Pankaj Tripathi: The 'non-violent' King of Mirzapur


Michael Gomes

Published: Tue 20 Oct 2020, 4:23 PM

The versatile Bollywood actor talks to City Times about his role as a dreaded gang boss in the new season of Mirzapur

For a man who perpetuates crime and violence as the ruthless but wise don Kaleen Bhaiya in the hit revenge drama web series Mirzapur, Pankaj Tripathi, ironically condemns violence in real life.

"I don't subscribe to it, or like to see (crime dramas). I fail to understand what is it about crime-based content that gets people hooked to it. Whenever there's an action sequence, I just (fast) forward it. I'm only interested in the story not violent scenes, but Mirzapur is not only about violence, you also have to look beyond it, there's a gripping plot, interesting characters and a strong story," Tripathi told City Times over a Zoom chat ahead of the show's much-anticipated new season.

Rated among the most popular OTT shows, the Amazon Original Series, attributes its popularity to its gritty plot and gripping storyline that delves into the dark underbelly of the Indian hinterland. The cliff hanger climax in Season 1, left fans anxious over the fate of Mirzapur's future, so the buzz around the new season is understandable. The actor says that followers can expect more brutal violence, bloodshed and grit from Season 2 that's dropping on Amazon Prime on October 23.

The canvas of show in the new season has gotten much bigger, but the drama and tension remain intact, and perhaps on a larger scale, informs Tripathi, who reprises his roles as Akhandanand Tripathi, aka Kaleen Bhaiya, the King of Mirzapur.

"The Mirzapur world has grown larger in Season 2, in terms of the conflicts, crisis, conspiracy, entertainment, and other elements. The plot also moves from UP to Bihar and Kaleen Bhaiyya has a political orientation this time," said the versatile Bollywood actor, without revealing more about the plot.

While the key cast members from Season 1 like Ali Fazal, Divyenndu Sharma, Shweta Tripathi Sharma, Rasika Dugal, Rajesh Tailang and Sheeba Chaddha will be seen in pivotal roles, several new faces will be joining Mirzapur's world of murky crime and politics, including Vijay Varma, Priyanshu Painyuli, Amita Sial and Isha Talwar.

"Mirzapur's universe will not change, even after it moves to Bihar. There will be a political pitch, new and interesting sub-plots, new characters, more conflict and an expanded plotline, but the audience will enjoy the high voltage drama, revenge and action," he says.

In the last season, Kaleen Bhaiya's main rival was exterminated and he is in now in complete control of Mirzapur, but when probed about the revenge element and who his opponent would be this time around, the genial Tripathi did not want to let out any spoilers while explaining, "It could be an incident, a man or woman or even a situation, I cannot reveal much more than this at this moment."

It has been two years since Mirzapur hit the screen, but for Tripathi resurrecting Kaleen Bhaiya (his character) didn't pose a challenge. However, he revealed that he had a hectic time shooting for two diverse dramas, playing dissimilar characters, and filmed in two different continents.

"While working on Mirzapur, I was also shooting for Kabir Khan's 83 in which I play the manager of the Indian cricket time. So I used to fly to London to shoot for the movie and then take a flight back to India to shoot for Mirzapur. I didn't even have time to go home in Mumbai because I had to hop on to the next flight to Lucknow or Banaras. Many times, I would reach the Mirzapur set in a dazed, jet-lagged state."

"But I didn't have a tough time getting into my character. Having worked in Season 1 allowed me to flesh out my role with much ease. Moreover, the script was very well written. The writer had done a very good job of it and when you have such a strong script, it becomes easy for any actor to play his part well. Having a strong creative team makes a lot of difference. The directors/writers used to be on the sets and that made things easy for us. When it comes to me, I have had years of experience, so I've learnt how to switch on or off and that makes it easy for me to get into my character. Acting is my only job and I think about it at least for 15 hours a day, like I said before I'm an impulsive actor and that's how I look at it," he says.

It is rare for a ruthless crime and drug lord, who craves revenge to have such a calm and dignified exterior, but Tripathi has showcased that he can be iron-fisted as well as cool-headed as a mafia boss. "I am a soft-spoken and calm person in real life. Many times, an actor's personality traits reflect in his character, that was the case with Kaleen Bhaiya. I had seen videos of these characters to get an understanding of their body language, and even met some of their neighbours to get a better understanding."

"Also this gangland culture is not unknown to me. I belong to the Purvanchal area the Eastern UP/Bihar belt, so I'm quite familiar with these type of characters (Kaleen Bhaiya). I used to read about them in newspapers and I've heard lots of stories about them," explained the actor, who hails from the Gopalganj district in Bihar.

Audiences have been lapping up shows and movies where violence is the common theme. But Tripathi, who has played an antagonist in Gangs of Wasseypur, Sacred Games and Mirzapur, cannot pinpoint why it attracts viewers.

"I can't understand why people are attracted to it. I don't subscribe to violence. Perhaps people are curious to know about the conspiracies that take place in the underworld and the people behind it."

Tripathi belongs to a breed of actors who have set their own benchmarks in the film industry, they do not believe in following traditional methods of acting.

"I am not a method actor and I don't believe in it. Having worked for nearly two decades in theatre, TV and cinema, I have explored and found my methods. I don't follow any of the techniques taught by famous acting coaches, like Stanislavski. Everything I do in front of the camera is my creativity. I'm an organic and impulsive actor and I don't believe in any preparation before going on the sets. I mould myself as per the requirement of the situation or as per the director's instructions. For me, acting is about being a co-communicator. I'm not here to wrestle with or show-off my craft. My job is to deliver the story and the character to the audience, and that's what I endeavour to do to the best of my ability."

Not many people may perhaps know that Tripathi used to work on his father's farm in Bihar's Belsand village before taking up acting. He even worked as a shoe salesman before joining the National School of Drama in Delhi to learn acting.

The actor, who played a farmer in the Salman Khan and Karan Johar produced Kaagaz, is humble enough to admit that he will eventually go back to farming once he retires from show business. "I am also very fond of travelling, so yes, I may do a travel show or perhaps a food show, and finally take up farming."

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