Anupam Tripathi interview: ‘Squid Game’
“I never imagined this. I was never prepared for it, frankly speaking,” admits Anupam Tripathi, who portrays the endearing Pakistani migrant Ali Abdul on Netflix’s number 1 show “Squid Game.” For our recent webchat he adds, “I was just doing my job, sincerely with honesty, whatever I could, because as an immigrant in Korea, as an actor in Korea, I was trying to find my own ground there. I was just doing my job and suddenly it became like people were really loving my character. I felt so good; the honesty and sincerity does help you to connect with people.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Squid Game” was conceived by Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes. Tripathi co-stars alongside Korean superstar Lee Jung-jae as hero Gi-hun, newcomer Jung Ho-yeon as destitute North Korean refugee Sae-byeok, Park Hae-soo as the calculating Sang-woo, Wi Ha-jun as undercover cop Jun-ho, Heo Sung-tae as the villainous Deok-su, Lee Yoo-mi as the stoic Ji-yeong, Oh Young-soo as fragile old man Il-nam and Kim Joo-ryoung as the delightfully unhinged Mi-nyeo. The drama thriller centers on the story of down-on-their-luck people in dire need of money, who each receive mysterious invitations to join a dangerous life-or-death version of their childhood games in order to win a cash prize of 45.6 billion won (equivalent to about 38 million US dollars).
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Every game featured in the series is based on a traditional Korean children’s game (like Red Light Green Light for instance), but in this “sinister amusement park,” the consequence of losing a game is a painful death. Who will be the winner, and what is the purpose behind this game? Of the 456 participants from all walks of life who are locked into a secret location to play Game 1, only a handful are left to play Game 6. Netflix premiered all nine episodes of the dystopian Korean thriller on September 17 of last year, after which it became a word-of-mouth sensation and the streaming giant’s most popular series launch ever, topping Netflix charts in over 80 countries. After all of its commercial success, “Squid Game” may dominate at the Emmys this year, following its three surprise wins at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Lee won Best Drama Actor, Jung won Best Drama Actress and the series stunt team proudly shared in the stunt ensemble prize. Oh also recently tasted victory, claiming a Golden Globe in the competitive catch-all Best Drama Supporting Actor category.
Tripathi has become one of the most popular actors from the cast, largely due to his knack for imbuing downtrodden migrant worker Ali with a charming and often child-like innocence. Ali has entered the game to support his young family after his exploitative employer stopped paying him six months, eventually teaming up with Gi-hun, Il-nam and Sang-woo to outsmart the puppet-masters behind the game and get as far as he can. He ultimately succumbs to a lethal bullet in episode 6 “Ggangbu” when Sang-woo takes advantage of his trusting goodwill during their final marble game by tricking him into handing over his remaining marbles.
Ali is the embodiment of director Hwang’s vision for the show as a confronting allegory for the failures within egalitarian capitalist society, where immigrants are often taken advantage of and victimized. It wasn’t lost on Tripathi how important Ali was to bringing that vision to life in the series. “I always felt like no story is complete without immigrants,” he shares. “No story is complete without us, either in front of the camera or behind the camera, because we are also needed, we are sharing the same space,” he explains, adding that he felt a real connection with Ali’s plight in some ways because of his own background. “I had that will inside me that kept me going in Korea and a lot of people asked me ‘why don’t you go to Bollywood or Hollywood, why Korea?’ but I kept going, because I was enjoying this different language, different culture and I was able to perform and deliver as a storyteller or as a character, either on stage or on camera.”