Never. Young actors touch my feet now. I feel very strange. I recently met army jawans. He told that when they start going to great heights, they download my movies and keep them because there will be no network. And this is how I give them company in their long and difficult nights. I got very emotional after hearing this. How can I believe that a boy from Bihar can become a support system for the jawans on the glacier. Sometimes I feel that the way people love me is becoming a debt to me, I don’t know how I will be able to repay it.
While the rest of the actors are waiting for the shooting to start and the theaters to open, about 6 of your films were released in lockdown.
Yes, I am very happy about it. I am the only actor to have so many releases in lockdown. I am the hero of lockdown. Earlier, one had to run from one city to another for promotion, now that has stopped. And that’s okay too, we are promoting movies from our homes and watching in our homes. (he laughed saying this)
Manoj Bajpayee had recently said in a conversation with ETimes that he has got a lot of young fans because of OTT. Are you also a favorite of children?
Yes, I am quite surprised. These days the children of class 8-9 have become my fans. Recently I met the CEO of a company, he told me that he is crazy about my work, his 70 year old father and teenage kids too. I don’t understand how an actor can like three generations of people together, especially one who is so simple in appearance and can neither sing nor dance. These things surprise me every time.
Have you ever felt that without these skills you cannot enter Bollywood?
No, then I would not have become an actor. I used to think that gradually I will learn this. There is a team here – one who makes the cinema and the other who watches. I went through the latter team to the first. I think this is the reason why the audience can relate to me that I am one of them. If you ask me about me, I will start talking about crops, vegetables, agriculture because I have come from here.
You don’t always tell the story of your struggle very openly
When someone talks to me about my struggle, my words fall short. I never felt this struggle, because it was something that I enjoyed doing. You never get tired when you start turning your passion into a profession. If I was doing a 9-5 job, I might have been struggling.
How do you see the days when you were busy looking for work for yourself?
I used to leave home every day at 12 o’clock in the day and take a bus to Andheri. After this, the whole film would go round the office and give his pictures to him and audition for whatever role he had. I used to roam the whole day without drinking water because I never used to drink outside water nor did I ever carry a water bottle with me. By the time I reached home, my body was dehydrated. This morning I was telling my wife how I could not take care of myself so much in those days.
Have you ever been replaced in a film?
Oh, many times. You are told that you are final and the next day you find out that you have been replaced. It really hurts, but it’s part of the process. However, all the films in which I was replaced were flops. Believe me, I never made fun of him (laughs). So, it happened for good. Those who could not do the complete work, I salute them.
Have you worked with those filmmakers again?
Yes, there have been many such occasions, but I do not even remember them, nor do I want to remind them.
It won’t be easy for you…
Look, I don’t have many crying stories. When you’re really looking for a place, you don’t need Google Maps, right? I always tell men to look for a good settled girl for themselves so that their house is well taken care of (laughs). My wife used to take care of all the household expenses while I was looking for work for myself. We were very ordinary people whose aspirations were also very limited. So we didn’t have any problem. Even today no matter how much I earn, I sleep in 6X6 beds, so what’s the point?
Have you ever thought of retiring from acting?
Acting was my last option. If my plan D i.e. acting failed, then I would turn to plan A i.e. farming. I thought I would do the same thing like my father. Yes, I never dreamed of becoming a doctor and an engineer.
So what was Plan B and C then?
Plan B was the hotel industry, while C was to start a business.
Now how many offers do you turn down in a month?
When an actor’s films run, he definitely gets 2-3 offers every day. But how can one do that? I am already booked till the end of 2022. Some filmmakers are very keen to work with me and they are ready to wait till 2023-24 too, but how do I commit to them on such an early date, especially where the timing is so uncertain. However, it is very difficult to say no to a task, especially for which you have been working so hard for the last 10 years.
Has your life changed now?
nothing has changed. Just now that I have bought a luxury car, they tell me that it runs less than it should have. So now I will drive it more. Earlier also I used to run for household work, even today my staff depends on me and I have to think about them too.
Any role that you still want to do?
It is said that you do not work for rewards. Want to achieve a milestone in the next 5 years?
For me 8 hours of sleep is the biggest reward for me.
What have your parents said about your success?
There are some journalists in my village who reach out to my parents every time I get an award. I told them not to do this. My parents don’t watch movies or TV. He hasn’t seen any of my films till date.
When is Pankaj Tripathi very happy?
The day when food is good and sleep is good, I am happiest.
Which hand-cooked food does your family like the most?
Chokha- Bihari dish, which is made by mashing potatoes. Even today I make this on my daughter’s demand.