Critically acclaimed actor Pankaj Tripathi is currently in the limelight for his film "Newton", India's official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Oscars 2018. However, the National School of Drama alumnus, who has worked in films like "Omkara", "Gangs of Wasseypur", "Masaan" and "Bareilly Ki Barfi", says that in India, actors are not actors but are more like products and brands.
A number of films which have theatre actors in them are relatable and enjoyable; yet they remain critically acclaimed and rarely smash the box office.
What does he think is the reason for this trend?
"Currently our country is going through the trend called 'image-making'. Sadly, theatre actors don't have this knack for marketing. Theatre itself doesn't know how to market itself. Which is a huge reason why the actors associated with the medium cannot solely depend on theatre for their livelihood.
"So, if you take a theatre actor, the acting part is taken care of because we are trained for that, but we cannot sell because we don't know (how to market ourselves). I have been in the profession for so long; It took me 12 years to reach here; I can act well, but I am not salable. Why? Because in our country actors are not actors, they are products; they are brands," he said.
Pankaj, who worked with actor Rajkummar Rao in "Bareilly Ki Barfi" before "Newton", said Indians are mostly star-struck, be it in any field.
"We want a star everywhere, be it in politics, cricket or cinema. It is a star-struck society. Theatre actors are not stars. They keep looking for truth and how they can bring truth to their lives. They concentrate on how their work can be more entertaining and attract more people," said Pankaj, who essayed the role of principal Srivastava in "Nil Battey Sannata".
Talking about the art of selling and marketing, Pankaj drew a comparison between his films "Newton" and "Gurgaon".
"You need support for your film to sell, like 'Netwon' has (distributors) Eros International (production company) Drishyam Films. We therefore got a good release. On the other hand, some time back my film 'Gurgaon' came. It was an independent film, did not get a good release and not many people came to know about it -- though it got some of the best reviews," said Pankaj, who will next be seen in "Fukrey Returns", "Munna Michael" and a web series he is not yet ready to talk about.
Pankaj, however, says the market is changing, but slowly.
Hailing digital platforms like Netflix and YouTube, Pankaj believes that easy access to cinema the world over has changed minds or is in the process of bringing about change.
"It is picking up, things are changing, hopefully it will get better. Digital mediums like Netflix and similar apps or websites have turned things around. People have access to world cinema and so they know what is good cinema and good acting," he said.
Hailing "Newton" as a film which needs the audiences to put on their thinking caps and not consider it a "time-pass", Pankaj took indirect pot shots at films devoid of content.
"'Newton' is a brilliant film. It entertains you and delivers a message too. 'Par dimag leke aao' (Don't leave your brains at home). This is not a time-pass film. In our country, people have a lot of time on their hands for things which do not need time -- which is why time-pass films were in excess at one time," he said.