Pankaj Tripathi refused to get bogged down by the censorship controversy that preceded OMG 2. The actor clearly knew what he was doing. Nearly 10 days after its release on August 11, the film is still going strong at the box office. He had faith, much like his character. “I was told that the censor board had given many cuts, but they could have been for the betterment of the film. You have to taste the water to see whether it’s sweet or salty. People began raising questions even before they had watched it,” he says.
The only decision of the board Tripathi did not agree with was the film’s adult certification. “I am disappointed that many children, including my 17-year-old daughter, are not able to watch it,” he adds. Speculation was that the decision was taken because the film spoke about sex education, but the actor clarifies, “Subjects like sex education are best left to the experts. That is not what the film is about. It has an open-ended message. OMG 2 changed my outlook towards life. Hopefully, it is having the same effect on the audience.”
The film sees Tripathi’s character, a sensitive father, seeking divine intervention, when his son gets wrongfully suspended in a sexual harassment case at school. “I believe that science and spirituality go hand in hand. For me, spirituality begins where science ends. I don’t have an opinion on the existence of God; I simply have faith and belief,” he says.
It is perhaps this life philosophy that has made Tripathi the star he is today. The National School of Drama alumnus did his share of insignificant roles before his breakout role in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012. What followed was a versatile filmography where the actor explored comedy (Fukrey, Stree), social drama (Nil Battey Sannata, Newton), and quintessential Bollywood entertainment (Bareilly ki Barfi, Mimi). His range in OTT has been equally varied, with the most popular roles being a suburban don in Mirzapur and a sympathetic but sharp lawyer in the third season of Criminal Justice.
OMG 2, which also stars Akshay Kumar and Yami Gautam, only reinforces his skills as an actor. Tripathi reveals he has the former to thank for the role. “He (Akshay) had narrated the story to me during the pandemic. When we had shot for three days, director Amit Rai confessed that after seeing me in Mirzapur,
he wasn’t sure if I could pull off the calm demeanour of my character in OMG 2. It was on Akshay’s insistence that I was cast,” the 46-year-old actor recalls.
Tripathi admits that viewers, especially the youth, tend to imitate actors, which is why he is conscious of not just the kind of films he does, but also the products he endorses. “It is important for us to inspire them to become better human beings. I have a list of brands that I will and won’t endorse. I feel that as an actor I have a social responsibility. Money is important, but not more than morality,” he says.
His next big project is the biopic of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Main Atal Hoon, which is expected to release in December this year. Talking about the research for his role, the National Award-winning actor says, “I read so many books on Atalji that I can now write a book on him. Although I never had the chance to meet him, I remember seeing him deliver a speech years ago… before I became an actor. Never did I imagine that I would be playing him someday.”