Saturday, Oct 01, 2022

How Did Pankaj Tiwari Become Pankaj Tripathi Long Before He Dreamt Of Being An Actor?

Pankaj was drawn to acting in his village where at least one member of each family used to participate in the annual play during the Chhath festival.

Pankaj Tripathi in Bachchhan Pandey Instagram

What’s in a surname? A lot, if one goes by a little-known story about Pankaj Tripathi.

The Bihar-born actor, who is presently shooting for Akshay Kumar-starrer Oh My God 2, was originally named Pankaj Tiwari by his parents after his birth, but he chose to change it when he was a class IX student. 

The actor tells Outlook, “My original name was Pankaj Tiwari but while I was studying in class IX, I decided to change it to Pankaj Tripathi. People get the surname of their father but I changed to the surname of my father.”

Pankaj hails from the remote Belsand, a predominantly Brahmin village under the Barauli block of the Gopalganj district in Bihar. His father Banaras Tiwari, now 98 years old, was a priest and a farmer in his younger days. But Pankaj wanted to do something different to make his mark. As a young boy, he somehow noticed that most people having “Tiwari” as their surname in the village were priests while those with “Tripathi” suffixed to their names were far more educated than them.

He says, “One of my neighbours was the most educated person in the village. His surname was Tripathi and he was a college professor. I thought Tiwaris were meant for the priesthood while the Tripathis were educated, intellectual types. Under this impression, I changed my surname in my school records.”

It was during his early years in his ancestral village that he was drawn towards acting. In those days, at least one member of each family used to participate in the annual play which used to be organised during the Chhath festival. 

He says, “I took part in two plays and in one of them, I played a female character which nobody was willing to do in my village. The reason behind it is that the villagers used to tease anybody who would perform a woman’s role on the stage. They would even call him by the name of that character for at least a year.”

Pankaj says that villagers tried to make fun of him in the same manner but he did show any reaction. He says, “When they saw that it made no difference to me, they stopped teasing me.”

The actor, known for characters such as Kaleen Bhaiya in the popular web series Mirzapur says the tradition of drama in his village paved the way for his ultimate success in the world of acting. 

He says, “Sometimes, I feel that God had given the culture of drama to my village for the sake of me only. Had it not been there, I would not have developed an interest in acting. I had no family background in art, acting or music.”

It, therefore, rankles Pankaj to know that drama is no longer organised during the Chhath festival in his village. “The new generation appears to be more interested in dance and music,” says Pankaj.

The youngsters of Belsand apparently do not know that an actor of Pankaj’s calibre owes his success in the film industry to his initial grooming on the stage during the Chhath festivities in his village. He may have become a big star in Bollywood now but he had become an actor long before he made it to the tinsel town marquee.