How Pankaj Tripathi Discovered One Important Trait of 'Kaleen Bhaiya' in Mirzapur 2

Pankaj Tripathi in a still from Mirzapur 2.

Pankaj Tripathi in a still from Mirzapur 2.

Pankaj Tripathi opens up about the overwhelming response he has received for playing the menacing crime lord 'Kaleen Bhaiya' in Mirzapur and how he discovered an important trait of his character in the second season.


Shrishti Negi

Pankaj Tripathi has put in a decade’s worth of work in impactful roles including the cold-blooded butcher in Gangs of Wasseypur, the earnest school principal in Nil Battey Sannata, the pragmatic but dutiful CRPF officer in Newton, the liberal father in Bareilly Ki Barfi and Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl, and the know-it-all bookseller and paranormal enthusiast in Stree.

But it was the crime thriller web series Mirzapur that forced people to stand up and take notice of what it's described as the legend of Pankaj Tripathi. He was so achingly good as the menacing crime lord, Kaleen Bhaiya, in Mirzapur that fans began referring to him by his character's name on social media. However, Tripathi seems a little baffled by the overwhelming response Kaleen Bhaiya has received.

"I've been doing pretty similar kind of acting for several years now. So, I don't know what they really like in this particular character so much," Tripathi said modestly, on the sidelines of India Film Project, before adding that marketing strategies and promotions also play a crucial role in helping a character gain a wider audience.

"It also depends on which platform your project is being released and what is the reach of that particular platform. The whole packaging and marketing of the project and the character play a very important role in order to take it to a wider audience. But honestly, I don't really analyse as to why my certain characters worked more than the others. And, I don't feel that one should really look for the reasoning as to why an audience starts loving a certain actor," he said.

What's so interesting about Tripathi's Kaleen Bhaiya is that he is extremely unpredictable in the show. Unlike the typical mafias in the Hindi cinematic universe, Kaleen Bhaiya is a father first and then a don but when he goes into the gangster zone, he is capable of doing things one could only imagine in their wildest dreams.

Recalling an anecdote, Tripathi revealed that he had a similar realisation about his character when he began shooting for season 2. "On day 1 of Mirzapur 2 shooting, my director (Gurmmeet Singh) told me, 'Pankaj ji, aap aisa nahi karte the season one mein.' When I asked him what he meant, Gurmeet explained, 'In season one, Kaleen Bhaiya would not let the audience know whether he was convinced by someone's idea or not. His character was so unpredictable that no one could figure out whether he liked Munna's idea or not. But this time, you are giving out that unpredictability so easily.' Surprisingly, they themselves discovered this on the editing table as Guru told me this thing wasn't there in the writing. Then they showed me one of my scenes from season one and I finally figured out one of the main traits of Kaleen Bhaiya's character."

Tripathi further said that an actor may take 2-3 months to prepare for a role but his overall life experience gets automatically added to that preparation. However, the actor said that the lack of life experience of a co-star should be tackled with empathy.

"I'm 45 years old. If I take 2-3 months to prepare for a certain role, my 45 years of preparation as an actor gets added to it. So if you will ask me to analyse my performance, I may do it for the sake of it but I feel we all add our acting and life experiences to our parts in one way or the other.

"Having said that, it can happen that one actor might have a lot of life experience while his or her co-star could be on the first day of the job. I feel if our co-actor doesn't have as much experience, then you must help them. For me, before being a co-actor, that person is a fellow human being, a box, full of dreams, which is being opened for the first time. So you should protect, support that person."

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