"I am 44 years old and India knows me now. Better late than never," he said.
However Pankaj, who was born in Belsand, a village in Gopalganj District in Bihar, does not fuss about the challenges he has faced to reach this high in his career.
"I have faced the same struggles that any actor faces. My difficulties were no different than the others. I come from a non-filmy background and I am a small village boy, so the challenges were a little more. I think that is organic and I have no complaints, because that happens in every field and not just in acting," Pankaj told IANS.
"In whatever profession you are, it takes time to make a name," he explained, adding that the years of struggle are the ones when "you would have some experiences"
His breakthrough came in Anurag Kashyap's 2012 film series, "Gangs Of Wasseypur". Although he had just one solid scene, he managed to leave an impact. Since then there has been no looking back. His performance in the "Fukrey" series, "Masaan", "Nil Battey Sannata", "Bareilly Ki Barfi", "Newton" and "Stree".
Pankaj feels it does not matter if you are an industry insider or outsider in Bollywood, in today's time.
"The journey is equally tough for an insider. The audience has evolved. It's not easy for anyone anymore. You have to prove you are the best," he said.
The actor has nothing to complain about. "I have had an interesting journey. It's fun to swim against the tide and yet reach your goal. Then, the journey is fulfilling," he said.
After 15 years in Hindi cinema, Pankaj is now touted as one of the best acting talents in the country.
"It feels good. Whatever field you are working in, you want to be known as an expert. So, of course it feels good. At the same time, the responsibility becomes more because a lot of people have hopes on you. That is an added responsibility," he said.
Does he feel that it is a good time for actors and character actors in the industry?
"It is a good time for actors not just for character actors. I disagree with the term character actor. Everyone is an actor. Even the hero of a film is playing a character, so I'd say it is a great time for all actors," he said.
(Durga Chakravarty can be contacted at email@example.com)