'Not difficult to switch gears'

Pankaj Tripathi on playing multiple characters simultaneously

After struggling for 14 long years – seeing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – Pankaj Tripathi is finally living his dream. Swarmed with scripts, Pankaj works double shifts and shoots for multiple projects at a time. But no matter how overburdened with work he is, the actor manages to pay equal attention to every project he signs and put life into every character he plays. "Koi bhi role ho, effort utna hi lagaana padta hai," he says.

Though it is challenging, Tripathi feels the experience of working in theatre has taught him the art of working on multiple characters at a time. "Doing multiple projects simultaneously and playing characters that are completely distinct from each other is extremely tiring. You get physically, mentally and emotionally drained. But because I come from a theatre background, and have the experience of doing versatile roles, it has not been very difficult to switch gears. I know how to juggle between two entirely different setups and still give my hundred percent," says the emerging villain of Indian web and film industry.

Pankaj came into limelight with the role of Sultan Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur) and went on to play characters like Kaleen Bhaiyya ('Mirzapur'), and Khanna Guruji ('Sacred Games'). Today, he has almost become synonymous with gangster characters so much so, that one of his fans recently tweeted "Everybody is a gangster until Pankaj Tripathi arrives."

The actor, however, says that he doesn't want to be typecast as a villain and attempts to bring versatility to every character he plays. "I always try to add a few new element and layers to my character. Also, more than appearance and gimmicks, I rely on my acting. My job as an actor is to bring out the best of my role with minimum resources - It has to be my expressions, dialogue delivery, and performance," he says.

Each of his negative characters left a lasting impression on the audience, but what's noticeable is the fact that playing these roles took a toll on his health. Mentioning about how playing such intense roles temporarily changed him as a person, Pankaj says, "When you are playing a character, you live with it...for days and months. You feel what the character is feeling, you believe in what he believes in. So somehow, it affects your personal life as well."

"When I play an aggressive character, (like Kaleen bhaiyya, Sultan Qureshi or Khanna Guruji) I also become one hell of an irritated person...who loses temper in the blink of an eye. Having said that, I know that acting is my job and I have to deal with the perils that come with my profession – the toll on health being one of them."

Besides proving his versatility in blockbusters like Gangs of Wasseypur, Stree and the recent release 'the Tashkent Files', Pankaj is exploring the web space in the best way possible. He feels, the medium is giving him more opportunities to play unconventional characters, which the mainstream cinema rarely offers.

"There are two reasons behind it," he explains. "We have 7-8 hours to narrate a story, introduce new characters and add layers to them. Secondly, there is no censor in the web space as yet, and therefore it gives freedom to express a story in whatever way possible," he adds.

Pankaj's journey in the industry has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride. Though he is tasting success today, he has not forgotten his struggling period.

Tripathi is happy to see himself evolve every single day. Today, when he looks back, it's surprising to see how he has come a long way. "Life is a game of success and failures, ups and downs, you just need to keep yourself grounded, work on your craft, keep learning, and you will attain satisfaction" – is the actor's mantra.

"Ye hi dastoor hai duniya ka," he concludes.

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