‘My kind of cinema is happening in a big way,’ says actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who has given a string of hits this year
Nawazuddin Siddiqui looks much like an ordinary guy. But it’s his very ordinariness that has landed him some extraordinary parts in recent films such as Kahaani, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 and the latest Talaash.
Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur put the focus firmly on Siddiqui. An actor to use a cliché had arrived. Yet he says, “I don’t know in the next two years what space I will make for myself in the industry. In the industry, once you are a hit, you get all kinds of offers. Even in a commercial film, I want to know what I am doing. People will easily forget you once you are out of the theatre so a role has to be haunting; it should stay with you long after the film is over.”
He believes it’s the best time for actors like him. “ Things have changed because of the kind of filmmakers coming in, the kind of films being made and the money such films are earning,” says the actor.
We are at Siddiqui’s one-room rented flat in suburban Mumbai. The house is as ordinary as its owner but the actor doesn’t seem to mind it at all. He was quoted in an article saying he won’t shift into a bigger house only to be bogged down by EMIs and then accept any role to pay them off. “I am happy here. There can never be the lure of doing something mindless for money. I can never be corrupt now because my kind of cinema is happening in a big, strong way and we are even getting paid handsomely for it.”
Just the night before, he’s returned from Dehradun. “I had gone home, to spend time with my family.” Born to a farmer father, and into a large family of nine siblings, Nawaz is the eldest and, so had to be the responsible one.
A chemistry graduate, it didn’t take long for him to realise his calling laid elsewhere. “I left my job as a chief chemist. Someone suggested I join theatre. I watched plays, trained in acting and did plays. I had to be careful leading my life in Mumbai. There was a time when I thought I only brought bad luck to my family. Five-six films of mine didn’t release at all. But, there was no question of going back. Fortunately, there was no financial pressure on me because my younger brothers had started working.”
Talk veers to mentor and friend, Anurag Kashyap. “Anurag had seen me in Sarfarosh (1999). He was struggling too at that point but he kept boosting my morale, saying ‘Jaana nahin chodke, kuch na kuch karenge, fight karenge.’ He had promised me that once he became successful he would work with me. He had told me about a script but that didn’t materialise but Wasseypur happened.”
Siddiqui claims he now gets offered all kinds of films, including romantic ones, action and comedies. “About 175 scripts have come to me and I have picked only three — Barry John’s first film, Sanjay Sharma’s Black Currency and Ketan Mehta’s Mountain Man, a biopic on a Bihar-based labourer who cuts a road through a mountain. All these roles can make any actor proud.”
He says he detests labels. “The industry is quick to slot you, categorise your films. As an actor, my job is to do all kinds of roles and that’s why I am doing Black Currency which requires me to play Hasan Ali Khan, a rich, suave business tycoon. People think only a certain kind of actor can carry off these roles. I want to prove them wrong. It’s easy here to categorise actors and cinema — words like parallel, Bollywood, commercial — they irritate me. I don’t even feel a star is different from an actor. A film is either good or bad, you are either an actor or you are not. That’s all I know.”
Bollywood News Service