Everyone loves Pankaj Tripathi: On his birthday, we list his five best performances
On Pankaj Tripathi’s birthday, we listed five of his best performances -- from the doting dad in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl to the menacing gangster in Gurgaon.Updated: Sep 05, 2020, 07:32 IST
From gangster dramas to family entertainers, from indie gems to mainstream potboilers, Pankaj Tripathi is the trump card in them all. The actor has made a name for himself for scene-stealing supporting performances and commanding lead roles, and on his birthday, we could not help but talk about our favourites.
Bareilly Ki Barfi
Of all the desserts served in this Ashwini Iyer Tiwari movie, Pankaj Tripathi was perhaps the true barfi. Pure, undiluted sweetness and nothing else. Pankaj played father to Kriti Sanon’s smoking, break-dancing Bitti. He was a man so progressive, the likes of which you might not even find in the proudest metropolitan cities, let alone on the terrace tops of Bareilly.
Hijacking the toilet in one scene and sharing cigarettes with his daughter in another, Pankaj switched effortlessly between the dad we all know and the dad we have always wanted. He is a friend as he lights up a smoke for you, listens to your boy problems and also dad when he blames you every time the power goes out. Bareilly Ki Barfi is among Pankaj’s best, softest works and a delicious treat.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Pankaj Tripathi may not be ‘dad age’, the actor is 45 in real life, but he sure knows how to bring fathers to life onscreen -- from those who are the wind beneath the wings of their offsprings to those who cut those very wings without nary a thought. In The Kargil Girl, it was the latter that he played with elan. His Anup Saxena is a lot like Pankaj in real life -- unhurried and centred. He is ready to power the dreams his daughter has, but is too scared to realise. Whatever may be your thoughts on the politics of the film -- and the spectrum is quite wide here -- one thing everyone agreed on was the spontaneity and stillness Pankaj brought to the role.
When Pankaj Tripathi played the tycoon Kehri Singh in Shanker Raman’s neo-noir thriller Gurgaon, he laid the seeds for a future starring role in the far more popular Mirzapur. The film came at a time when the actor was still better known for character parts -- even in Gurgaon, he plays a Don Corleone-esque supporting figure to Akshay Oberoi’s protagonist. But not only does the film feature one of the most gripping performances of the actor’s career, it is also an underrated gem well worth your time, and along with Manorama: Six Feet Under, Monsoon Shootout and Raat Akeli Hai, one of the best modern Indian noir dramas you’re likely to see.
Pankaj Tripathi belongs to the legion of performers who see themselves only as actors, not stars. Portraying characters, good or bad, Pankaj brings so much conviction that it is hard to see the person anymore; all one sees is the character. One such role that comes to the mind is the film, Newton. Playing a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer posted in a Naxal-affected area, Pankaj’s character is a fine specimen of cynicism and cunning. His Aatma Singh is the antithesis to Rajkummar Rao’s Nutan (Newton) Kumar. If the latter brings idealism, even in the most hostile of circumstances, the former brings alertness and loathing, in equal measure, to the table. Nutan Kumar wants the polling to happen, while Aatma Singh does what he can to scuttle any possibility of villagers lining up to vote. Aatma Singh just doesn’t want more work, in an area which nobody cares about. It is hard not to empathise with Aatma Singh as he tells Newton that there more landmines in the area than men. It is hard not to see his perspective when he says he doesn’t want more of his men killed as the government can’t even provide night vision goggles in such hostile terrain.
The strongly feminist and hilarious horror-comedy Stree got its loudest laughs thanks to Pankaj Tripathi, who played the wise librarian and resident spirit expert, Rudra Bhaiya. Not only did he bring the role to life with his deadpan delivery and delightfully droll ways, he also gave it his own personal touch. Did you know that the joke about how Stree knows the name of all her targets - ‘sab ka Aadhaar link hai uske paas (she has access to the Aadhaar details of everyone)’ - was not a part of the original script but improvised by him? “This wasn’t in the script. Yeh dialogue Pankaj Tripathi ka hi hai (This is my dialogue)! I added that punchline, to make the character more fun,” he had told India Today.
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