At his masterclass on acting, The Craft of Cinema – Character Development, at the 53rd edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Pankaj Tripathi told the audience, “Main khud cinema ka student hoon. Main masterclass kaise le sakta hoon.” He shared his journey from the time of appearing in just a single scene and being a supporting actor to becoming a household name.
Pankaj Tripathi: An OTT favourite with international reach
From Madhav Mishra in Criminal Justice, Kaleen Bhaiya in Mirzapur to Khanna Guruji in Sacred Games – Pankaj Tripathi seems to be present on every OTT platform. He said, “Mujhe log bolte hain OTT kholo to tum hi dikhte ho.”
Gaurav Gandhi, Vice President of Prime Video India, who was interviewing Pankaj at the session, said, “You are not just the king of Mirzapur now, you are the king of every streaming service,” and when someone from the audience asked Pankaj about doing international projects, Gaurav Gandhi pointed out that streaming services are available across the world. He said, “Pankaj Tripathi is not just a superstar in India, but he is an international superstar.”
Sharing about the moment when he realised that he has now become famous, Pankaj said, “For the longest time, I had no idea about my popularity. I didn’t know for years that I have become popular. When I was in Glasgow and Scotland and people came up to me, I realised that I have become popular. I used to shoot all 30 days and never used to go to public spaces, so I had no idea that I was popular.”
Students of several universities from the audience told Pankaj Tripathi that it is impossible to miss his presence in a frame.
‘Acting training helps in performance not in getting cast’
Does formal training help one in landing a role? “It helps after you get cast, with your performance. Acting training helps in enhancing your performance. I was watching an old video of mine, and I realised how bad I was. I kept working on my craft even after National School of Drama (NSD). Whatever I am doing in daily life, I keep thinking about how to improve my work and I keep observing people around me, and when I see any interesting trait in any person, I make a mental note to include that trait in some character at some point,” Pankaj added.
Pankaj Tripathi told the audience that for him, getting into a character is about the physicality and the psychological aspect. He shared an instance of how his character of Kriti Sanon’s father in Bareilly Ki Barfi used to move his neck to create comic situations.
From Sultan Qureshi in Gangs of Wasseypur to Bareilly Ki Barfi and the doting father in Gunjan Saxena – when it came to the requests of delivering dialogues of his iconic roles, the attendees who requested him to say a dialogue ended up delivering it with him and Pankaj had to pause multiple times and say, “Arey ab to tum hi bol diye ho, hum kya bolein.”
He said that he had no idea how iconic the nod of Mirzapur and ‘prabhandh karte hain’ became a meme. “In NSD, we were trained to deliver the most through the minimum. I believe in the economy of gestures. Mujhe bhi nahi pata tha ki woh meme ban jayega. Aaj ki audience aware hoti hai – itne creative hote hain log kisi ne woh meme bana diya,” the actor elaborated.
Throughout the conversation, Pankaj Tripathi underplayed his intense hard work that went behind in making of the actor that he is, but toward the end he said – aaj jo main yahan masterclass mein baith ke pravachan de raha hoon aur aap sab sune ja rahe hain, bohot tapa hoon main.”
‘Pehla break sote hue mila’
Someone needed an actor for a comedy role, and he was told that there is a really good actor. I was sleeping in my hostel when he came to me. Main so raha tha aur utha kar casting ho gayi. Uske baad jaga raha aath (eight) saal tak aur casting hi na ho. Pehla break sote hue mila aur aath saal ka break ho gaya.
‘Jis actor ke aath saal casting nahi hui, aaj uske pass 4-5 franchise hein’
Main toh OTT pe bhi series kar raha hoon aur filmon mein bhi series kar raha hoon. Fukrey 3 kar raha hoon aur Stree 2 kar raha hoon. Mera bahut two-three chal raha hai jeevan mein. Jis actor ki aath saal casting nahi hui uske pas chaar paanch franchise hai. Ye jeevan hai. Ye main apni tareef mein nahi bola, ummeed mein bola ki kisi ke saath bhi ho sakta hai.
Character ko prepare karne mein 15-20 din lag sakte hain, actor banne mein saal
Acting natural dikhti hai, hoti nahi hai. Internal and external training is required. Kisi character ko prepare karne mein 15-20 din lagte hain lekin actor ke craft mein kai saal. You were asking me what I did during my lull phase of life? I was preparing. An actor is never unemployed. When you don’t have work as an actor, you are not unemployed; that is your golden time to work on your craft.
‘I look for entertaining roles with a subtext of a social message’
With popularity, I feel I need to be more careful in the selection of my scripts. I now look for roles that have some social message or subtext. I feel it is my responsibility to do so. Black and white ko perform karna asaan hai, grey ko perform karne pe actor ka pata chalta. Hum sab grey hain.