(October 5, 2021) With no place to turn to escape from their financial burden, 456 people turn to a mysterious game in the hopes of winning a jackpot that could get them out of the clutches of misery. But they must risk their lives to play the game. What ensues next is backstabbing, murder and betrayal. Welcome to the world of Squid Game, the number 1 show on Netflix these days that has the world glued to their screens. In the midst of this darkness, there is one character who doesn’t lose his compassion and kindness despite the cut throat competition. And it’s this very affability of Abdul Ali, a Pakistani migrant, played by Indian actor Anupam Tripathi that has made him a global star and social media sensation.
Indians have been making inroads in Hollywood for a while now. But who could have thought that an Indian actor would hold his own in a Korean show? Tripathi has surprised everyone not only with his presence in a K-drama but also with his acting chops. The 32-year-old, who has been in Korea for over a decade now, has become the breakout star that the world is talking about.
For this Indian actor, it has been a long journey to the top, who had to contend with some blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearances before making it big with Squid Games.
Korea gives wings to acting
Born and brought up in India, Tripathi had a normal childhood. But it was in his teens that his passion for acting started brewing, and in 2016, he started taking it seriously after he began learning the basics. As he wanted to expand his horizons, a friend recommended him to apply for the Korea National University of Arts scholarship program. Known to be a haven for artistes, Tripathi unflinchingly applied for it and was accepted into the program. Though the actor was keen to make it big in the world of acting, he kept his application to the program a secret from his parents who wanted him to get a stable job. “I hid my plans to move to Korea from my parents while preparing for the entrance examination [because] they were firmly against it. They only relented after I was accepted,” he told 8days.
Despite his parents’ disapproval, he packed his bags and moved to Korea to chase his dreams of becoming an artiste par excellence. While getting into the university was nothing short of a dream come true for this youngster, he had a difficult time adjusting to the culture, the food and the language. In those tough days, he would often comfort himself with the thought that “life doesn’t go as planned.” Despite everything, Tripathi was undeterred and soon enrolled himself into a language course to learn the native language. “I spent 10 years in Korea as a student and a theatre actor with the thought of persevering everyday,” he revealed to Yonhap News.
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During his third year in the university, Tripathi started acting in South Korean plays and commercials. All the training at the university was put to good use and he often found himself sharing the stage with some of the best in the business.
The humble beginning
Four years after he moved to Korea, he bagged his first major project. Although it was a special appearance, Tripathi was working with one of the biggest names in Korean showbiz, director Yoon Je-kyoon. An Ode To My Father, with which Tripathi made his big debut, ended up being the fourth highest-grossing film in the history of South Korean cinema. Such was the success of the film that in 2019 Indian filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar made the film in Hindi as Bharat which had Salman Khan playing the titular role.
That was the beginning of his innings in Korean showbiz. A small scene in An Ode To My Father got him his first television stint, Let’s Eat 2. The Indian actor began making appearances in meaty projects like Asura: The City of Madness, Descendants of The Sun and Hospital Playlist.
Though he mostly played the role of a migrant, he tried not to focus on the fact that he might be getting typecast. Instead, Tripathi was happy that these roles gave him the chance to bring some of the real issues on the big screen. “I am grateful that I feel that I can stand on stage because of these people. I think it is an opportunity to show the dark and sad aspects of Korean society to many people,” he added.
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The turning point
Things were starting to shift for this Global Indian when he met Hwang Dong-hyuk who was looking for a foreign actor for his upcoming Netflix series. As they say, the rest is history. Tripathi became an overnight star with the success of Squid Game. If his endearing character has struck a chord with the global audience, the actor has found a huge fan following in real life. Tripathi, who plays a migrant worker from Pakistan, has become a sensation in the global circuit.
For the preparation of his role in Squid Game, the 32-year-old actor read articles, watched documentaries and met migrant workers in Korea. “In the drama, I accepted that Ali was a person who worked hard to live well with his family despite all kinds of adversity. I saw to it that he endured the fierce survival game as well. I worry about ‘how can I survive in Korea or what if I don’t have a job’ every day in Korea. I never let go. Of course, I never lost a smile just like Ali,” he added.
Squid Game has made Tripathi a global name. With a handful of roles in Korean shows, Squid Game has turned out to be his breakthrough performance. Talking about the show’s success, his family is most proud. “My mother and brothers are proud of me. I was convinced that what I was doing was a good thing. However, my father passed away in 2013, would have liked it if he had seen it, but it’s too bad.”
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Tripathi is currently completing his Master’s in acting and the only thing left is his thesis. “Still I am the happiest today in my 11 years of living in Korea.” The actor, who is happily basking in the glory of his new show, is keen to be a part of a historical drama soon. “Someday, I want to appear in an authentic historical drama for the first time as a foreign actor. I will break the limit of being a foreigner and show various charms,” he said.