Mumbai: Dressed in a pair of white trousers and a grey T-shirt under a full sleeve navy blue jacket, Pankaj Tripathi can be easily mistaken for the middle-aged man next-door, who is in a hurry to catch a crowded local train to work early in the morning. But those who have watched Gangs of Wasseypur, Newton, Gurgaon or Sacred Games, know that this unassuming looking man with a smile on his face is nothing less than a tiger in front of the camera. The National Award-winning actor, who is an NSD (National School of Drama) alumnus interacted with My Nation while promoting his latest release, Amazon Prime original series Mirzapur in Mumbai.

In the web series, Tripathi plays Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiya, a filthy rich carpet seller cum mafia don. When asked, if there is any additional pressure since he is playing the lead role in the series, Tripathi said, “I never take any pressure. I don’t think of myself as the lead. Every character is important, each has their own area. My character appears scary in the scenes when he deals with others, but the moment he steps home, you will understand that he is scared of his wife. That’s the beauty of writing! Each of us is doing a lead role that way.”

The Stree actor disclosed that he has been living with a surrendered dacoit with the last 5-6 days who will star alongside him in Satish Kaushik’s next. He said, “I am staying with a surrendered dacoit for the last five-six days. He had surrendered in UP around 15-20 years back. Now, he has been given a Loktantra Senani card and proudly showed it to me. I heard a lot of stories from him, learnt a lot from him. He is doing a role alongside me in a film titled Kagaz. Satish Kaushik Ji is making the film. I needed to develop a bonding with him for doing the role and hence spent the week with him.” 

The 41-year-old actor who started his career with theatre misses the stage and even shares his mantra to steal the limelight in whichever project he does saying, “Woh toh meri masoomiyat hai!”   

Will working in shows like Mirzapur help in enhancing his popularity and stardom? For Tripathi, stardom and popularity come much later than getting satisfaction as an actor. He replied, “Whether I am becoming popular and reaching to a greater number of people, that comes later. The first and foremost thing is that I should get satisfaction after essaying a role.” Describing the experience of working in Mirzapur, he added, “Imagine, 200 people with 50-60 cars and a team of cooks, barbers, dresser, makeup artists etc are travelling 3000 km from Mumbai. They are carrying a 100-page script with them. The sole purpose of all this is to convert the script into the audio-visual format. This is so gratifying an experience, it is so much fun! Somebody sits at home or office and writes the story and another person invests money on it, and 200 people leave their respective families and go to a place like Banaras (Varanasi) to finish the task!”  

The actor is known for his versatility and fits into any kind of character with ease. How does he prepare? Tripathi revealed, “My experiences in life are vast. Main bohut ghat ka pani piya hoon. I have even sold shoes for a living. I have been a student leader and even been to jail. I have spent seven days in jail after being arrested when I was a student leader. I didn’t commit any crime and go to jail. I have spent one or two nights on the ghats of almost every river in India. The diversity that our country offers, in terms of language, food and clothes, I have lived that. All these experiences help me to fit into different kind of characters when I do films.”