BURNT OUT BUT BURN­ING BRIGHT

India Today - - LEISURE - —Shree­vatsa Ne­va­tia

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

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