Pankaj Tripathi is another theatre graduate who has cemented his place in the Hindi film industry after toiling for more than a decade. The National School of Drama (NSD) graduate, who has delivered impressive performances in films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Masaan and Nil Battey Sannata, said coming from theatre, Bollywood was always about survival for him.
“I didn’t come in the industry to change anything. I came here only to survive. I had done plays and Hindi theatre pays peanuts. For a married man with a family, I had to survive first. I would do one-scene roles at the time.
“And now work is seeking me. I can afford to choose parts today. This has not been handed over to me by anyone. I have bled drop-by-drop, like water seeps from a vessel,” Tripathi told PTI in an interview. It is certainly a good time for the actor as four of his films — Gurgaon, Munna Michael, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton — are ready to hit the screen. Tripathi is looking forward to the role of Kehri Singh, a farmer-turned-real-estate-tycoon in the Shanker Raman-directed Gurgaon.
“I play a father in the film who is close to his daughter. It is a very internalised performance. It is a layered character with lots of complexities. Kehri is no saint but I always try to find the humanity in the character no matter how dark it is. I am really looking forward to the film.”
Quoting Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics, “Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai”, Pankaj said an actor becomes more internal as an individual if he has faced struggle or has achieved what he/she set out for. “I think we also get tired. Sometimes a vacuum develops when we have nothing to lose. Reach the top or perish while struggling are two quite similar situations.”
As a character artiste, Tripathi said he had less chance of being rejected by the audience than the main lead. “I was offered 10 Sultan Qureshi-type roles after Gangs of Wasseypur. But I did not want to repeat that as I have little fear of being rejected by the people.
“We have freedom to experiment as an artiste – unlike lead heroes. I never became a hit, so naturally I will never flop. We can strike a balance between commercial and indie cinema. Big films help your reach a wider audience and doing independent films keeps your artistic side happy.” Tripathi said striking this balance was important as an actor because mainstream cinema helps indie films stay afloat.
“If commercial cinema won’t be there, independent films won’t be able to survive. Multiplexes will become banquet halls. Cinema is like a temple.” Tripathi said even if the content was serious and message-driven, the storytellers could not shirk their responsibility to deliver an entertaining plot.
“There’s a fine line between being effortless and bloodless. Roles that I do are entertaining, they have ‘ras’. I don’t do boring roles in the name of realist or truthful cinema. I want the stories that I do to be interesting for the audience too.” The Shanker Raman-directed film, also starring Akshay Oberoi and Ragini Khanna, releases on August 4 with Shah Rukh Khan-Anushka Sharma starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal.
Tripathi, who worked with Shah Rukh in Dilwale, is not worried about the film clashing with the superstar’s project. “Clash is when the fight is between equals. I want Shah Rukh’s film to go houseful so that ones who don’t get tickets will end up watching our film.”