NEW DELHI: An artiste's journey is not his alone, says Pankaj Tripathi who describes "Kaagaz" as the realisation of a dream for both him and his admirers who have been raising the demand to see the actor extraordinaire in a lead role for a while.
Having essayed regular people of different shades in films such as "Nil Battey Sannata", "Masaan" and "Stree", the role of a common man caught in the web of government red-tapism is right up Tripathi's alley.
Directed by Satish Kaushik and set in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, "Kaagaz" is a true story about a man, Bharat Lal, who was declared dead on official papers and struggled for years to prove his existence.
There is not much difference between playing a central role and a supporting one in reality but like any other actor, Tripathi said he too wanted to front a movie.
He credits his fans for planting the idea in Kaushik's mind and the director for casting him. "I think we all are playing lead roles in our lives in different forms. These are illusions that we have created and run after. I am also a human being and desire the same. Otherwise, all the characters I do are central to me be it the librarian in 'Stree' or the CRPF officer in 'Newton'. Sometimes people write 'character actor', a term I dislike because everyone is playing a character in a film," Tripathi, 44, told PTI in an interview.
The actor said his dream in his struggle days was to just survive in the Mumbai while pursuing his passion for acting. "Once you have achieved that, you move on to the next as you want your tomorrow to be better than your today. I was not desperate to do a lead role we don't come to Mumbai to only play roles of 'chacha and mausa' (uncles)," he added.
This is why "Kaagaz" is a big opportunity for not just Tripathi but also for his co-star, Monal Gajjar, who has worked in south cinema. "I feel my journey in cinema is not mine alone. It is also the journey of crores of people in different parts of the country dreaming about pursuing their passion and doing well in their chosen field. I never thought I will get the chance to play the central character of a story," he said about the film, which premiered on ZEE5 on Thursday.
Tripathi, a National School of Drama graduate, said that he had not met fellow Bihar actor Manoj Bajpayee but his story and the fact that he comes from a small place like Betia inspired him in his journey.
"When I read about Manoj Bajpayee, who hails from Belwa, Betia in Bihar, in the newspaper, it dawned upon me that a man who comes from Betia is now Bhikhu Mhatre (1998 film 'Satya') in cinema. I somewhere started thinking that if someone from Betia can do it, a guy like me who is from Belsand can also become an actor," he said, hoping that his journey also inspires people to take a chance on their dreams.
Tripathi had one of the most successful years in his career in 2020 with back-to-back releases of films and shows in "Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl", "Ludo", "Shakeela", "Mirzapur 2" and "Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors".
"Kaagaz" begins 2021 on a good note for the actor, who calls the movie a satirical take that puts across its point in an entertaining manner without "compromising with the seriousness of the issue". Sometimes there is a criticism about the portrayal of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as badlands in fiction, but this film portrays the innocence of the village folk while also delving into their cleverness.
"Even in the dark stories, the hero also comes from the same society but a crime drama focuses more on the grey or the dark world. At the same time there are films like 'Nil Battey Sannata', 'Masaan', 'Gunjan Saxena', 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' and 'Kaagaz' that represent the landscape of UP," he added.
Tripathi said there may be an awareness in his characters but he never tries to judge their motivations. "I always try to not make them a hero and show their faults because we as people are full of faults. We may not show our weak points in real life but I try to be as honest as possible through my characters. But yes, I do feel a sense of responsibility," he said.
Looking back at the year gone by, the actor said he got to play a wide variety of roles and thankfully people embraced all his characters. "I think it as been one of the best years for me though it has been a bad year for the world due to the coronvirus pandemic. I needed a holiday which I finally had during the lockdown. People say 'do less, do well' but fortunately for me I did well despite being a part of so many projects. I realised I was the only actor in Hindi cinema to have seen the release of so many projects during the pandemic," Tripathi said.
The new year is equally jam-packed for the actor with six-seven projects lined up. "There are so many factors for saying yes to a project. Sometimes it is a good role, a good person or the project comes from someone who stood up for me in my initial days. How can I say no to them now? Relationships and people are very important to me," he added.