Theatre Needs Full Honesty

Noted Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi, Belonging to a small village of Bihar, said that people always complain that they could not do anything because of meagre resources, but that could be our real strength, he told Parliamentarian’s Managing Editor Geeta Singh

From Gangs of Wasseypur to Bareilly Ki Barfi, you have established an identity in your films so far…

Earlier, I did not choose films because then my battle of survival was going on. For me, the most important thing was to stay put in Mumbai. You have to live first, then other things can follow. So at that time, I used to work in any movie I got. But in my heart somewhere there remained the dreams that I grew up with.

The dreams that grow bigger in small cities. I always thought that one day I would be able to showcase my talent to the people. So well, now I can afford to be selective. With this, I also keep in mind that cinema is not just a part of the entertainment, there should be a message in cinema that will help people to learn.

Tell us about your journey …..

I am a farmer’s son. I came to Patna to study with 25 kg of rice from home. I had no exposure to cinema. But one day I went to see a play in the Gandhi Sangrahalaya, which impressed me very much. After that, for a year I always kept watching drama. Gradually my friendship grew with members of the theatre group and I started working to get tea for senior actors during their rehearsals.

Some small roles came up. After working hard, I got a big role and felt that it was fun. Theatre needs a lot of honesty, while cinema does not want such truthfulness. In cinema along with camera and light, there are also many technical facilities. But in theatre the actor has to be truthful because there is no such technology to help you.

Your life seems very filmi, first you wanted to be a doctor, then you came into students politics and after that got interested in acting. What would you like to say on this?

My father wanted me to become a doctor… usually, all parents want their child to become a doctor or an engineer. I was sent to Patna and started taking coaching for the entrance test. But I realised medicine is not my cup of tea. After that, I was involved in students’ politics and joined ABVP, and even went to jail for seven days, and during that time my friendship with books cemented.

Pankaj ji is it true that initially, Anurag Kashyap did not agree to give you the role of Sultan in Gangs of Wasseypur?

Yes, it is true. I was auditioned, but Anurag did not like it. So he showed the rushes to his assistants. It was casting director Mukesh Chhabra and his assistants who convinced Anurag. This is how I got the role of Sultan Qureshi. The role was very tough for me. There were a lot of challenges. I was a vegetarian boy from a Brahman family. And the shooting was on the actual location at a slaughterhouse in Allahabad. It was gory, in the midst of blood, meat and animal carcasses. I was puking. But then, I had to act. I also worked hard on my Urdu and Hindi diction.

Once you said that the story of Nil Battey Sannata is somehow related to your story.

My film Nil Battey Sannata is a story about a single mother and a bai, a woman who works as a maid in people’s houses. The lady dreamed that her daughter would become an IAS. The film says that no one should give up, and this is why it similar to my life. I think everyone should see this movie. There is a lot to learn in this movie. No matter what you are if you have the passion to do something, you have dreams, yes, definitely one day you can achieve it.

You have acted in all mediums – films, TV and theatre, so which one is your favourite?

All mediums are very different in their perspectives. I have done theatre for almost 17 years before coming to Bollywood, and films have given me name and fame. But theatre will always be my first love. There is no retake in theatre.

Tell us about your upcoming film Newton.

In Newton, I am playing the role of a CRPF Jawan, Atma Singh. Newton talks against caste or religion-based voting. We are the world’s largest democracy so we must select good persons who can do something for society.

About your idea of making a film city in Patna?

I said that it is better to construct more studios, in spite of film city spending more than a thousand crores. First we should make the villages of Bihar shooting friendly. For this, we can select some good villages and talk to the people there. The villagers become logistic providers. We can send the shooting team there and complete the shoot with the junior local artists. There will be two benefits: first, it will help stop migration from the villages, and two, we will be able to provide job opportunities to the villagers as well as junior artists.

About the present situation of Bhojpuri cinema

Personally being a Bhojpuria by heart I am attached to Bhojpuri cinema, but I do not think today Bhojpuri films are highlighting the issues related to the plight of the people. Cultured society does not go to watch Bhojpuri films. We all have the responsibility of linking Bhojpuri with the mainstream. I am ready to do Bhojpuri film, but bring me a story that gives entertainment as well as a message to the people.

A message to aspiring actors….

Be sensitive, be honest. Now Google is there to help you, when you move forward, a lot of people come to your help. If needed, just be conscious, honest and focused towards your goal. 

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