Pankaj Tripathi’s Dreams Come True, Dream Career & Now A Home In Madh Island

As  Pankaj Tripathi, arguably the most  interesting contemporary actor of Hindi cinema, speaks  about his rise from  a nobody in Bihar to an actor who commands huge respect, he gazes with satisfaction at  the deep  blue ocean  overlooking the balcony of his  new  home.

“My wife  Mridula and I shifted  into our new home this week. It was our dream home, a love  nest at  the seaside. Now I’ve finally  bought our dream house in Madh Island(outside Mumbai). My wife got very emotional after we  shifted  into  our new home,” says  Pankaj with a  catch  in his voice.

He has plenty to rejoice over. The  performance in the riveting webseries  Criminal  Justice is  perhaps Pankaj’s  best yet. And coming from an actor who has  given outstanding  performances  even in the smallest  of parts from Masaan to Newton toStree, that’s  saying a lot.

Exults  the  extraordinary actor, “The  praise  for Criminal  Justice is pouring in. People who are knowledgable about acting are  praising me.Manoj Bajpai called  to say, ‘Yeh  tu kya kar raha hai? Kaise kar raha  hai?’ Manoj Bhai  is my  role model and inspiration as  he also came from  rural Bihar and I felt if he could  become an actor, why can’t  I?  It’s a good feeling. Until a  year back I accepted any  role that  was  offered  to me. Now I’m in a  position  to  pick and choose.”
The  role of the cheesy but kindhearted and  finally heroic lawyer in Criminal  Justice  wasn’t originally what it  finally became.

Admits Pankaj, “I didn’t watch the  original  HBO miniseries  The Night Of.  I didn’t want  to  get influenced  by  the  actor (John  Turrturro)  who played the lawyer  in  the  original.My lawyer’s character Madhav Mishra was  not written the way  I’ve played it. But by and by  I added ‘character’ to my character. I improvised  my lines,reworked my scenes  until MadhavMishra  shed his sleazy skin and  actually  ended up being humane and  even heroic.”

Pankaj believes  there  is a core  of humanism in even the scummiest  of characters. “All one needs to do is dig deep enough  into the well of  the character’s personality.”

Pankaj believes  the secret  of his brilliant  performances is  his ability  to   cling to his roots even  after acquiring unexpected success.  “Today  my wife Mridula and I own our dream  house. But I haven’t forgotten my one-room shed  with its tin roof in Patna. One night the rains and wind were so  intense  one of the  tin sheets blew away and I was  left looking at  the naked sky.”

Pankaj  had  no interest  in movies . “I was culturally inclined from  the beginning.  At  21 I’d cycle  for miles to catch a concert by Bismillah Khan .Although I didn’t understand  the music I listened in  rapt attention.  I had no interest in cinema. Theatre was  my scene. I  joined  the  NSD(National  School  Of Drama)  in Delhi, did my course and returned  to Bihar to pursue theatre. But I soon realized  there  was  no  future no money  in  theatre.I decided  to move to  Mumbai where movie acting was  a  viable option.”

For  years  there were  only  the  bit roles. “My wife Mridula and I survived on her income in Mumbai.  She  was  a qualified schoolteacher and  she got a  job in Mumbai while I did what all  out-of-town actors in Mumbai do. Struggle. My first  major role was  in Bhavna  Talwar’s  Dharm in 2007  where I got to work with my namesake  the great Pankaj Kapoor. It is significant  that  my first major role came to me  from a woman director.Women have  always  played a very important part  in my career. Besides  my wife Mridula, I can’t thank  the great acting  luminaries  like Anamika Tiwari, Anuradha Kapooenough.They  encouraged me  and  gave me hope as an actor.”

How does Pankaj look  back on his long years  of  struggle?  “With  amazement and  gratitude. Every experience has  shaped  the actor and human being that  I am.” 

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