Gifted actor Pankaj Tripathi has every reason to be on cloud nine. He has just won yet another National Award (for ‘Mimi’). His ‘Oh My God 2’, which withstood the tsunami of ‘Gadar 2’, may not have set the box office on fire but has crossed the elusive Rs 100-crore mark, besides winning over critics. His portrayal of central character Kanti Sharan Mudgal, combining a dramatic flourish with measured acting, has garnered much appreciation.
An ‘A’ certificate for ‘OMG 2’ was certainly self-defeating. The fact that the very section (teenagers) whose problem is being addressed in the film can’t watch it is indeed counterproductive.
But Tripathi is still not flying high. Equanimity is one of his many qualities. As he puts it, “I am not affected easily; neither by success nor failure. ‘Na zyada khushi mein khush, na zyada dukh mein dukhi.’ Just like the philosophy of the Bhagavadgita.” Like his character of a Shiv bhakt in ‘OMG 2’, he is a believer, only he follows the Advait school of Hinduism.
He feels that giving an ‘A’ certificate to ‘OMG 2’, which dared to broach the taboo subject of sex education, was certainly self-defeating. “The fact that the very section (teenagers), whose problem is being addressed, can’t watch the film is indeed counterproductive.” Refusing to be drawn into the game of numbers and the speculative drill that ‘OMG 2’ would have fared better had it been a solo release, he says, “I am not a man of trade. I am an actor. I do my work earnestly and go home.”
All praise for director-writer Amit Rai, he shares how Rai had written the script some eight years back. When Tripathi was first offered the film, he had said no. The reason for his reluctance was his packed schedule. But once he heard the script, he knew he had to juggle his dates.
With innumerable projects in hand, he would certainly like to slow down. Do actors too face burnout? “More than anyone else, since we invest physically, mentally and emotionally. We have to laugh and cry on the spur of the moment, at others’ predicament, and that makes acting a gruelling process.”
By next year, he hopes to do only four projects a year. So, no more cameos. He says, “I don’t see any point in doing what I have already done. Besides, it is unfair to those who offer me meatier roles.”
Among the plum roles on his plate is the titular role in ‘Main Atal Hoon’, wherein he steps into the shoes of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He has also been part of biopics like ‘Harjeeta’ and ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’. On being asked if biopics tend to idolise unnecessarily, he says, “What’s wrong with hero worshipping? If the person is awe-inspiring, he/she deserves to be looked at with respect.”
Having made his point, however, he also adds, “The Vajpayee film, directed by National Award-winning director Ravi Jadhav, will be balanced and has been well researched.” Tripathi himself has delved deep into both Vajpayee’s persona and, of course, his poetry. In the vast sea of Vajpayee’s poetic gems, the poems he truly cherishes are ‘Kaal Ke Kapal Par’ and ‘Haar Nahi Manunga’.
Though he considers ‘Main Atal Hoon’ a significant film, it’s not his dream role. Actually, there is none that figures on his wishlist since the much-awarded and feted actor is not consumed by overweening ambition. So, how does he manage to nail every character, be it devious or humane? The NSD alumnus replies, “I try to be there, in the moment.”
His fans may believe his acting is too good to be true, but each time he watches his work, he feels, “I could have been better, more nuanced.” As for his rise as a star actor, with his fandom cutting across all age groups and young audiences cheering for him each time, he makes his presence felt on the big screen, but he owes it all to OTT. “Thanks to digital platforms, hum jaise abhineta bhi star ban gaye,” he avers. Indeed, ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Criminal Justice’ and even ‘Sacred Games’ have been the turning points in his career. Though sequels do not excite him as much, in the near future, apart from a host of sequels like ‘Stree 2’ and ‘Fukrey 3’, he will reprise his part of Kaleen bhaiya in ‘Mirzapur 3’.
Between content high on the entertainment quotient and one with social purpose like ‘OMG 2’, he would ideally like to be a part of both. But he is not a greedy actor. Rather, he insists that acting is only a means to an end. He states, “The real goal is to live life fully.” Clearly, it’s this life source from which stems his uncanny ability to bring each character to life.
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