Destiny favours the brave and in the case of 45-year old Indian actor Pankaj Tripathi there can be no two ways about it. Having made a low-key debut in the glamorous world of Bollywood way back in 2004 with a minor role in Run, the National School of Drama graduate has amassed an enviable filmography for one so young. The son of a farmer-priest from Bihar, Tripathi came into the limelight when he acted in Anurag Kashyap’s path-breaking (at the time) hinterland gangster series Gangs of Wasseypur. If Newton earned him a special mention at the National Film Awards, Stree, Masaan and Fukrey won him more mass and critical appreciation. But it was as Akhandanand Tripathi nee Kaleen Bhaiya, an icy gang lord, with an eye on the state’s political arena but blind to his own family’s disturbing secrets, in Amazon Prime’s gritty web series Mirzapur that he truly got a canvas to widen his reach among an audience saturated till then with run-of-the-mill feel good dramas.
In Netflix’s ensemble dark comedy Ludo Tripathi once again takes on the mantle of a gangster but unlike the gritty, dark, completely in-control don of Mirzapur, here he displays a certain swagger that is very becoming of him. As Sattu Bhaiya, a local loan shark with his grubby fingers in many illegal dealings around town, the actor is on top of his game. With a holster strapped to his thigh and a song on his lips, Tripathi seems to be having fun in the movie that sets him off against four other stories.
Ludo is a movie that plays out like a roll of dice with each move made by each character predetermined or controlled by a superpower. The actor is not averse to finding parallels between his life and that of the movie.
“I never thought in my life one day I’d do a film and one day I will do an interview with Khaleej Times,” he states over a Zoom conversation with City Times. “What’s happening right now (this interview) it was not there in my script or rather I didn’t know going ahead this scene would be there in my script. So however unpredictable your script is – the story of Ludo is in that.”
Tripathi admits he had lots of fun enacting the stylish Rahul Satyendra Tripathi on screen. And despite the fact that he has portrayed many gangster roles in his career so far, his talent is evident in the twist he is able to invest into his latest character.
“The credit goes to him (Anurag Basu) and I had loads of fun – it suited me very well,” avers Tripathi.
“Our personalities/individuality somehow goes into the roles we play even if we don’t want it to,” he elaborates when asked if his Mirzapur character has left any vestiges within him. But consciously he says he always tries to do something different, where the character is different, the premise different, the world is different. “Because the audience will get bored quickly otherwise.” And with a candid laugh, “More than that the actor is the first to become bored!”
The highs of acting/directing
Tripathi recollects that way back in 2015 his life was wonderful. He was making money, he had a steady job but then he started feeling that he was doing the same old thing every day, alluding to his television days perhaps. So he decided that he won’t continue in the same role anymore. “The channel people said, ‘what happened, take more money’. They thought I was doing the drama for money!,” he laughs. “I said this is not about money, this role of mine is complete. I’m done with this.”
Fans will no doubt enjoy the lighter side of the actor in this ensemble comedy where he has a quirky romance to liven up his life as well, which he seems quite chuffed about when we spoke to him ahead of the movie’s release. “It was a surreal frame for me,” he states alluding to the final scene, “the light was dim, I was in a wheelchair and the nurse was there…”
As for Anurag Basu he has no qualms admitting he loves the power that comes with playing ‘Yamraj’ both on screen and off it. “Of course, it gives you a high, cause you are deciding the destination, the journey of a character from the beginning to the end and then people see themselves in these characters, and their journey and they identify with them. This is the high we live for – this is what we have come here (film industry) for.”
On his part Tripathi avers that an actor is always greedy. “An actor wants love, money and roles and it all seems less to him, he always wants more…” he says by way of explaining what what drives him in the industry.
Tripathi has worked in all the popular OTT platforms in the last 2 years and feels talented technicians, storytellers, and actors are getting more opportunities because of it. And he also enjoys the fact that “there is no Friday opening. Here it is just about if you liked the movie or you didn’t like it – not about the weekend collection or the opening…
Basu is also of the opinion that due to the wider reach of OTT platforms he is happy his latest movie will get the right kind of audience.
Just like the theme of Ludo, he says he also believes everything is part of destiny. “I never had to go for a Plan B or Plan C of casting, so this was my Plan A and all of them (actors) are on board and releasing on Netflix I think is also destiny. Last year this time I never thought Ludo can have an OTT release, so this is definitely all destiny – I believe this.”
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