Sultan, Akele Din Ke 60 Bhainse Kaatata Tha (Sultan used to butcher 60 buffaloes a day).” This dialogue from Gangs of Wasseypur introduced Pankaj Tripathi in the film. His amazing performance in that role imprinted the character in our minds. The brutal nature of Sultan had a very lasting effect on everyone.Pankaj Tripathi_Gang of Wasseypur_Masaan_Dilwale_Nil Battey Sannata_Bollywoodirect_Actor_Interview_Photo_Sultan_Sadhya Ji

You would not believe that this was the man who played that role once you speak to Pankaj Tripathi in real. A sober man, with a simple lifestyle, satisfied in his own world with all that he has got till now in his career.

Bollywoodirect brings you the most honest interview you would ever read. Pankaj Tripathi, who has done some pivotal roles in Masaan, Dilwale, Gangs of Wasseypur talks about his life, his frustrations, his love for acting, his village and his upcoming film Nil Battey Sannata.

Q: Not many know that you were the one who made Vijay Raaz jump into the sewage in the film Run. It was your first film and such a small role. You have come along a long way since then. Tell us about this journey of yours?

A: It is better if a lesser number of people know about that particular role in the film (laughs). As far as the journey is concerned, it has been a very interesting one. It is not very easy to enter Bollywood from the place where I come. It is not impossible but not easy as well.  I had no such dream to become an actor or enter the world of cinema. 

After passing 10th, I went to Patna and started doing theatre. I was enjoying what I was doing. So, I thought I should convert this into my profession. It was in Patna that the acting bug bit me and I decided to become an actor. So, it was a small dream and I did whatever I could do to achieve it. I went to National Drama School after that. Then, to Mumbai.

Q: Nobody in your family was in this field. Explain how acting came into your life?

A: In my village, there is a festival called Chatth celebrated every year and there was a tradition of staging a drama during that time. I used to do some small roles in those plays. My brothers forced me into one of the plays to say just one line. I remember my first dialogue in the play. I was only 10 years old and it was a bit cheesy dialogue. The 10-year-old had to go his Sister-in-law and say, “Osey bol de, din-ba-din, laike hota.” (tell her that she is producing baby too frequently). I ran to the stage, spoke the dialogue and ran out.

I saw people laughing but had no idea why they were laughing. I was only 10 and did not know the meaning of my dialogue. The real thing happened in Patna when I came close to some of the leftists over there.  I saw one play ‘Andha Kuan’. It had a lasting effect on me. I began watching plays on a regular basis then. I could not stop myself and entered one of the drama groups. After my first performance, my name was published in a review in the newspaper and the critic had praised my performance. It read, “Pankaj Tripathi has great potential to become a great actor.” I thought if this critic thinks I have great potential, then there must be something (laughs).

Pankaj Tripathi_Gang of Wasseypur_Masaan_Dilwale_Nil Battey Sannata_Bollywoodirect_Actor_Interview_Photo_Sultan_Sadhya JiQ: To get to see your name in a newspaper was a big thing in those times….

A: Yes, it was. Journalism was something else in those days. Today, they have ruined it. This whole PR funda was not there. I personally, don’t like such things. Your work should be counted, not your name. Your work makes your name. Today, I see people hiring a PR for them just to be in the news.  You can become popular by getting published or trended but you cannot become a legend.

Q: You had said that you met some leftists and then joined their theatre group as well. Did the left ideology play an important role in shaping you as an actor?

A: I believe, yes. There was a huge impact. After I met people from the left front, I started reading good literature. I don’t follow any particular ideology but I believe leftists are well-read, they study hard and are connected to art and culture. Rightists are more interested in idol-worship and all such things.

Q: Your big break came in Gangs of Wasseypur with ‘Sultan’. How did you get the role and how did life change after it?

A: It was a long process. There were many audition rounds. Even after that, Anurag (Kashyap) was not satisfied that I could pull it off but Casting Director Mukesh Chhabra was adamant to take me in that role. Anurag then called all the assistants and asked them to watch my audition and give their suggestions. All of them said that I was the right choice. Anurag went with their decision. This role became more important as the film shoot progressed. GOW clicked with the youth and the appreciation was overwhelming.


Q: Did this thought come in your mind that this is a very negative character and you might just get only such roles in the future?

A: At that time, the focus was to get any kind of work. There were no such choices, really. Now, I may get choosy.  

Q: What is your definition of big films? Is it the big-budget films or the films in which your character is a major one?

A: It is a difficult question. See, there is a bungalow which is very huge. Spread across 6000 square feet. On the other hand, a book is just 10 inches long. Now, what would you say? Is the bungalow bigger or the book? In your eyes, bungalow will always be the one bigger but the impact that a book does is larger.

In the same manner, commercial cinema is something you cannot neglect. It matters a lot. It is only because there is the commercial cinema in the country that you see films like Masaan and Nil Battey Sannata happening. Our theatre will come to an end if these larger films become extinct.

Q: Why is that?

A: The mass goes to watch the commercial films. You can see how much Masaan earned. Masaan won’t give you the money. You might not even get the money to fill diesel in your car. It is the commercial cinema which is giving the much-needed boost to the actors, directors and every other person who is related to theatre, to make them pursue theatre.

Q: Your struggle period in Mumbai was a long one. Almost 8 years it was. The thought to quit running towards your dream never entered in your mind? Did you ever feel like…it is too much now, I cannot take it anymore?

A: No, never. See, I am a Bihari. Biharis are very rigid people. They are very strong from inside.  A Bihari sells bananas on a thela (handcart) and spends all his life doing that. In the night, he would sneak beneath it and sleep. He would do it for years. When you will go to his home in Bihar, you will see that he has built two big houses over there, just by selling bananas in the city. They are very resolute. Not only the Bihari, I believe, people coming from Purvanchal (Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) are all like this.

Q: When you landed in Mumbai to pursue your dream, you were not alone. You were married by then. How big a role did your wife play in your struggle?

A: A huge role. If she was not there, my struggle would have been 10 times difficult than what it was. She was a big support. She was the one who was earning and there was no financial trouble.

Q: Was there any role model you looked up to?

A: Irrfan Khan had a deep impact on me when I was in National School of Drama. Also, Nawazuddin Siddiqui impressed me like anything. He was not a big star back then but watching him act was a source of great inspiration. I used to tell him about that.Pankaj Tripathi_Gang of Wasseypur_Masaan_Dilwale_Nil Battey Sannata_Bollywoodirect_Actor_Interview_Photo_Sultan_Sadhya Ji
Q: Now, is there anyone?

A: I have lost interest in the following anyone. This blind fan following has created that disinterest in me. People in this country have made an actor the hero of their lives. They are God for some.  I believe, a doctor, an engineer, and an architect have more important roles in building this country. 

My father wanted to make me a doctor. When I go to my village now, he gets very happy as thousands of people come to meet me. He feels I would not have got such fame if I was a doctor. But a doctor is doing a better job than me in building this country. I am not demeaning the value of an actor or entertainer but over-importance we are getting is not needed.

There are so many government schemes announced. It got published as an advertisement in the newspapers. The scheme never entered my daily life. It did not affect me in any way.  I get a bit cynical, sometimes but these issues much be raised in the newspaper and not the gossip that which actor lost how much weight.

Pankaj Tripathi_Gang of Wasseypur_Masaan_Dilwale_Nil Battey Sannata_Bollywoodirect_Actor_Interview_Photo_Sultan_Sadhya Ji
Pankaj Tripathi In Masaan

Q: Our cinema is in a phase where actors like you are getting important roles in a film. But you people are still not getting the lead roles. How much time will it take to complete the journey from important roles to lead roles?

A: I don’t know how much time it will take, to be honest. See, Cinema is a business as well. Someone, who puts his or her 2 crore rupees in a movie would expect to get at least 3 crores in return. Every filmmaker wants that. Pankaj Tripathi might be a fine actor but he might not be able to give back the amount of profit a producer is looking for. A Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan do this job for them.

They provide the great opening to the movie. Having said that, I believe it is us who makes a film run after the first three days of release. The stars pull the audiences to the cinema halls but it is us who make them stick to the film and make them want to watch the film again and again. A star runs the movie on the weekend. We make sure that film does well as soon as the Monday starts.

Q: Let’s talk about your new film ‘Nil Battey Sannata’. Your role in the film. Also, how was it working Swara Bhaskar?

A: I am playing a school principal in the film. He is called Srivastav Sir. It is neither a negative character nor a plain one. A very simple guy he is. I added a bit of humour when we shot it. I believe in adding something to whichever character I play. Every character should have some interesting angles.

Working with Swara was very good. She is an amazing actress. We had a great time during the shoot. We have done another film Anarkali Ara Waali and we are just opposite of what we are in Nil Battey Sannata. There are many films lined up this year like Gurgaon, Mango Dreams, Newton. I am excited about each one of them.

Interview By: Shubham Pandey

Image Courtesy: Pankaj Tripath’s Facebook

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