Pankaj Tripathi on Mirzapur 2, upcoming work and his meteoric rise: 'I haven’t taken a day off in two years'
'I love playing all kinds of characters. It is just like how after having something salty you feel like having something sweet. It should not be one type of character. If I play a serious role then I would love to do a light-hearted role.'
Pankaj Tripathi has been fleshing out a wide array of challenging characters over the last few years. After passing out of the National School of Drama (NSD), Tripathi came to Mumbai in 2004, but it was not until Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Fukrey (2013) that he truly got noticed. Since then, there has been no stopping his meteoric rise.
Be it the revenge hungry butcher in Gangs of Wasseypur, or the railway clerk in Masaan, godman Guruji of Sacred Games, comic character Rudra in horror-comedy Stree, or even Kaleen Bhaiyya of Amazon Prime Video crime thriller series Mirzapur, with one terrific performance after another, it’s said, the National award-winning actor has now become what potato is among vegetables—you can put him with any combination and he will nevertheless steal the show.
Despite a hectic schedule, the much-feted actor is in no hurry. As he says, "Itminaan wala aadmi hoon (I am a relaxed person)."
Tripathi brings the same unhurried approach to his rustic Mirzapur character, the UP-based crime lord, one among the many landmark roles that has given him huge popularity. "I'm someone who likes to do things at a slow pace so I am able to bring a 'thehrav' to the character,” says Tripathi in a chat with Firstpost. Excerpts:
What is new to your character Kaleen Bhaiyya in the second season? Has it undergone any change?
There are no changes in my character as such, it is just that unki mahatvakanksha badal gayee hai (His ambitions have changed). In this season there is politics as well. The field, the maidaan has become much bigger and now he is taking an active interest in politics. The character’s complex has increased, his challenges and competition has increased. It will be sharper and much more polished than the previous season. Overall the plot has grown wider.
Your character, on one hand, is shrewd, conniving, and conspiratorial, and on the other hand, there’s a humane side to him. How did you approach it?
Yes, his concern for his son, his respect for his father, respect for women..shows his humane side. Kaleen bhaiyya understands relationships. On the surface he is not bad. He is soft-spoken, he doesn’t scream and shout. Just that his business is dangerous. Actually, I play my characters with the hope that they are good somewhere, or they can change for the better. So I try to bring certain humanity and hope in all my characters.
Isn’t it interesting to play a calm and quiet villain unlike in the past where the villains would be loud and stereotypical?
To some extent our own personality does enter the character’s personality. I have some thehrav in my own personality and that can be seen in Kaleen bhaiyya. I love such characters because I am a contemporary actor, an actor from the new world, the naya zamana. I have taken training from a drama school. So we always do prayaas (endeavour) to make sure that the character has different layers and is not stereotyped. It should not be one-dimensional and only then a character becomes interesting and the audience enjoys it.
What do you think has worked for Mirzapur so much so that people were eagerly waiting for season 2?
Usually, every month there are new stories, new content coming out and despite that, remembering a show for two years is itself a great achievement. People loved the story and characters and that is why they remembered the show.
Did you take some time to understand the world of Mirzapur?
I am familiar with this world, I know this world and hence it's easy for me to play this part. I used to be in student politics while in college. I have also read a lot of books and satire about politics. I know the language, I have seen such people around me and I know their thinking.
Tell us about your co-actors, how was it working with Ali Fazal, Divyendu Sharma, Rasika Dugal..?
I really enjoyed working with each one of them. They are very professional, sincere, hardworking, and passionate about their work. They keep trying something new. I also learnt a lot from them. I would hear their stories, their experiences and that was an enriching process. Also, I always make the atmosphere on sets light with jokes, stories and I have many tales to narrate.
You have had eight to nine releases including movies and web series since 2017 and you had said that post-2020 you will take it a bit easy..
Yes. People keep chasing me with good offers and there are so many stories to tell but there are only 365 days in a year. But the kind of love I have gotten from the industry and people is heart-warming. But yes, I want to go a bit slow now. I want to take care of my health. I will do less work now, I have done quite a bit in the last few years. For the last two years I haven’t taken a single day off.
In that case you must be refusing many offers, do you feel bad saying no to filmmakers?
Yes, absolutely, I do feel bad when I refuse roles, it is very difficult for me to say no to films. But time is an issue for me. Already my 2021 is packed, I have committed myself. But it is all so strange. I have been searching and waiting for 12 long years in Mumbai [for this kind of busy work] and now that I am getting so many opportunities, I can’t take all of them.
You are seen in both, serious as well as comic form, what do you enjoy the most?
I love playing all kinds of characters. It is just like how after having something salty you feel like having something sweet. It should not be one type of character. If I play a serious role then I would love to do a light-hearted role. But I like playing positive characters like Anup Saxena in the recently released Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. I like playing simple day to day life characters because I am also a simple person at heart. I don’t like playing powerful characters. But otherwise as an actor I will have to do all kinds of roles, so we explore and try to look convincing.
Do you improvise on set?
Yes, of course, I think every actor does that. From our experiences in life we often add on provided the director allows us to do. In the second season of Mirzapur, I have added a few lines in a couple of scenes which are more satirical and something that enhances the scene. But otherwise, I trust my directors and surrender to them.
There’s has been an emergence of OTT platforms in a big way. But does theatre and the big screen excite you more?
For me, it is only acting that is important, that is what I enjoy the most and it is not about which platform. Of course, the big screen has its charm, you are watching in a community and OTT is private viewing that you watch alone. There is a difference when you are sitting in a dark, closed hall watching a film with over 200 strangers, but for me acting is important. For viewers, it might be a different experience but not for us actors. .
Can you tell us about your forthcoming films?
There is Kabir Khan’s ’83, I will be seen in the role of Man Singh, manager of 1983 World Cup-winning cricket team. It is an extremely interesting part. It is a very different character I enjoyed playing and I really want to see what people think about it. Then, there is Anurag Basu’s Ludo, Satish Kaushik’s Kaagaz and there are a few more I don’t remember now. I forget my own films (laughs).
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