A part of my soul goes into the making of a subtle performance: Pankaj Tripathi

At an e-Adda held earlier this week, actor Pankaj Tripathi spoke on his journey, keeping calm, why OTT platforms should duck formula, and Bollywood being a democratic space.

Pankaj Tripathi was in conversation with The Indian Express National Features Editor Devyani Onial and The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta

On his roots

I come from Gopalganj, a district in Bihar, in the very interiors… I just returned from my village a few days ago. In my village, there was a tradition of theatre, which at present is dormant. We used to do theatre right after the Chhath festival, I used to take part in it, too. There I did a couple of plays. My father is a priest, he conducts religious rituals. I remember about 10-12 km from my house there’s a bazaar called Barauli and once there was an inaugural puja for the opening of a cinema hall called Basant Talkies. My father took me along and said, ‘Today’s the inauguration of the cinema hall, so you, too, enter the theatre and watch a film.’ Before that day, I had seen a cinema hall from the outside. I did not know the difference between a cinema hall and a cold storage because the walls of neither were plastered back in the day. The only difference was that colourful film posters and hoardings would be exhibited outside a cinema hall. So, that was the first time when I saw a theatre from the inside. At that time, how would I have known that one day, I’ll become a part of this very industry, and act in films. From my village, I then went to Patna to pursue theatre, and after doing a fair bit of theatre, I realised that acting needs to be learnt. So, back then, there weren’t any facilities, neither was there any Google search or internet, nor did I have money to learn. Then I got to know that the government runs the institution National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi, and there, acting is taught for free. In fact, people receive money (stipends) to learn acting. But to apply there, one had to clear graduation, and I had dropped out of college. So, I went back and rejoined my graduation course in Hindi literature, while preparing for NSD on the side. Eventually I ended up at NSD, and there I took training in acting using government facilities and with the help of taxpayers’ money. I often say that if I act badly, it will hurt the country, because I have learnt acting with the country’s money. After that, I came to Mumbai in 2004, because it’s very difficult for an actor to survive in Hindi theatre. Hindi theatre and Hindi journalism both are very difficult, though I’m saying it on a programme of an English newspaper!.Even I don’t know how all this has happened, it just happened.

On his journey from television to films

I first did television. Earlier, one didn’t get a direct chance to act in films. For eight years, I had no clue about where films were made in Mumbai, and now the situation is such that every eighth day I’m offered a new film. In the initial days, I had no idea where and how films were made, so I started with TV. I did about three daily soaps: Bahubali, Gulaal and Sarojini. I’ve done a fair amount, about 500-600 episodes, but luckily, none of my shows ever became popular, and that’s why people hadn’t seen me before films! When I was doing the last show, I was very frustrated because TV felt very repetitive, everyday going to the same set, meeting the same set of people, almost the same storylines. I was fed up with it. In the meanwhile, I received Newton’s script, Amit Masurkar sent it over and I read it. Once Newton’s script arrived, I left television. But yes, TV is also a very powerful medium. I know its power. But I did my share.

On his days of struggle

I don’t have very many unhappy stories in Mumbai because I had fallen in love with and married an accomplished and beautiful woman, Mridula, who used to work as a teacher in Mumbai and earned enough salary to sustain the two of us. She’s recently quit her job — of her own volition, I didn’t ask her to (laughs), she follows her heart. Anyway, yes, more than the outer fight is the inner fight. Inner struggle is huge, the uncertainty that comes with this profession, you don’t know when you will get an opportunity, how long will it take, you are absolutely uncertain about what will happen. Everyday, I used to go to casting offices, for auditions wherever they were held, and returned unsuccessful. That struggle is more or less internal, not external. So, yes, it happened to me too. I seriously don’t have any tales, especially because of my wife’s huge support. And for me, that free time was not just free time, I was actually working on my craft. I was practising. I knew that just like how a runner/sportsman prepares all round the year for that one day – whether a national meet or the Olympics – when s/he has to perform. So, as an actor, those eight years were my preparation days, and, perhaps that’s why for the last three years, I have been doing eight-nine projects every year. And, until now, all my flaws haven’t made themselves glaringly apparent to the world yet (laughs), because the preparation was all right. But, I’m also an actor, so I know that even I have limitations, which will soon get revealed in a matter of time; maybe, some people can already notice my flaws. I, of course, can. I know what my problem areas are.

On whether he ever felt dejected in his early acting days

I never felt that way, perhaps because I hadn’t come to Mumbai thinking that I’ll become a hero, or to launch myself. The money and survival in Hindi theatre was difficult for me, so I came to Mumbai for survival. I thought that my passion is acting, so perhaps, I can run the house on it. And my needs were very limited and basic. Many people aspire for a dream car, I didn’t have any such desires. Neither did I have any dream role. For me, acting is just a means to run my household, to fulfil basic needs of my wife and child. Where I come from, our struggle is to become a doctor or get a railway job. My needs were very less. And perhaps that’s why I never feel dejected. I knew the day I get a chance, I’ll somehow manage. And neither did I want to become some huge personality. Just yesterday, someone asked me about my lead role in the forthcoming film Kaagaz, that whether I didn’t want to play the lead all along. I said, of course, it (playing the lead) was a desire but I was never desperate for it. There was chaahat (desire) not bechaini (restlessness) that my tomorrow is better than my today. But I won’t chase or go to any length for it, nobody becomes better like that, sukoon (peace) and itminaan (satisfaction) are very important, one cannot give them up for the sake of doing better. For a film, unnecessarily everyone is caught up in a rat race, even I have been, but by and by I’m understanding life, I’m realising that it is all pointless, that our parents’ lives were far better. They lived in a simple atmosphere.

On maintaining his composure in a frenetic city

I somehow manage. Raftaar (speed) is an external process, which basically comes from within. For the wheels to move, the work is done by the engine. Though we see the wheels, but it is the engine which runs. So, I keep my engine under control. Yes, sometimes I feel drained, and if this year-long lockdown hadn’t happened, I would have fallen sick, because overnight I was taking flights from one place to another, one shooting to another. This lockdown break made me realise that I should pause for a while. It’s again about controlling my own engine.

On how he brings about an inner stability

I don’t know, I don’t try anything special for it. I read books, I meet people. I’m quite attached to nature. It doesn’t require any doing, the toughest journey is going inwards, we still manage to embark on external journeys, travel the world, but can’t travel within. And I try to travel within every day, now i don’t know what the process for that is. I do a lot of spiritual talks these days (smiles), while in actuality, I’m a very nonsensical man, I try to bring that touch of nonsense to my characters, because nonsense is very entertaining, sense points at the good and bad. People expect very seriously that I will say something very deep and profound, I don’t have anything to share (laughs).

On being involved with student politics

Bihar is a very politically aware state. I, too, was very active in politics during my student days. Student unions are pretty active there. And almost every political party has its own students’ wing in the state. I had come to Patna from a village, so I wanted to do something out of the routine, but what that is I didn’t know. I used to read a small newspaper column called Nagar Mein Aaj (Today in Town), and got to know about a SPIC MACAY programme in Patna, where Bismillah Khan sahib was to come to play the shehnai. I, a simple 21-year-old village boy, in a cotton pant, bush shirt and gamchha, who has no knowledge of classical music, cycled to the event at Magadh Mahila College in Patna, because entry was free. All around me sat a well-dressed, discerning audience, they were also looking at me, happy that a young chap loves music so much. But, what love? I just read the column and wanted to do something different and so I ended up going to the show. That time, when the young wanted to do something different, they engaged in student politics, attended classical music and dance concerts in Patna, whether or not we understood, I would sit and watch for two hours. While I couldn’t understand anything, I would imitate the reactions and responses of the person sitting next to me, if he enjoyed it, I also moved my head that way and let out a wah, kya baat hai! Just that way, I ended up doing a lot of things. I took training and worked at a hotel, and sold shoes, too, for some days, even a broker got me to sell a patch of land – I tried but couldn’t sell it. So, you want to do a lot of things, students’ union was one such thing I pursued for a year and a half. And then, I saw a lot of theatre. There was this one play by Laxminarayan Lal, called Andha Kuan, I saw the actress Pranita Jaiswal perform and tears started rolling down my cheeks, and this time I wasn’t aping my neighbour, I was actually crying from within. I was so moved, I realised performing arts is such a strong medium. Then I watched and watched theatre for about a year. And, I set my mind on pursuing it as a career. Perhaps, this is that out-of-the-routine work that I had wanted to do. And from there my journey in theatre started for almost three-five years, I left everything else, students’ politics, hotel job, and did theatre 24×7. There’s this Gandhi Maidan, at the city centre in Patna, where almost every day we would go and do street play. So, if no proscenium theatre were ready, we would go there and we pick up any writer’s (Harishankar Parsai, or Phanishwar Nath Renu) stories, rehearse for five days and perform a street play, and people would give Re 1 to 10, whatever they liked, and we would make Rs 50-100. We would have chai-samosa with it and return to the spot the next day to perform again. The Maidan has a daily capacity of 5,000-6,000 people, and a variety of people are present there, from souvenir and snacks sellers to magicians, tamasha and bandar-khel artistes, hakeem and sex-clinic people, so we would wait for about 45 minutes for our turn to take the stage.

On whether it’s necessary for an actor to be aware of what’s happening around

It is necessary, and at the same time, it is absolutely not necessary as well. So there are two things, one is to be a commercial actor and the other is to be an activist actor. An activist actor is also a thinker. And both of these things are right, there would be many actors who might not be socially or politically aware. But they might just be very brilliant actors and their craft might be out of this world. I don’t think it is necessary that to be a brilliant actor, one needs to be politically aware. But it is a difficult thing and as we are human beings and our brains are placed on the top of our body, atop our spine. So it is kind of difficult to imagine that an actor would become an actor without thought. If you are knowledgeable, it’s a good thing, because then you can enliven your performances and it can help in keeping one’s performance contemporary. But on the other hand, if you yourself are not aware, but your writers are very very aware, it is all right. For me it’s not a parameter. But of course, as artists we live in society and coexist in the social scenario.

On whether artists should voice their opinion

Of course. Many artists are fully aware of what’s happening around them and they share their opinions. The tools, the medium at my disposal is cinema, my films. I say whatever I want to say through my films. A poet says what he wants to say through his poetry, a painter through his art, a sculptor through his creations. Without thought and thinking, no story or narrative can be created. All our arts forms – dance, drama, poetry – stem from deep thought.

On acting in Gangs of Wasseypur

There was this assistant director of Anurag Kashyap, Shlok, who had worked with me on the sets of Omkara where I had a very small role. I later came to know that there was this Bihar-based story, which Kashyap was directing. I called up Shlok and told him that I want to audition for a role in that film as I am from Bihar and I would like to be part of it. He told me that all the roles had been cast. So I was like, okay, next time such an opportunity arises, please think of me. Then Mukesh Chhabra, the casting director called me and told me that I needed to come and audition for a role. I went and gave an audition over six-seven hours and then I did not know that Sultan would be such an important character in the film. I met Anurag the next day, he saw my audition and suggested that maybe I should try a green eye lens. The lens didn’t work, and then I again gave the audition. The very next day, I went back to Jaisalmer where I was shooting for the daily soap. It’s only there that I came to know that I had been selected for the role. I had never met Anurag before that. I had seen him at Prithvi Theatre. I then shot for him straight on the sets, and even there, Anurag doesn’t direct a lot. I would keep wondering if I was doing the right thing. I would ask him that ‘sir, am I doing it the way you want’ and he would always be like ‘yes, yes, if you would be doing it wrong, I would tell you’. He is a very organic director and gives a lot of space and freedom to his actors. And if he trusts an actor, he doesn’t say anything at all. He is a very instinctive and observant director. He watches everybody on set, he gauges what an actor is doing. Like when the lighting and all is being prepared, he will just sit quietly in a corner and see what every actor is busy with, how they were preparing for the scene, how involved they were.

On improvising on sets and his Aadhaar dialogue in Stree

That time, Aadhaar was all around us. It was everywhere and it seemed that life had become Aadhaar. I remember there used to be these huge lines for the number and I myself have stood in those lines in many places in Mumbai, so I know firsthand what it means. At that same time, we started getting these SMSes about how we need to link our Aadhaar with our bank accounts, our phone numbers etc. I improvise nowadays and my directors are also quite encouraging of the same, they give me that freedom. There was this scene in Criminal Justice where I’m going for the first hearing at the sessions court. And Madhav Mishra is somebody with very low confidence. He is a small-time lawyer, he does not have the confidence or the bravado to argue a matter in front of the judge. I told Rohan Sippy, the director, to get somebody to stand there as a lawyer, and I would drag that fellow with me, and say, ‘that I will pay you, just come along with me”. That person would ask me, ‘fine, you will pay me, but for what? What do you need?’ I would then respond with ‘That I need confidence’. Rohan quite liked it and we had the scene in the show, and it’s now a meme as well. We got a junior artist. He does nothing, just sits next to Madhav Mishra. I used to have this one acquaintance back in the day and he would often need a lot of confidence to go anywhere. He would do a lot of things to get the requisite confidence, for example, he would pour himself a drink before heading anywhere. And we would say, ‘why are you drinking in the day’, and he would reply, ‘I will get confidence out of this’. But I understand my limitations as an actor. As an actor, I only look at my role, but the director will look at the larger picture, the whole narrative, the whole film.

On the kind of director he likes

Don’t we all want absolute freedom? Isn’t that what the whole struggle is all about? When I am in a position which allows me to be free, that is of course a good place to be in. At the same time, if a director stops me or corrects me, I understand that he is the captain of this project. Both the conditions are good, but one enjoys the previous one more. There are many scripts, many narratives where you cannot take a certain liberty, one cannot improvise. That story might not have the scope of improvisation or interpretation. It’s like the ragas, in some there is scope of interpretation and improvisation, and in many, you cannot do that. In many ragas, the grammar, the syntax, the composition is such that you cannot really fiddle with them. I listen to my directors. I’m very much a director’s actor. I just had a meeting with a director today and I told him that whatever happens – be it praise or brickbats – it’s all yours.

On his nuanced performances

Over the years I have dealt with a lot of people, and those interactions have left an everlasting impression on me. I have met a whole range of people, right from my village, to the people in Bombay and I consider all of them my teachers. I’m a very receptive person, I believe in listening more. I’m ready to receive from anybody who can teach me anything. If you’re open to things, if you’re open to learning, if you open your ears and open your heart and your mind, there is a lot to learn. Life itself is a great school of learning. I had this teacher in NSD, BV Karanth, who used to say, ‘Kansen bano, Tansen mat bano, through minimum create maximum’. Similar teachings were imparted to us from the classes of Prasanna sir, Anuradha Kapoor. We also learn from co-actors when we rehearse with them. You also learn so much from books and literature. Yesterday, I was reading Mikhail Chekov’s book and I came across this line, “That if I ever get the opportunity to help a young woman with her baggage in a train compartment, that would be quite something, I would quite like it”. I kept thinking about that line for about 10 minutes as it was just a line, but it expressed so much in such a simple fashion. I learn a lot from writers like Maxim Gorky and Phanishwar Nath Renu as well. As for the economical gestures and the nuanced bits, it is a very deliberate and a very conscious decision on my part. A part of my soul and a huge amount of my life experience goes into making that nuanced, subtle performance possible.

On the importance of research to play a character

I have seen many such band people and members of orchestra parties at close quarters, I have observed them at length. Had I not been an actor in Hindi cinema, I would have been a rangeela somewhere. I would have definitely been part of a nautch group or some orchestra party. Even now when I see some street musicians or some live musical thing on the road, I want to stop and live that experience, and listen to the sounds of Indian instruments, like harmonium, tabla, dholak and sitar. I always want to quit the journey that I’m on and stop there and listen to what those people are playing.

Many people still don’t understand the importance of a backstory or the research needed for a character, especially in mainstream cinema. They think that if I’m talking about the history of a character, it means that I want to add some scenes. I clarify that no, I don’t need scenes, to which the response comes, then what’s the point if the audience can’t see then how will they understand that history? I often explain that it’s not about relaying it to the audience, it’s about the heft it will give to the character. And those who want to understand will get the message. It’s important for me, as an actor, as a performer. I cannot construct a building without a foundation. A foundation is never visible, but without a foundation nothing of importance can ever be built. Characters cannot exist without a backstory, or a background. For me, a character just doesn’t materialise in thin air and starts reciting dialogues wearing the costume. The character has to come from somewhere, from some context — he’s coming from someplace and he’s going somewhere.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is a very brilliant director and I worked with him in Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa. I am playing someone who has run away from his home. I asked him, ‘why is this character running away from home?”. He told me that ‘you are the actor, it’s your job to figure out why.’ I thought about it the whole day and then I came to the conclusion that there is no logic to the man running away the way he did. It’s also never mentioned in the film. The director asked me that did you think about it? And I told him that no I’m not thinking about it as we don’t know why he ran away. That’s how I played the character. He does not know why he ran away from home. We see that in the film, that he might just return home one day.

On playing a character out of his comfort zone

Yes, I do think about such a role. I mentioned that I need to enjoy what I do. Earlier I used to have limitations, and there were monetary concerns, which was a truth that I accepted. At that point, I accepted that. But now, I do have the choice.

Audience Questions

Janhvi Kapoor, actor

How do you always remain so calm on the sets? Have you always been this way, or did it come with experience?

PT: Definitely with experience. In the beginning, I didn’t have this state of ‘calmness’, but there was ample confidence. Sometimes I would even play at that confidence. But with life, came experience, and one realises that peace of mind is the most important thing.

Sharan Sharma, Director, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl

As an actor, you learn so many tricks of the trade, and there are skills you pick up which help you deliver certain performances. How do you balance it with the innate honesty that you have, as a person?

PT: It’s difficult to dissect it, to surgically operate the concept. As an actor, you learn where the light is, what the gimmick is, and where the camera is. I keep the craft — the tricks, the power — all together, but I don’t leave the truth behind. Sure, gimmicks help in telling the tale, but it’s only when it comes from the heart, that people see it as the truth.

Shubhra Gupta: When you were looking for the father in Gunjan Saxena, was Pankaj Tripathi your only choice?

Sharan Sharma: Yes, he was our only choice. We had sent the script to him, and he took some time to say yes. Janhvi even took a mannat (vow), she gave up eating non-vegetarian food till Pankaj sir came on board.

PT: The script had come to me, and I was unable to read it, as I had gone to my ancestral home in the village, where there is no access to the Internet. After I came back, I met Janhvi on a flight to Goa, and she told me about her mannat, and till that time I had said yes to the script, and I told her that had I known about her mannat, I would have said yes to the film without reading the script. It’s an important story and every father should aim to be like Anup Saxena. Even I am like him, or I aim to be like him.

Vidyanand Jha, Professor, IIM-Kolkata

Which school or tradition of acting of Hindi cinema do you hail from? And what roles do you prefer, serious ones or humourous ones?

PT: I have not seen a lot of films, and have almost zero reference of older actors. My training school was the National School of Drama, from where people like Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah came. It’s my gurukul. Irrfan saab left a huge impression on me though I don’t know if I hail from his school of acting, but if I came to be associated with his school, that would be a huge honour for me. As for my choice of roles, there is a new film from Anubhav Sinha, where I am having a lot of fun. I have had fun in the Fukrey series, and even in Criminal Justice, as Madhav Mishra. But honestly, I have fun in all my roles, because if I don’t, then even acting will become work, and then it will become boring.

Aashna Kanhai, Ambassador of Suriname to India

We ‘pravasi Bharatiyas’ feel proud that you have made a name as a Bhojpuriya — as Kaleen Bhaiya and Advocate Mishra. Also, if the opportunity arises, will you ever join politics?

PT: There has been a huge migration in our country’s history, of the girmitiyas (indentured labourers). I have a huge interest in all this that happened 140 years ago. I want to do something on this, it’s such an integral part of Bihari history. As for the other question, we’ll see. I have worked so hard to be an actor, and now people recognise me as an actor. It would seem a bit strange if I shift careers from abhineta to neta. But politics does have the ability to affect change that can impact the lives of people directly. Maybe, in the future if the opportunity presents itself.

Pankaj Mishra, Sanskrit professor, St Stephens college

We have seen a negative side of the Hindi film industry lately. There have been some stark statements due to which a section of the public has sworn off watching films of a particular actor. Amidst all this, where do you think the future of Bollywood lies?

PT: I am no expert, or a spokesperson of the industry, I don’t understand the trade aspect of it. Everyone has the right to form their opinion. But at the same time, if the opinion is formed only through social media, one should be careful. I have seen this industry for the last 15 years at all levels, right when I was turned away from the gates of a production house, to now, when I meet the CEOs of such companies. Don’t form your opinions only through social media, analyse things, and think. As for the future, 10 years ago, the films that are being made today, would have been impossible to make. I could never have believed that an actor who looks like me could have played the main protagonist in a Hindi film. Bollywood, in my personal opinion, is a very democratic space, it also breaks the existent hierarchy. On a film set, everyone — from the hero, to the lightman and makeup artist — are equal.

Mudit Jain, MD, DCW Limited

Films are made in a disjointed manner, the first scene might be shot last, or something. But when a film is finished and it all comes together, how does it feel creatively?

PT: Filmmaking is a beautiful, fascinating process. Look at it, a person had an idea, and then he started to write it, involved pen and paper. Then came the second draft. Then comes the thought that lets ‘make a screenplay’. Two, three people got involved, then someone comes and says, ok I will invest money in this. Added to this collaboration are the ‘bride and groom’ — the hero and the heroine. And then this is taken to the editing room, where this is again ‘disjointed’. If you are not from a film theory background, you will find film shooting very boring. The magic is not in the preparation, but in the execution. If you really want to enjoy the magic of cinema, watch the film.

Nishant Gaharwar, Head – HR, Disney + Hotstar

Which expression for you is the most difficult to essay on screen?

PT: Romance, I think. I am a shy person, so if I have to essay a romantic scene on screen with a heroine, I would find it difficult. Each emotion is difficult to recreate. In the performing arts, we recreate. In life, we all create the emotions, as it’s all real. Here it’s all fictional. To portray something over the top, or something very loud, I find that difficult as well.

SG: In Criminal Justice, you have played a reluctant romantic.

PT: Yes, I was thinking of the same instance. I did make a back story for this.

Jitendra Dabas, COO, McCann World Group

Now, people come to see Pankaj Tripathi in theatres, and writers and directors will also start writing material keeping you in mind. Does it worry you that all of it will start looking the same? How do you counter the sameness? Are you scared of it?

PT: Yes, I worry about it, though I am not yet scared. The sameness is a thing to worry about. It’s like you repeat the same thing in season 1, 2 and 3, I do think about repeating myself and question myself if I am doing the same thing. Hence, I look for scripts where I am not repeating myself. I try to create something new in the sameness as well.

Devyani Onial: Is there a dream role you wish to essay, is there a character which would be out of your comfort zone?

PT: Yes, I do think about such a role. I mentioned that I need to enjoy what I do. Earlier I used to have limitations, and there were monetary concerns, which was a truth that I accepted. At the point, I accepted that. But now, I do have the choice.

SG: I see a similar formula in place for OTT platforms, where one hit story seems to be replicated. Like we see a narrative set in the gangster world, riddled with expletives and sex scenes, and these are stories that cannot be viewed with the family present. Do you think the OTT creators should be aware of this, and they are falling in the same trap as the mainstream cinema of the 90s.

PT: Yes of course, we should be aware of this trap. We see that in the entertainment industry, one hit story, and then there is habit to replicate it. We do something once, it is a novelty, but we do it too often, it loses its impact.

SG: Like when we saw it in Omkara for the first time, Saif Ali Khan abusing, it was an unbelievable thing. Then with Gangs of Wasseypur, it became more acceptable, and now it’s the new normal. You have been part of such shows, like Sacred Games and Mirzapur.

PT: I have been part of such shows, but I self-censor, I only use expletives when absolutely necessary. And then we saw so many memes where I am shown abusing. In Mirzapur, I am like abusing twice, and now in Criminal Justice, Madhav Mishra doesn’t need to abuse, so I haven’t. In Gunjan Saxena, there is no scope for this set-up. But as we are sharing a story of a gangster drama, it becomes a necessity, as people who inhabit those worlds in real life, don’t really use a nuanced, respectful dialect. And yes, people get bored. But as actors we also get swayed.

Anand Jha, Chief Corporate Affairs, Walmart

How is it possible that people from all ages, be it my daughter who is 17 and my team who range from their 20s to their 30s, and my parents who are in their 70s — they all relate to your performances?

PT: I don’t know, but yes, it’s surprising for me. I have had 11-year-olds telling me that they relate to my work in Stree, and Gunjan Saxena, and then there are elderly people who tell me the same. I don’t know if it’s my hard work, or my dedication, or the blessing of my parents. But I also feel that all the love that I receive from the audience, is like a fixed deposit, which I will have to return, with interest.

SG: Have you ever thought of direction?

PT: I get visuals of the landscapes of various places in my mind — right from Naugachia in Bihar, to the full moon night of Rann of Kutch, to the desolate Nubra Valley in Leh, or an evening on the banks of the Sarayu river. I can only share them with the world when I direct, not through speaking or narrating alone. After some years, hopefully.

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