Nawazuddin Siddiqui on his career and food choices
“You are vegetarian! I can’t do without meat.” Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes his choices clear as we meet at Le Meridien’s The One restaurant. It is lunch time and the restaurant is buzzing with activity. A man of simple taste, Nawaz opts for the buffet even when the chef offers him the a-la-carte option.
“I can’t say no to good food and the problem is I gain weight easily. So I limit myself to small portions but it is not always possible,” says Nawaz putting some green salad in his plate. He starts with mutton biryani and recalls the time when he used to have shalgam (turnip) gosht and palak (spinach) gosht prepared by his mother. “She is an expert at mixing vegetables with meat. Her mutton preparation with radish leaves is outstanding.” Those were the days in Burhana near Muzzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. Today Nawaz is one of most sought after actors in the country with journalists looking for mysterious meanings in his expressions.
In no hurry to cash in on his new found popularity, Nawaz wants to put a price on his talent. “I want to be the highest paid actor in the country. We have seen producers running after star sons with a crore to sign for their first film but when it comes to actors they expect them to survive only on art. My seniors like Irrfan Khan and Manoj Bajpayee learnt to live with this discrimination, I will not. I have come the hard way and I don’t want to finish myself by signing a hundred films.” He carries a lot of pain of his struggle days and thanks Anurag Kashyap for letting him vent out his anger in the climax of Gangs of Wasseypur. “As Faizal Khan pumped bullets in Ramadhir Singh, I got the much needed relief,” says Nawaz. Meanwhile, he digs into fried fish.
Having rejected “more than 100 offers” after Kahaani, Nawaz is about to begin shooting for Ketan Mehta’s Mountain Man, which is based on the life of Dashrath Majhi. “We talk about Taj Mahal as the symbol of love, here was a man who moved a mountain for his beloved,” says Nawaz about the poor labourer from Gaya district, who single-handedly created a pass through a mountain when his wife died due to lack of medical treatment because the nearest town was 70-odd kilometres away. “He was so moved that he worked relentlessly for two decades and created a pass through the mountain reducing the distance to one kilometre. How many of us can do this for love?” Nawaz feels Ketan has come up with an engaging script. “The first half is a beautiful love story. Dashrath was married in his childhood but as is the norm in some parts of Bihar, the girl continued to live with her parents. As a young man he fell in love with a girl whom he met in the neighbourhood market but later he discovers she is the same girl to whom he was engaged to as a child.”
Radhika Apte has been cast opposite him because Ketan wanted a dusky girl. “Freida Pinto was eager to be part of it but when she realised that the role ends by half time, she opted out,” shares Nawaz, adding that Ketan had asked him to spend some time in the gym, which he has not been able to do. He curiously asks for the facilities in the hotel.
Has he become used to fans? “I am trying to but here again I find a difference between a star and an actor. Recently at a news channel where Manoj bhai and I had gone for an interview, curious people entered the washroom to have autographs and pictures. Manoj bhai said if he would say no he would be labelled as arrogant.” He has spent some interesting times with Manoj and one of them was in Siliguri during a film shoot where he learnt to make jungle chicken. “I tried it in Mumbai and it worked. I put whole spices in the gravy and cook it in mustard oil.”
Time for coffee and Nawaz says he is not going to limit himself to one genre or banner. “I want to see how it goes. Talaash is ready for release where after Aamir (Khan), I am playing the most important character. I am about to sign an Anil Sharma production, which will be shot abroad. It is an action role and will revolve around me. Then I have just wrapped up Aatma with Bipasha Basu. But between all this I have also completed an independent film Haramkhor, where I didn’t ask for any remuneration because that I need to sustain the actor in me.”