The Pankaj Tripathi we know grabs the spotlight in every frame. Even the Pankaj Tripathi we don't know is "bahut hi kamaal ka aadmi", in his words. A traveller, a foodie, a trained chef and a scholar of heritage.
Talking to Wknd, the 45-year-old says his life feels like a fairy tale in the middle of its happy ending. The actor has had the kinds of roles he always dreamed of, over the last three years — from the no-nonsense assistant commandant Aatma Singh in Newton (2017) to Guruji in Sacred Games (2019) and the brutal gangster Kaleen Bhaiya, who's made a return in the newly released Season 2 of Mirzapur on Amazon Prime.
"I shot almost every day from 2017 until the lockdown. Even now I get offers to do a film or a show all the time," he says. When not shooting, he spends his time at his sea-facing home in Madh Island with his wife Mridula and daughter Aashi.
It's a very different life from the one he had growing up in a family of farmers and priests in the town of Belsand in Gopalganj district, Bihar. College took him to Patna, where he first got involved in theatre, while studying hotel management. After working for two years as an assistant chef at a hotel in that city, Tripathi's love for acting won out.
He moved to Delhi, graduated from the National School of Drama in 2004, and shifted to Mumbai to try his luck in Bollywood.
"I feel like my journey as an actor is a lesson in hope," he says. "A lesson that the world is not such a bad place as we tend to think it is. Yes, no one launched me. I climbed my way up with one-scene, two-scene roles. But I have realised that the film industry respects talent."