Interview | Movies

Nawazuddin Siddiqui: 'Bollywood compromises on realistic stories'

Nawazuddin Siddiqui   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It is easy to be caught in an image trap when you are an actor working in Indian films. The skill or market value of an individual bears no weight because seldom does one walk into an image trap of their own volition; it is often imposed.

And Nawazuddin Siddiqui knows this all too well. In a recent webinar interaction with the film crew of Ghoomketu, Nawazuddin’s latest film that releases on the streaming platform Zee5 on May 22, the film’s director Pushpendra Nath Misra made the claim that he was asked why he cast a “serious actor” like Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the lead in what is supposedly a comedy film. Misra had a tongue-in-cheek response: “I told them that’s because I was very serious about doing comedy.”

Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Ragini Khanna in the film ‘Ghoomketu’

Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Ragini Khanna in the film ‘Ghoomketu’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nawazuddin doesn’t take too kindly to being perceived, albeit wrongly, as this “dark zone” actor, although he has a witty response as well. “Dark zone mein bhi comedy kar lete (let’s do comedy in dark zone too),” he laughs.

“The character I play in Ghoomketu does not do comedy. There is situational humour but I don’t deliberately attempt comedy. Secondly, I have never wanted to be stereotyped in my career. If you look at my record in other films like Raees, Kahaani or even Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, Thackeray, Manto and Photograph, I have played different characters. So, I don’t feel that I’m caught in an image trap. In fact, it only proves the trust the [film] industry has on me to have offered me these different roles, and I’m happy about it. I never want to be trapped in an image because I want to be in an uncomfortable zone. That is when I find it the most fun to play these characters,” the actor adds.

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Produced by the now-defunct production firm Phantom Films, of which filmmaker Anurag Kashyap was a co-founder, and Sony Pictures Networks, Ghoomketu follows the story of the titular character from Uttar Pradesh who dreams of making it as a writer in the cold, cut-throat business environment of Bollywood.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Anurag Kashyap in the film ‘Ghoomketu’

Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Anurag Kashyap in the film ‘Ghoomketu’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On his tail is a cop who needs to apprehend Ghoomketu and bring him back to his hometown, lest he be transferred as punishment. Besides Nawazuddin, the film stars Anurag Kashyap, Raghubir Yadav, Ila Arun, Swanand Kirkire and Ragini Khanna. Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan are a few of the celebrities who make cameo appearances.

“It would feel like a story that happened a long time ago in our own lives; those little memorable sections of our life journey that we have now almost forgotten, Ghoomketu will remind us all of it. It is a family story that binds together all these situational emotions,” says Nawazuddin.

Story of the people
  • Ad filmmaker-turned-director Pushpendra Nath Misra would not have expected Ghoomketu to run into delays while he shot it. In the six years since he completed filming the movie, Misra debuted as a filmmaker with the web series Taj Mahal 1989 on Netflix. He still remains as “excited and nervous” as he was when he shot the movie. “My cast features sublime actors. It is never easy to get the exact same actors we have in our minds,” he says. Asked if Ghoomketu is a story he relates to on a personal level, he responds: “It is not my story at all. I didn’t face many struggles in my life. Also, a writer seldom tells you his own story. As a writer, you tend to observe others’ lives, and that is what you end up telling. Ghoomketu is a story of the people.”

The actor, who has completed over two decades in Bollywood, celebrated his 46th birthday recently. “The first 10 years of my career was one of struggle. I want to continue working, that is my aim. It doesn’t matter if the role is big or small. There are many things that I need to do in films,” says the actor, who made his Tamil debut in Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta (2019) alongside Rajinikanth.

Ghoomketu is a long-delayed film, having completed production in 2014, and is just the latest in a long list of movies set to release on OTT platforms as the decision of reopening theatres across the country is in limbo.

Ask Nawazuddin if it makes any difference to him that the film is releasing on OTT instead of the big screen, and he says, “It doesn’t and it shouldn’t make a difference. OTT is where people get to watch films now. It is a medium just like theatres, and the fact that a film of ours is releasing during these times is itself a big thing.”

Talked up for its rooted-to-reality story line, Ghoomketu appears to be one of those few films that Bollywood churns out that doesn’t appear to be set eons away from the livelihoods of middle-class Indians.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and other cast members in a still from ‘Ghoomketu’

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and other cast members in a still from ‘Ghoomketu’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

However, Nawazuddin counters the idea that Bollywood’s surfeit of internationally-staged storylines, populated by characters representative of an elite, upper middle class, needs a course correction.

“Realistic stories do come about in Bollywood but the characters depicted in them and the format it is presented changes everything. I think when we make so many films a year, we become insecure at the thought of whether people will watch it or not. So what happens is we add five or six songs, add comedy and fit original stories into a formula. For example, even if someone makes a biopic, we add six songs to it and make a Bollywood recipe,” he says.

The problem also extends to the casting. “When we add actors or stars who the common man wouldn’t feel the connection with, it appears odd. The story is compromised there itself. We only cast someone who has a market even if we want to show an ordinary man because the cinema is dependent on the box office. So, when compromises are made, original stories wouldn’t feel real anymore,” he says, adding, “Our audience too have not gotten used to characters being explored in depth. So we are okay with letting actors get away with a superficial performance.”

The actor, who is currently in home quarantine at his native Budhana in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, says that the lockdown has had a profound impact on him as well.

He concedes to have watched as many as 80 films so far. “Many things will change once normalcy returns. It would be a new start for me as well. I feel my acting style will change post lockdown,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 3:53:32 AM |

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