Pankaj Tripathi: Mirzapur is dark, gritty but does not glorify crime
“I like doing drama, but not melodrama. It should be connected to our lives,” Pankaj Tripathi, who plays gangster Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiya in Amazon Prime Video’s new web series Mirzapur, said in a freewheeling chat with indianexpress.com.
The National-Award winning actor says despite his character being ruthless, there is an element of humour involved. “This character (Kaleen Bhaiya) was nothing new for me. It was in the same space of the roles I did in Gurgaon and (Gangs of) Wasseypur. He is unexpected, unpredictable and there is subtlety. So as an actor I worked on how to make this character fresh and interesting,” the actor added.
Mirzapur has been produced by Farhan Akhtar-Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment. The crime drama is set in the heartland of India and revolves around drugs, guns and the politics of power. Apart from Tripathi, the show also stars Ali Fazal, Vikrant Massey, Divyendu Sharma, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Shweta Tripathi and Rasika Dugal.
It is centered around Tripathi’s iron-fisted character who is a millionaire carpet exporter and the mafia don of Mirzapur. As the plot snowballs into a game of succession, ambition, power and greed, the entire fabric of this lawless city gets threatened.
“I perform impulsively. I don’t prepare much for my characters. I want to put something new in each of them, or else I will be the first person to get bored, even before the audience,” Pankaj Tripathi said.
Comparing his Sultan Qureshi from Gangs of Wasseypur with Kaleen Bhaiya, Tripathi said, “Sultan Qureshi was like a common man with a lot of courage. He couldn’t have run an organised crime syndicate. That character was Ramadhir Singh (played by Tigmanshu Dhulia). This character (Kaleen Bhaiya) is somewhere between Sultan Qureshi and Ramadhir Singh.”
Agreeing that gangster-based web shows have become a current favourite post the success of Sacred Games, Tripathi wished Mirzapur did equally well as the Nawazuddin Siddiqui series. He, however, also clarified that his show, in no way, glorified crime. “It is a small-town crime drama but it has the elements which will appeal to the youth. But I will also say that it is not glorifying crime. It is dark, gritty and at the same time it is black comedy,” the actor said.
Interestingly, as part of sinking into his roles, Tripathi always keeps a prop of every character he plays close to himself during the entire shooting. For Kaleen Bhaiya, the actor revealed he has kept his chappals and a black vest.
The actor, who is currently shooting for Satish Kaushik’s directorial based on the life of farmer Lal Bihari, who was declared dead for 18 years, shared how he feels scared of doing average work after being part of several box office successes including this year’s Stree and Kaala.
“What will happen when people see my name in a project and they don’t like it? Because I am also a human and can do average work sometime. So there is a credibility that comes with my name and that credibility is a little scary,” he shared.
Accepting that he has turned a little choosy given his busy schedule now, Tripathi signed off with a laugh, saying, “I am sure soon you will read news reports that I have become arrogant and success has gone to my head. Even today I got four messages from producers for their projects. I am doing a film and don’t have the time to pick their calls.”