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Posted at: May 18, 2018, 12:39 AM; last updated: May 18, 2018, 12:39 AM (IST)

Method in his mind

Just as one can’t become a neurologist or a structural engineer without training, so can’t an actor.

Nonika Singh

Like his umpteen memorable characters on screen, National Award-winning actor Pankaj Tripathi is very much relatable, accessible and grounded. Only once the actor begins talking, in chaste Hindi at that, you know it’s a brilliant, and no ordinary, mind at work. Answers to simplest queries become both a statement and a revelation. The NSD graduate who brings to fore the subtlest inflections of his parts reminds you; “Just as you can’t become a neurologist or a structural engineer without training, so can’t an actor.”

Prior to entering the portals of NSD, he was an impulsive actor who relied only on his instincts. Yes, even today he is largely an intuitive actor and not a method one, as people understand method acting that is. Certainly, he has evolved his own method steeped in life and its multitude of experiences. But once the director shouts cut, he snaps out of the character, “I follow switch on, switch off mode.”

Fascination for Punjabis

Of course, memories of certain parts stay forever. All set to delight us once more, this time in a Punjabi film Harjeeta, Tripathi not only waxes eloquent about the need for sports biopics, their tremendous inspirational power but also is equally smitten by Punjabis. Their chadi kalan, warmth and hospitality has him gushing, “I am in love with Punjab and Punjabis.”

Punjabi, the language, is still an obstacle race though! When friend and cinematographer-turned-director Vijay Kumar Arora narrated him the part, his first reaction was; but I don’t know Punjabi. Luckily for him and us, he plays a Bihari sports coach who has to speak Punjabi as any Bihari would! During shooting in Punjab, he has learnt a few Punjabi proverbs, but even more importantly he has forged long-lasting friendships.

Quite an art

“What is acting but the art of making you a better human being?” Hence even in the vilest of parts, he seeks humanity for ‘zindagi mein koi villain nahi hota’. Hindi cinema may have just begun to look at grey shades of humanity, but Tripathi has never failed to etch the complexity of characters, irrespective of whether the depth is inbuilt in the script or not. “Script is like a map in which an actor undertakes his journey and has to find his own path, and know where to pause, what to emphasise.”

Humble roots

Like the millions who come to struggle in Mumbai, his too has not been an easy trek. Yet, he says, “Being a farmer’s son I know that a seed will not blossom overnight; you need patience and time for it to bloom.”

As he looks back, he thinks year 2017, with films like Newton, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Gurgaon have been a game-changer. Though, he deems, Hum flop nahi ho sakte kyon ki ham hit nahi hai he hits the bull’s eye with each portrayal, one more remarkable than the other! No wonder, today he can command his price and is deluged with offers too. Besides Harjeeta, you will see him in Famous, Kaala, Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai, Super30 and an Indian adaptation of BBC series Criminal Justice. Saying no to inconsequential films does figure on his agenda, but too much forward planning this actor doesn’t believe in.

Well-deserved appreciation

Flowing with the tide of time, he pauses only to pick up laurels. Special Mention at the 65th National Film Awards for his stupendous portrayal in Newton was indeed an exhilarating moment. More so since, “When Manoj Bajpayee, whose village in Bihar is just 50 km apart from mine, got the national award, somewhere a similar desire was born inside me too.”

Tripathi is not a product of dreams alone, rather hard work and determination. Any wonder he has no dream role in mind, only a wish to transform each role into a dream run. Amen!

Talent pool

Pankaj Tripathi is all for sports biopics for nothing is more inspiring than a film on sportspersons, who thrive on sheer talent. “Sports is the only realm where nepotism is near negligible.” The overplayed ‘N’ word in cinema interestingly makes him see reason. “If star sons and daughters find a ready platform and become a known face overnight, they also have to face the pressure of great expectations and perils of instant fame.”  And who knows better than him - that slow and steady wins the race!   

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