Pankaj Tripathi: The Chameleon

Pankaj Tripathi plays the protagonist in OMG2. Photo: Hype PR

Since his debut in 2004 with Lakshya, it has not been always smooth sailing for this brilliant actor. Pankaj Tripathi, however, in the last 6-7 years, has attained the level of excellence that marks the great all-time character artistes of Hindi cinema who can also occasionally be protagonists, like Paresh Rawal or Anupam Kher. He has evolved into a chameleon, who fits every role—positive, gray, negative, comic, dramatic or sad—with aplomb.

In a brief yet freewheeling conversation on the eve of the release of OMG2 in which he plays the pivotal character, the cheerful actor opens up on the film and many more things.

Excerpts from a conversation follow.

Paresh Rawal was the protagonist in OMG—Oh My God!. You are cast in OMG2. And yet, your characters are way different, despite the similarity between both films as courtroom dramas with a divine power in the proceedings.

(Smiles). Precisely! Paresh-ji was shown as an atheist. I am a devotee of Lord Shiva. In real life too, Paresh-ji is chairman of the National School of Drama (NSD) now, whereas I was a student there! (Smiles again).

What did you precisely like about the role and the film?

Akshay Kumar narrated me the full story in amazing detail, which he said he remembered because he had been into it for two weeks. And I liked the way the message was conveyed. So I arranged my dates to fit in the film. The script is very entertaining, and I loved the way it is brought to a conclusion. I have a daughter who is 16, and such a message, given in a very entertaining way, is necessary. Today, every teenager has smartphones that are giving them all information—right or wrong. It is up to parents to provide the right info.

How do you work as an actor?

I like to ask the purpose of a scene, and whether something that I say or do is necessary or just a sensational gimmick. This time, I had to quote from a famous book, I asked writer-director Amit Rai if something like that had been actually said in the book and personally checked it: Amit is very strong on research and a great writer-director.

A personal observation: everything you have done, be it Criminal Justice, Stree, Mirzapur or any other film or web series, has one important common point: entertainment. In this fascinating variety of genres, what do you look for when you decide to do any role?

You see, without a thought, there is no story—that is developed following the thought. I search for something special—ek baat ho (it must have something). And if we don’t entertain the viewers, who will be interested in watching what we offer? There are so many tensions in life—financial, health and family among others! We must make them forget those!

It is said that you need to do meditation for five whole years to attain 40 seconds of freedom from any thoughts. When you laugh for 30 seconds, on the other hand, you effortlessly attain the same state of mind! So I like to make my viewers laugh, and the reward is that they notice me! (Smiles)

It’s like the effect of when one smiles at a stranger in an elevator. His mood becomes easy, even if you do not exchange a word! A young man from my village told me that he had become very popular even in London. When I asked how he had concluded this, he said that all people would wish him “Good Morning!” on the road!

Pankaj Tripathi play a priest in OMG2. Photo: Hype PR

What is faith to you?

Faith and devotion are internal, within you. Like my faith that this roof will not fall down! I am a very devoted person, just like my pandit father, I have also conducted pooja-paath like him in others’ homes.

In 19 years, what all has changed in you?

I don’t think anything in me has changed as a person. Yes, I now have more knowledge about life, society and acting, as my age has increased. But earlier, I would hunt for work, now films search for me—that’s the only change! Even for today’s interview, I sat in a jetty at Madh Island, where I stay, landed on the mainland and took a rickshaw to come here. I am the same person who came to Mumbai long ago.

Your performances are decidedly getting better.

Yes, that’s because our writers have changed. They are writing layered characters, so everyone’s acting will look good. And it’s very tough to make bad films from good scripts.

Would you then like to direct a film or series?

I do have an interest in direction. In almost every work that I do, I have given some inputs, of course, if my director is willing. But right now, my acting ki dukaan (shop) is doing very well, and I don’t want to disturb it! (Smiles)

Especially vis-à-vis the super-success of the earlier OMG, do you experience any pressures?

I don’t have any pressures in life. I do my work with complete honesty, and leave the rest to Mahadev (Lord Shiva)!

Your acting schedules have been very busy though.

You are right! I had taken up too much of a workload. But now I have realized that acting is not something that you should do 30 days in a month for 12 months! Acting is like painting, where the colors and lines are minute. I have to see to the finer points, as I cannot change my height and can only make cosmetic changes in my looks. The painting must be better!

So now I am relaxed and plan to take a day off every week and a month off every year. I have turned down so many roles similar to what I have done already. Can you believe that I was offered dozens of roles as gangster after playing one from Uttar Pradesh? I told them all that gangsters like that are the same, and one filmmaker said, “But this gangster is from Madhya Pradesh!”







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