In the series titled First of Many, the who’s who of the industry will revisit their first acting project. They will reveal how they landed the role and what was their experience on the first day of shoot.
Pankaj Tripathi has become a name to reckon with in Bollywood. The maverick actor makes it a point to leave an imprint on every project he becomes a part of. His recent appearances in films like Stree and Luka Chuppi, along with web shows Sacred Games and Mirzapur, have proved his acting mettle.
But success didn’t come easy to Tripathi. The actor who has been vocal about his struggles and journey prefers to stay rooted and upfront about his humble beginnings. While studying at the National School of Drama, back in early 2000s, Tripathi did some uncredited cameos in films. And to begin with, his first happened in Bollywood movie Run.
Pankaj Tripathi also simultaneously shot for a Kannada film titled Chigurida Kanasu. This along with Lakshya, where his role was ultimately edited out. He says, “Don’t feel let down because of a failure. That’s a preparation for a bigger success.”
But to start off, how did Tripathi land his debut role in 2004 film Run?
Here’s what he said:
1. What was your first acting project and how did the role come to you?
My first chapter in Hindi films began with Run. This was in 2003-04. It was just sometime before passing out from NSD. I was sleeping in my hostel. Suddenly, someone came and announced that there was a requirement of an actor for 2 scenes. I asked whether they will pay me. I think I got Rs 4000 for a day. I did 2 scenes for 2 days. In fact, it’s not even my voice in the final product. I used to live in Delhi back then, so they got someone else to dub for me in Run.
So, in my first film, I neither had my own voice, nor my character had any name. It was all untitled.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
My first scene was with Vijay Raaz. When I was in my hostel that day, I didn’t know that I’ll be a part of a film in the next 20 minutes. A senior of mine or someone from the film’s crew came looking for me actually. He asked the guard if there was any actor around. The guard mentioned about me. He said, “There’s a guy sleeping there. His name is Pankaj Tripathi. He does good comedy.” So that’s how I got Run. I shot for it for two days and earned some money.
I remember the Rs 8000 cheque I received had the signature of Sridevi. She was the producer of Run. I never got to meet her, though I was her fan. I told her daughter Janhvi the same during the shooting of Gunjan Saxena biopic recently. Janhvi and I share a great rapport. She even comes to my home at times. So, one day I told her about the cheque signed by her mother. Either ‘Sridevi Productions’ was written on it or had Sridevi’s signature. I don’t even remember well. It is such an old story. But she was definitely the producer.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
Nothing was going on in my mind. I have never been influenced by cinema. Today I know more about it, how big cinema is and how things can be conveyed through this medium. That time I was unaware. All I knew was cinema meant Mithun Chakraborty in Dalaal, Chandaal… all these kind of films which I saw in my village.
So, there wasn’t any nervousness as such. But yes, when I saw the film camera for the first time, it had a huge lens. Before that I had only seen a video camera, and this one had a giant lens. So, I asked a camera assistant what is the cost. You feel the fear when you know how big something is.
I remember I also shot for a Kannada film called Chigurida Kanasu around the same time. It was directed by Nagabharana. I played the friend of the main hero (Shivarajkumar). We shot in Benaras for 3-4 days. I could barely understand what was happening and what I was doing. We had a senior from Karnataka. The film’s director came to Delhi, as they had to shoot in Benaras. He told my senior that we need some Hindi actors to play friends. My friend came to me and said let’s visit Benaras. My scenes were that of taking boat rides on Ganga with the hero, riding a cycle in the BHU campus, laughing, clapping… like the typical friend of a hero, who helps the hero look good. They have to laugh at every joke cracked by him, even if you find it funny or not.
4. Who were your co-stars in Run? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
I knew Vijay Raaz from before. I had seen his plays. So ,when I got to know he was also there in the same scene, I told him I do theatre too. We did our scene together and I left. Later in the day, I saw him at the NSD campus hostel. I tried to hide because I still had few months left for the completion of my course. I knew him as a very good theatre actor but we didn’t really interact much on the set. He did his scene and left.
We did meet several times later but we never spoke about that scene from Run ever. I never told him that my beginning in Hindi cinema was in a scene with him.
5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
I won’t like to better anything. I believe whatever happens, happens for good.
I’ll share something interesting. I also did Lakshya, again around the same time. In fact, the first time I gave an audition was for Lakshya. I was cast for the role of a character named Subedar Kuldeep Singh. I visited Leh-Laddakh for the first time during its shooting only. Before the release of the film, I was in Patna. While talking to one of my media friends there, I randomly mentioned that I am a part of it. He got excited and asked more details. I told him about my role and about my scenes with Hrithik (Roshan). Next day news was out in the Hindustan newspaper in Patna with the headline “Lakshya mein dikhega Bihar ka laal” along with a small picture of mine. Then I went to watch Lakshya at Ashok cinema hall there along with my wife. The entire film got over and I was nowhere to be seen. My agony doubled, not because I have been edited out, but because this news had already been published in the newspaper. I was so tensed up. If the news wasn’t out, I wouldn’t have felt so much pressure. I thought now whoever will read it will take me as a liar, since I work in a medium which has lie as its base – we have fake son, fake mother, fake relationships, fake stories… But I try my best to make it look real.
I never asked Farhan Akhtar about it. While working on Super 30, Hrithik and I did have a small chat on it. Hrithik asked me whether Super 30 was our second film or the third one. He only remembered Agneepath. I reminded him of Lakshya too.
6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
I never thought of acting in films. I did theatre and I loved it. But since there is very little money in theatre, hence, I came to Mumbai for survival. I thought I will be able to run my family and household well here. But there were no plans of acting or to prove anything. Like everyone works for a living, I did the same.