“Ye Wasseypur hai, yahan kabootar bhi ek pankh se udta hai, aur dusre se apni ijjat bachata hai.”
A true blue Pankaj Tripathi fan would be able to tell exactly where, when and who said this. If you happen to be one of them, we deem you as one too - a Pankaj Tripathi fan. One, who may or may not have seen and appreciated this method artist's talents before 'Gangs of Wasseypur' became a stellar, commercial success, and Pankaj received the praise and recognition that he had duly earned.
Today, 'Mirzapur' is touching new heights riding on his shoulders. Viewers have been left in awe of Kaleen Bhaiya, who instills terror in people's hearts by simply sitting on his chair, hardly saying much. But that is one of Pankaj's idiosyncrasies which seems to have done wonders for him - his ability to go beyond the written character and adding his personal touches to them, making each of Pankaj's performances brilliant.
But Pankaj Tripathi's journey to such critical acclaims and the popularity that followed comes sprinkled with many highs and lows. That makes his story worthy to be told - yet remains one that hasn't been shared enough.
When Pankaj started out, his means were limited, but his dreams soared sky-high. Very early on in his life, he had set his heart on doing things differently. Of leading a life on his own terms, and not giving in to expectations written in stone.
A native of a small village in Bihar, called Belsand, Pankaj grew up in a place that is beginning to reap the goodness of civilisation just now. He spent his initial years enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Born into a farmer's family, his early years were spent in the lap of nature. Pankaj appreciated the plain joys that life had to offer, such as swimming in the pond behind his house or running through the fields with his mates.
Given such a humble start to his life, we suppose you are wondering how the bug to act bit him? Well, by his own admission, Pankaj used to act in local plays in his village where he would portray the role of girls. The audience would love his performances, which eventually prompted Pankaj to take up acting.
When Pankaj moved to Patna for his higher studies, he came across the charm of theatre, and would soon cycle the length and breadth of the state to attend as many stage plays as he could between 1994 and 1995. Finally in 1996, he started doing theatre, along with a night job in a hotel. That went on for two years, before he decided to get serious acting lessons.
Coming from a family of limited means meant that he would have to look for a place that could teach him for free. He learnt that National School of Drama in Delhi was one such place, but their admission requirement calls for a graduation degree. That's how the then 12th pass Pankaj got himself enrolled in a BA degree in Hindi literature. Post graduating, he found himself in NSD and graduated from the acting school in 2004.
On October 16th he found himself in the city of dreams Mumbai, with his life-savings of Rs 45,000. But as life would have it, by December 25th, he had only Rs. 10 left in his pocket. Life was hard, and challenges crept up at every turn. But Pankaj was not the one to give up.
He kept auditioning, kept facing rejections for over a decade, kept honing his skills with every project he landed and ended up bagging a few small roles here and there. But eventually his time came with gangster-drama 'Gangs of Wasseypur' in 2012, for which Pankaj received a lot of critical appreciation from the audience and critics alike.
He had finally made it. His credibility spiked through the roof and bigger projects kept knocking at his door incessantly. What followed next was 'Fukrey' (2013), 'Masaan' (2015), 'Nil Battey Sannata' (2016), 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' (2017), 'Newton' (2017), 'Fukrey Returns' (2017) and 'Stree'(2018).
But that is not all, Pankaj went on to earn a National Film Award – Special Mention for his performance in 'Newton'! Today, he has played a lead in 'Gurgaon' and also has multiple projects such as 'Kaagaz', 'Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai', and 'Luka Chhupi' in the pipeline, besides various other projects.
Pankaj follows a simple philosophy in his life, “yaadgaar to mai apne kaam se hounga”. That is what this fine actors eats and breaths - a wish to entertain his audience, who go back home with a smile on their faces at the end of the day. His charming personality, his connection to his roots and the pride with which he wears it, makes him so much more relatable and lovable.
Yes, I say lovable because you cannot look past this man's standing wit and humour. His passion for acting and entertaining his audience is palpable, and he manages to take you with him to places, you didn't imagine was possible to visit sitting on the other side of the screen.
He appreciates the art of movie making, something he hails as an organic process, wherein hundreds of people put in their heart and soul to rear a piece into existence. His honesty, hard work and sincerity have finally found a home in people's heart, who simply cannot get enough of this man!