Pankaj Tripathi on reprising Guruji in Sacred Games 2: He has a crucial role to play in unravelling the mystery
Pankaj Tripathi talks about the intrigue around his role of Guruji, and how he prepared for arguably his toughest role yet, in Sacred Games Season 2.
Pankaj Tripathi was an organic addition to Netflix India Original Sacred Games. He is the only one who has worked with the two directors (Anurag Kashyap in Gangs of Wasseypur, and Neeraj Ghaywan in Masaan) and the lead writer Varun Grover (Masaan) but also lends his character of Guruji a requisite air of mystique and authenticity.
But he maintains that his past work experience as a pandit, and his origin in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh did not help his preparation much. "I have spent a lot of time in Varanasi (where a large chunk of Grover's stories are based) but most of my time was spent sitting on the banks of river Ganga, and staring into it. My time there did not help me much with decoding Varun Grover's writing. However, not just me, but anyone who listens to what he says through the character of Guruji, will agree with what he says in the show. Baat mei toh dum hai," says Pankaj Tripathi.
While he only had a small, fleeting role in Season 1, he claims he has a much more prominent role in Season 2, as the narrative progresses. His character of Guruji was strategically introduced in the third episode of Season 1, aptly titled 'Atapi Yatapi'. It refers to the tale in Hindu mythology in which a brother served the other brother in the form of food to his guests only for the latter to burst open their stomachs by returning to his original form, at the indication of his brother. Guruji narrates this tale in the third episode, which is poetic, since he seems to be doing the same, under the guise of religion and spirituality, with his disciples, particularly Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who refers to Guruji as his "teesra baap" (third father).
While Pankaj cannot reveal what he is up to in Season 2, he does confess Guruji is the character he has least meddled with in his entire career. "It was written very well. All his sermons had so much weightage. It was the rare instance when I had to conceal myself in a room at home to mug up all the lines as they are. Usually, I just tap into the essence of what I have to say, and the exact lines barely come out. But with this role, I had to ensure that I speak all the long sermons as they are, without changing even a word," says Pankaj.
He claims that his family did get disturbed initially since they were perturbed by why Pankaj had to seclude himself.
"As actors, we also need our time and space to crack a role. We're not always sure how we're going to pull off a certain role, especially with challenging characters like these," says Pankaj, reassuring that in Season 2, he will descend to the city and engage with people in disguise.
Pankaj confirms that he was always aware of the complete graph of his character when he was approached for the role by Netflix before Season 1. As Kashyap claims in an interview to Firstpost, the 'sacred' part of Sacred Games will be introduced in Season 2. Pankaj claims he will have a huge role to play in bringing that 'sacred' aspect to the fore. "Naturally, Season 1 left a lot of unanswered questions. As the plot gets more pacier, those questions will now be answered in Season 2."
Season 1 focused more on Ganesh Gaitonde. His entire track was personality-driven as Kashyap presented Siddiqui in all his signature glory of a gangster. As Tripathi's role gets bigger in Season 2, he shares a lot of scenes with Gaitonde. However, the fact that two seasoned actors were sharing the frame, and are presumably both playing villains, never bothered him as an artist. "Main uss sab ke pare hu (I am beyond the insecurity). He's my senior."
Coming directly from the shoot of Kabir Khan's sports drama 83, where he plays then Indian coach Man Singh, his vocabulary is clear filled with cricket references. "What's important is that we both participate in the match. It's not important who wins," he says, on a concluding note.
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