BURNT OUT BUT BURNING BRIGHT
The second season of Sacred Games only confirms what the first had signalled—Pankaj Tripathi’s Guruji is the glue that will now hold much of the web show together. As more and more people stream the web show, Tripathi says he is “excited” and “anxious” about the feedback he might receive. This is his first collaboration with director Anurag Kashyap since Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). Tripathi says, “I have a special love for Anurag. He gives me the world’s freedom.”
At a time when any odd depiction of religion seems enough to raise hackles, was Tripathi worried about hurting Hindu sentiments while playing Guruji? He is tight-lipped. “I am an actor, I work with the written material I get,” he says. In Newton (2017), Tripathi had made the antagonistic Aatma Singh seem relatable. He intends doing the same in Sacred Games: “No human being can be entirely negative. His humanity may be hidden, but is never absent. As an actor, it’s my job to find it.”
Tripathi is in no way unfamiliar with the web show format. Before Netflix’s Sacred Games, he has acted in Amazon
Prime’s Mirzapur (2018) and Hotstar’s Criminal Justice (2019). “As perhaps the only actor who has worked for all three of the country’s leading OTT platforms, I can safely say that unlike films, where you sometimes have a hierarchy, web shows prize talent first. It is thanks to these platforms that many of Mumbai’s talented actors are now employed,” he says.
After a forgettable debut in Run (2004), Tripathi fought hard for over a decade to carve a niche for himself in Hindi cinema. Popularity, Tripathi knows only too well, must be managed, not abused. “I was shooting in Glasgow recently,” he says. “A family found out I was there. They bought me poha. People don’t think I’m an actor. They think I am one of them.”
Tripathi’s prolificity makes him hard to forget. In 2019 alone, the 42-year-old has some dozen projects. “I think I’ve reached the burnout stage,” he admits. “Once I’m done with these commitments, I want to sit at home for three months, travel with my family. Earlier, I didn’t have much work. Now I have too much.” ■
HOLY PITCH Tripathi as Guruji in Sacred Games