Pankaj Tripathi is known for playing negative characters, especially in films like ‘Agneepath’ and Gangs of Wasseypur.’ But, for a change, he is now seen as a school principal in ‘Nil Battey Sannata.’ The down-to-earth actor spoke exclusively to TimesOfIndia.com about the film, his journey and much more. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your character in ‘Nil Battey Sannata’
I am playing a principal who also teaches maths in a government school in ‘Nil Battey Sannata’, the story of which is based in Agra. He is a simple common man and a very interesting human being. His character will get the audience in splits. The character isn’t a caricature by any means. It is the result of the contribution of the writer, director and me.
Most of the roles you have played are negative. You are now playing a comical character.
After doing ‘Gangs of Wasseypur,’ its sequel and other crime-based films, my image turned out to be that of a gangster. I am often called to play a goon in films. Our Bollywood industry works in such a way that when an actor is seen in a gangster’s role, he is offered similar roles. I used to do comedy during my theatre days and I was good at that. I took it as an opportunity to break my image. It is not entirely a comical role. But the way the character is portrayed and the situations he gets into are such that you will laugh out loud. He talks in a specific way. He is a sincere man and wants to make every child ‘lambi race ka ghoda.’
Do you prefer playing comical characters or negative ones?
I prefer comedy as I have to act while playing a gangster. I have to put in a lot of effort to turn into a gangster as I am not like that in real life. In comedy, one doesn’t have to take up such stress. One can enjoy while working and the atmosphere on the sets also remains light. While doing serious roles, one has to torture himself as we have to change our behaviour.
Where do you hail from?
I hail from a small village called Belsand in Gopalganj district on Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border. I belong to a family of farmers and I used to work in the farms before. Ab main Bollywood ki kheti kar raha hoon.
Tell us about the struggles you faced in Bollywood
Yes, I have struggled a lot. ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ is my story. It says that one should keep dreaming, stay focused and the dreams will come true. I don’t consider my struggle as pathetic or sympathetic. I came prepared into the industry, knowing well that I have no one here to call my own. I knew I will have to run around a lot and it will take time. I might have reached you as an actor now but I have been acting here since 17 years in theatre. Making a career in acting for those with non-filmi background takes time, but if you have talent, than nothing is impossible.
How will you describe your journey in Bollywood?
I find myself in a very good position. I didn’t know the roads of Mumbai nor the film offices. I had not seen the film camera in my first two years. Now I am in front of the camera every other day. I have been working non-stop since last year. I feel happy that I am getting to play different types of roles. After ‘Nil Battey Sannata,’ my commercial appeal will increase. People will like me in the film.
Which is your favourite dialogue from the film?
“Bachhho duswi ke parinaam ye bata dete hain ki kaun lambi race ka ghoda hain aur kaun…gadha.” It was extremely enjoyable to work with kids. There were 25 kids from Agra and each one of them is a bundle of talent. The tendency of kids is wonderful. Sometimes they perform so brilliantly and natural that you feel that you are doing it all wrong. You can act well when you know all about it or nothing at all. Half-baked knowledge is dangerous. Kids know nothing and that’s why they are very good actors.
Who has been your inspiration in Bollywood?