Pankaj Tripathi gave it back with spunk and a punchline like few can, when an audience member at IFFI remarked how the actor can wear jeans but can’t speak English.
“You said one thing to me, that I wear jeans but don’t know English. I want to say, ‘Jis umar mein hum bhaasha seekhte hain, us umar mein mere paas jeans pehenne ka privilege nahi thha (‘In the age we learn language, in that age I was not privileged enough to wear jeans’),” Pankaj responded.
The actor, whose most recent works Mirzapur and Sacred Games have been widely lauded, reserved his comment till half an hour into the panel discussion on ‘Redefining Stories’ at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here on Thursday.
Pankaj was as humble as always — and chose to deal with his own “English Vinglish” moment in his inimitable style.
A debate of sorts ensued when an audience member urged the participants — Rahul Bose, Nila Madhab Panda, Divya Dutta, Rajshri Deshpande and Pankaj, apart from moderator Aseem Bajaj — to speak in English as it was an “international conference.
“Uska kya jisko English nahi aati,” Pankaj promptly asked.
Rahul took a dig at the situation saying: “I can speak in English, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi and Hindi. We can take a vote.”
An audience member said: “You are known by Hindi films, please talk in Hindi.”
The audience member who remarked against Pankaj, persisted: “No, no no.”
Bajaj asked him: “Do you understand Hindi?”
He said: “Not so well”.
Another audience member stood up saying: “I am from Korea, please speak in English.”
Bajaj then said: “Let’s keep it easy. We will talk in English”
Pankaj said: “If I say in Hindi, please translate it for those who can’t understand.”
The conversation went on largely in English, till Bajaj steered it to “Pankaj Babu” — as he lovingly calls the actor.
Pankaj said: “Sir kya karun main (what to do)… I am unable to talk or speak in English.
Still, the actor went on: “I am sitting here to tell you about ‘redefining stories’ to tell my stories… That in itself is redefining — that I am sitting here, and you’re listening to the stories.
“There’s not much to say. ‘Aap gaur se meri aankhon mein dekhenge na, toh saari kahaani maloom padh jaayegi. Main itna hi filmy hun’.”
Translating this for those wanting to hear him talk in English, Pankaj said: “Gaur se (Closely) look into my eyes, and you will know the story.”
It elicited laughter and claps.