"Main suraksheet hun." (I'm healthy). Pankaj Tripathi assured me when I casually asked him 'how are you' at the beginning of the telephonic interaction, which was mainly meant for the promotion of the film Extraction. However, for an actor who has made his presence felt in three of the biggest OTT platforms in India, (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hotstar), and on big-screen, it indeed remains a challenging task to stick to one topic, one film or one platform.
In the middle of the lockdown, he has kept himself with yoga and books. "Yoga, kar raha hun. Khana baha raha hun. Khana kha rahan hun. Kitabein par raha hun." (I am doing yoga, preparing food. Reading my books.)
Basically, everything that we have seen him update on social media.
Haan, wahan maine kahaniya suna raha tha do, tin chaar, Phir main chod diya sunana kyun ki main bore ho gaya hun. Waha bol rahein hain Mirzapur 2 kab ayega, Mirzapur 2 kab ayega. Mirzapur ka mujhe pata nahin hain kab ayega. Toh maine chod diya sunana kahani.
(Yes I was narrating a few stories on social media, then I stopped because I got bored. Everyone started asking me about Mirzapur 2 and when it will release because even I don't know when the second season of the series will release. )
The younger generation of cinephiles, recognise you more as Kaleen bhaiya or Pandit, more than Pankaj Tripathi.
"Bahut accha lagta hain, insaan ko apne character sehi pehchana jata hain. Jivan may bhi. Reel ho ya real ho insaan ka pehchaan unke character se hi pehchan hota hain,(aur)hona chaiye. Toh yeh to achi baat hain ki log mujhe mere character se hi jante gain."
(I feel really blessed, people are recognized by their 'characters', even in our regular day-to-day life. Be it in your 'real' life or 'reel' life, a person is recognized by his/her character and that's how it should be. So, yes, it's nice that people recognize me for my 'characters'.)
He had a minor role in Extraction, on which he said," I had a cameo in the film, but I did enjoy it."
But you have experience in working in gangster series, gangster-based films? I thought you will have more dialogues to deliver.
Nahin nahin, Indian audience janti hain na ki main gangster films karta hun. Toh abhi Hollywood walon ko kaha pata ki main e gangster film e kiya honga. Toh unke liye naya hain. Globe bahut barein gain, yeh duniya bahut bari hain na. Mera yeh kaam 10% logo tak pahuchanna hain 90% log abhi bachein hain.
(No no. The Indian audience knows that I'm popular for my gangster based films and series, but the Hollywood audience, they don't know that. So for them, my work in Extraction was new. This is a vast world where we live in, and my work has reached 10% of the population. )
So you have no regrets that you didn't get more screen space?
Nahin nahin, koi kise baat se mujhe jivan main regret nahin hota hain. Mere liye woh ek entry thi wahan ki, ki chalo isi bahane wahan ke industry ke log the, Russo brothers, toh film hain toh kartein hain. Mera ek scene hain film main ek hin scene hain us film main.
(No no. nothing like that. I never have regrets about anything in my life. For me, it was once in a lifetime opportunity to work with The Russo brothers of the Hollywood industry so I went and performed. I had a cameo and that's okay. )
Yes, I saw it.
Ha dekha aapne. Kaisa laga apko, aapne dekha hain?
(Oh yo watched my performance? What did you think of the film? )
I felt that your role was so reduced, especially because we know you are worth much more. Also when it is based on a gangster rival, then you are the first face that comes to our mind.
Haa kyunki shayad kahaani main hain ki yeh banda jail main hain, toh uski threat hain. Uski bacchein bahar hain. toh shayad screenplay main utna hi space hoga.
(Yes but you see, according to the story, I was in jail. My son got kidnapped. So that's why I didn't get more screen space.)
I only felt if only your role could exceed.
Woh role bhi koi aur actor karne wala tha, dates ki kuch problem hui, nahin ban paya toh phir last minute mere paas aya woh log.
(That role was actually meant for someone else, that actor was unable to adjust his dates so it was a last-minute decision to cast me.)
So till date, who has been your favourite action hero? Or your favourite action film?
Mereko koi action film achi nahin lagta, mujhe samajh nei ata mara piti log kyun kartein hain. Mujhe kahi pe na larai, jhagre, stunt, action, ache nahin lagte. Mujhe action film mein bilkul pasand nahin lagte.
[I laughed out loud, sincerely hoping this had been a video call, where I could see his expression.]
(I don't like action films at all! I don't understand why people fight, attempt to kill each other. Watching people quarrel, fight, do stunt or action is just not my thing. I just don't like watching action films.)
So, what kind of films do you love?
Like Bareilly Ki Barfi?
Social drama haan, jaise Bareilly Ki barfi hon, Newton hon, Gurgaon hon, ya (network interruption).... Hyan toh wohi social drama jis mein entertainment ke saath saath kuch society ka take away bhi hon, woh kahaniya mujhe zyada achi lagti hain. Aur kabhi preachy tarike se na hon, gyaan dene ke tarike se na hon.
(I love social drama such as Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton, Gurgaon, [few quotes got blurred due to network interruption.] So yes like I was saying, I love social drama where there's entertainment as well as a little dosage of a message to the society. I enjoy such scripts. I don't like it when that message becomes preachy, then it's not enjoyable anymore.)
Yes, Stree. Manoranjan kar rahi hain lekin ek baat bhi karti hain, aur baat bhi barein entertaining, humourous way main karti hain, taki gyaan nahin detein gain.
(Yes, Stree. A film where there is entertainment as well as an important message to society, which is delivered in a humorous manner.)
Or Angrezi Medium for that matter? Where you have worked with Irrfan?
Acha laga. Bahut acha laga. Tabhi toh kiya. Mujhe hamesha Irrfan ji ke saath film karna tha toh maine kiya.
(Yes. I loved with Irrfan, which is why I chose to do the film. I always wanted to share the screen with him and I loved it.)
It's the age of actors, and people have notably started watching scripts with content.
Kaisa lagna chaiye mujhe, acha hi lagna chaiye, kharap toh lage ga nahin ki filmon main kahaniya aane lagein. So acha lagta hain. Kisi bhi film main aatma hoti hain story. Agar story correct nahin hain, toh kuch bhi karlon baat nahin banegi. Story aajkal Bariyaan hone lage hain, ache writers aane lage hain toh yeh toh achi baat gain.
(Of course, I love it. If scripts have started doing better, if films with content have started scoring better, I can't feel bad about it can I? So yes, I do enjoy it. A script, a story should have a soul. If the story is not written in the right manner, then no matter what you do, it will not be a good film. Nowadays, people are hiring good writers and I love this. )