Pankaj Tripathi is truly one of the finest gems of Bollywood. He has created a niche for himself in the industry and is at the top of his game currently with projects like Gunjan Saxena, Mirzapur 2, Ludo and more rolling out amidst the pandemic. He is soon to be seen in Criminal Justice and Shakeela that also stars Richa Chadha. Here's him getting candid about how he wants his year 2021 to be. Read on.
While Covid played havoc with the rest of the world, you went through an extended period of success in 2020 with Gunjan Saxena, Mirzapur 2, Ludo and Shakeela?
And there will be one more Criminal Justice 2 before the year ends. In it, I play one of my most layered interesting character. So yes, it’s quite a lot for one year. It’s not as though I was slogging throughout the year. On the contrary, I was home with my wife and children for the first time for so long. For this, I am grateful to Covid.
So all the 2020 releases were shot earlier?
Jee haan. Most of it was shot in 2019 and released in 2020. I was happy to have such a variety of roles to express myself as an actor. There was a time when I only hoped to get work, good bad or indifferent. Now I’m getting only good work. I came to Mumbai only to make acting commercially viable for me. I had a family to look after. Bills had to be paid. For this, I had to find a way to make acting payable. Otherwise I’d be happy doing theatre in Patna all my life.
Which among your 2020 roles was your favourite?
I invest myself equally in all roles. Chahe woh bada ho ya chota achcha ya bura, I don’t judge my characters. But yes , Shakeela is different. I get to play a superstar from the South, based on no one in particular. I’ve always wanted to play a star on screen. Actors wear so many masks all the time they forget who they really are. I don’t want to be one of those actors. I make every effort to stay grounded. I don’t get impressed easily by any actor, and that includes myself. But yes, my character Madhav Mishra in Criminal Justice is special.
Mirzapur became controversial for its filthy language and trigger-happy characters. Did you feel that the series was unnecessarily lurid?
Like I said, I don’t judge my characters. But I agree with you ,there is no need to go overboard. Filthy language is not the only way to get noticed. If you noticed, among all the characters in Mirzapur my character Kaleen Bhaiyya uttered the least number of gaalis. This is not to say I am distancing myself from the content. I stand by my projects no matter how they are received. But let me tell, I am changing my strategy as an actor now. I am no longer playing aggressive violent characters for some time. No gangster character and crime thrillers in 2021.
You mean to say the characters we will see you play in 2021 are not unduly empowered?
In fact, they are more disempowered non-entities than anything. My lawyer’s character Madhav Mishra in Criminal Justice is such a sad sack. He is constantly seeking to assert himself, place himself above the inconsequential space allotted to him by life. For a change, I don’t act as Madhav Mishra. I behave. That is to say I remain in character throughout not resorting to histrionics to get noticed. I am happy to tell you we have some significant new actors on board like Ashish Vidyarthi and Deepti Naval.
Do you feel an added sense of responsibility towards your fans after 2020?
It’s been a process of growth as an actor. Now I’ve reached a stage where people tell me they stop watching a trailer after I’ve appeared in it and that they make note to see a film or series that features me in the cast. It does put a huge responsibility on me. Izzat banaane mein saalon lag jaate hai, gawaane mein ek pal lagta hai(it takes years to gain respect and a moment to lose it).
Image Source: Instagram/pankajtripathi
Image Source: Instagram/pankajtripathi