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Talking about the film, Pankaj said, “When the offer of the film came to me, I was working for a TV series. It was quite a monotonous life where I would pack my lunch, go to the TV show set, shoot the whole day, eat my food, come back home exhausted and go to sleep. I was emotionally feeling down. So, when ‘Newton’ came to me, while I liked the character Atman Singh, I was mainly excited because, for 40 days, the film will be shot outdoor, under the open sky! That whole feeling of breathing fresh air instead of shooting in a closed place was so so refreshing.”
Eventually, Pankaj Tripathi along with the director Amit and screenplay writer, changed the character of Atman Singh from a cynical government officer to slightly more enjoyable to watch, and more humane.
“Of course I did not know back then that my dialogues will turn into memes like ‘Main Likh Ke Deta Hoon…Koi Nahi Aayega’ (Laughs) but the whole idea was to make the character more humane. Atman Singh is a government officer who is doing his duty in a conflict zone, so it is only natural that there will be certain bitterness in him. But he also has a family and children. So I changed and treated the character with little more compassion,” Pankaj shared.
The actor will be seen in upcoming films ’83’ and ‘Bachchan Pandey’.