Actor Pankaj Tripathi needs no introduction today. Having played memorable roles in films like Stree, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Nil Battey Sannata, Newton and Gangs of Wasseypur, Tripathi also has claimed a place on various digital video on demand platforms. He plays the central role in Amazon Prime’s Mirzapur and had a crucial one in the recently aired Netflix series Sacred Games season 2 and Hotstar’s Criminal Justice. So what is it about Tripathi, that the audience cannot have enough of him? Big roles or small, just why do we wait for him to show up on the screen, every time he stars in a film, with equal enthusiasm? Not many actors, who are mostly seen in supporting roles, can claim the popularity that Tripathi can. But behind this successful run today is years of struggle which has honed his flair for acting.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Actor Pankaj Tripathi has emerged to be India’s new favourite actor
  • With films like Stree, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Masaan and Newton, the actor has gained both fame and love from the audience.
  • Tripathi hasn’t taken up a role till today, for which he is a poor fit. which is a clever move.
  • The actor manages to add subtlety to his performances and yet manages to make them poles apart from each other.

Not many actors, who are mostly seen in supporting roles, can claim the popularity that Tripathi can. But behind this successful run, today is years of struggle which has honed his flair for acting.

An actor we are guilty of neglecting

I remember a few days ago, I was watching a scene from Abhishek Bachchan starrer Run, which had the infamous Kaua briyani scene that was very popular when I was still in school. It was now that I recognised the actor playing a nameless character, who appeared in that one scene with Vijay Raaz. But if you look at Tripathi’s filmography, you realise that he has been around, right in front of our eyes, in films we have loved and hated, and yet we ignored him, till Anurag Kashyap practically lifted him from a lot of Bollywood extras and put him under the spotlight for us to see. He had roles in films like Shaurya, Omkara, Apaharan, Agneepath (2011) and Dabangg 2. However, even after Gangs of Wasseypur, success didn’t come instantly to Tripathi.

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It was only when he backed up a ruthless Sultan Mirza with the gentle and loving Sadhya in Massan, that we sat up and took notice. I couldn’t help but feel dubious about his character’s motives while watching the 2015 film, which also marked the debut of Vicky Kaushal. I was still carrying the ruthless Mirza in my head. I was damn sure he would do something nasty to Richa Chaddha’s character. Such was the impact of Tripathi’s Gangs of Wasseypur performance. But I was in for a pleasant surprise and that two and half scene role from Masaan was something that stayed with me, and many other viewers a long time after one watched the film. Tripathi’s performance added the much-needed warmth to an otherwise heart-wrenching film.

A believer of gender equality

A few months ago, Tripathi spoke about his days as a struggling artist, revealing that he used to live on his wife’s salary. “My wife Mridula and I survived on her income in Mumbai. She was a qualified school teacher and she got a job in Mumbai while I did what all out-of-town actors in Mumbai do… Struggle,” he recalled. It is this unassuming charm that perhaps draws us to him. He doesn’t believe in making a big deal out of his struggles and is secure enough to talk about not being the primary breadwinner for his family for a long time, a rarity even today in our country.

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A star in his own right

Bollywood right now is in this wonderful phase, where seasoned actors are getting meaty roles, be it supporting ones. The audience’s love and appreciation for actors like Aparshakti Khurana, Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa, Ratna Pathak Shah, Surekha Sikri and Sheeba Chaddha in small yet significant roles, implies that the Hindi film industry is writing characters for these veteran actors and the audience is lapping them up. We as audience no longer root exclusively for the stars and finally, actors who have been in the business, but have been reduced to the background by the aura of good looking and charismatic superstars, are getting their due.

Another reason why the new-age audience loves Tripathi, is the small-town flavour that he brings to his performances. Tripathi hasn’t yet taken up a role for which he isn’t a fit.

43 year old Tripathi is one such actor who knows how to get under the skin of his roles. He can be the drunkard man of few words in Gurgaon, who happens to be a don. He can be a loving father to a spoilt daughter in Bareilly Ki Barfi, or an energetic and affable maths teacher from Nil Battey Sannata. He can also be the know it all small town librarian from Stree or the no fuss CRPF Assistant Commandant, who is exasperated by the enthusiasm of the lead in Newton. The changes in his mannerism are subtle, and yet the end result on the screen is radical.

Another reason why the new-age audience loves Tripathi, is the small-town flavour that he brings to his performances. Tripathi hasn’t yet taken up a role for which he isn’t a fit, and I think that is a very clever move. He plays to his strength, and why not? When there is so much to explore in that very realm.

One hopes that Pankaj Tripathi continues to win us over with his performances and versatility. But that is only possible when the entertainment business keeps giving him roles that do justice to his calibre. We are indeed guilty of ignoring him in the past, but now that he has caught our fancy, one hopes to see more of what he has to offer.

Picture Credit: Pankaj Tripathi/Twitter

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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