Actor Pankaj Tripathi has created a place for himself in the film industry after struggling for many years. The actor, who is a darling of critics and audiences alike was in a candid mood during his Masterclass on Acting at the ongoing 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Goa. On playing characters that are drastically different from his real self, the versatile actor said, “I like to do both kinds of roles. After doing a challenging role, I feel like doing a role that is in my comfort zone and vice versa. I watch my performances sometimes in bits and pieces. I can identify my mistakes and how I could have done them better when watching scenes from my films/series.”
But acting wasn’t the only profession that Tripathi was fancying. He had medicine and politics also on his mind. He said, “I had the option to become a farmer because that’s what generations before me in my family used to do. But because that was anyway an option, I kept farming as the last option. I could have become a priest too. There was a time when I wanted to become a doctor or a political leader as well. I was part of the student union and have been to jail too. The acting wasn’t my first or only choice. Acting came to my mind after graduation.”
Pankaj was asked if he’s looking to work in Hollywood or any of the South film industries. He explained, “While language is not a barrier for me, I prefer Hindi cinema. It’s because I am comfortable with Hindi, main uss language ko samajhta hoon, uski bhavnaon ko, nuances ko behtar samajhta hoon. Forget Hollywood, I get offers from Telugu and Malayalam filmmakers but I feel I won’t be able to do justice to those films because I won’t be able to speak the language. I won’t be able to bring out the feeling. Having said that, if someone can write a Hindi-speaking character for me, then I am open to working in any language film.” He confessed that his commitments in Hindi keep him away from exploring other opportunities, “To be honest, I have so many opportunities from Hindi projects that I don’t find the time to consider Hollywood or other language films.”
Those present in the audience asked him about his preference in acting techniques and he said, “I don’t follow any one school. I read them all and I assimilate and find my own method. I like the Chekhov method a lot. I’ve been reading Meisner as well. I’ve been reading about Method acting. So there are a lot of different influences on my approach.” He also cited influences from back home. He revealed, “I follow Prasanna sir (popular theatre guru and activist) as well. I’ve been in touch with him on WhatsApp on a daily basis.”
Tripathi became a household name after his portrayal of Kaleen Bhaiya in the Prime Video series Mirzapur. The actor who has recently shot for the third season of the popular series talked about his trademark neck movement in the show. He said, “We didn’t know while shooting Mirzapur that the neck movement would become so popular and memes would be made on that. Our teacher used to say ‘Throw minimum, create maximum’. An actor must know the economy of gestures. An actor should not waste gestures. That nod or neck movement was a small thing but it got noticed. It would not have gotten noticed 10-15 years ago in the Indian acting arena.”
But when did he get his first break as an actor? Tripathi chuckled and said, “I was sleeping in a hostel. An actor who was supposed to do a role didn’t show up for a shoot. I knew someone who was part of that shoot. That person suggested my name to do that comic part. I was sleeping and he woke me up and told me that I should do the part. That’s how I got my first acting break – when I was asleep. But after that, I spent 8 years asking for work but never got cast in a notable role.”
Tripathi also revealed that he played quite a few parts in films here and there which got deleted in the final edit. Then he joked that all those scenes were collected to make Kaleen Bhaiya in Mirzapur.