By Anindita Sarker
Pankaj Tripathi, a name so common now was not so common even till a few years back. He had to navigate a sea full of obstacles as it came to be particularly difficult for a boy born in a remote village in Bihar with absolutely nothing to rely on to even dream of entering the tinsel town let alone end up being a prominent name of it. Mr. Tripathi’s ride to stardom was bumpy and not at all a smooth sailing but he steered through it well and today the world is a witness to it.
Pankaj Tripathi’s journey has all of the elements to offer from dreams too big, struggles, drama, rejections to finally making his mark. He was born in a farmer’s family in Belsand village of Gopalganj District in Bihar. A very remote area which even got access to roads just a few years back. In a place with not much connectivity to offer with the outside world, Mr. Tripathi dreamed of acting but the ways through which he was introduced to this medium of expression was not the usual films or theatre, but local plays of his locality also called nataks that took place during festivals in which Mr. Tripathi played the role of a woman and was appreciated by the audiences there. This was what pumped him to take up acting as his profession.
After a brief stint at hotel management training after finishing school, he tried to get into National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi but realized that the eligibility was that of being a graduate. He took up Hindi literature as his subject for graduation while working for a hotel in the night shifts and performing plays later in the day. After being rejected twice by NSD, he finally made it and by now he had already done 35 plays. After NSD he moved to Mumbai with limited resources and big dreams. He had mouths to feed and very less hopes of being able to do it in the times to come.
But he had the will and dedication for it which bore fruit for him. Mr. Tripathi started around 2004 with TV shows and small and uncredited roles for films like Run and Omkara but it was not before Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012 that he was recognized for his work. It was going to be uphill from here. He got memorable roles like that of a military officer Atma Singh on election duty in the film Newton along with Rajkumar Rao. His role here was so impactful that he went on to win a National Award – Special mention for this and the film went on to be nominated for Oscars in the category of Best foreign film in 2018. He also won the show as Rudra in Stree, Rangeela in Anarkali of Aarah and ofcourse stellar performances in Gurgaon and Fukrey franchise.
He also played certain parts in Masaan and the role of a corrupt politician in Super 30 which again are critically acclaimed roles of him.
The thing that really did the magic for Pankaj Tripathi was social media and OTT platforms. The shows like Criminal Justice, Sacred Games and most importantly Mirzapur, is what put him out in the spotlight and now he is synonymous to ‘Kaleen Bhaiya’. With memes taking over the internet from Sacred Games and Mirzapur to people specifically applauding specific scenes of him in these shows made him an overnight star who was not just an amazing supporting actor anymore but his abilities to play a protagonist were brought to the fore. The oomph factor in Mr. Tripathi is that he is flexible and is keen on taking up different roles no matter how risky and this is precisely how he excels in his craft. The subtlety with which he portrays a character goes on to show that he knows his job pretty well.
From an era of him finding it hard to even get a script, Pankaj Tripathi has come a long way where, now, he looks for scripts that makes him go beyond the label of a conventional hero and challenge him. Mr. Tripathi also looks for gender – sensitive scripts when he finalizes on one as he reportedly told The Tribune, which speaks a lot about the politically and socially aware actor he is.
A sudden rise to fame didn’t let Mr. Tripathi deter from his roots nor did he give in to similar roles again and again. A grounded realist throughout Mr. Tripathi is a believer of learning the craft before doing it, as he has said out loud in many of his interviews. He is a man full of gratitude and still considers himself a farmer’s son because as he told The Times of India, “With the films I am offered today, I’m satisfied. I am an actor here but my approach is still that of a farmer. I’ve sowed the seeds, now I’m waiting for the plant to grow. I’m in no rush.”
Pankaj Tripathi is undoubtedly an inspiration and he will go on to inspire future generations to dream big and work hard if they really want to achieve it.