The many faces of Nawazuddin Siddiqui

The actor talks about love stories, his next release 'Motichoor Chaknachoor' and Molière’s influence on his cameo in 'Housefull 4'

In just this calendar year, we’ve seen Nawazuddin Siddiqui showcase his range as an actor that would take others a lifetime. Regardless of the politics of Thackeray, there’s no denying that the actor capturing the magnetism of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, slipping effortlessly into the late politician’s skin. In Ritesh Batra’s utterly charming Photograph, Siddiqui played Rafi, a shy, struggling street photographer. This summer we saw him reprise his role as the much feared Ganesh Gaitonde in the second season of Sacred Games and, more recently, as the exorcist Ramsey Baba, complete with a garland of skull, in a cameo in Housefull 4. In Tannishtha Chatterjee’s directorial debut Roam Rome Mein that’s currently on the round of film festivals circuit, he plays a self-righteous, old-fashioned chauvinist hunting for his sister in a foreign land.

Family fun

This week’s release Motichoor Chaknachoor is Siddiqui’s last theatrical outing for the year. He describes this romcom about a middle-aged man looking for a bride as ‘a fun, family film’ and that also sums for his reasons for wanting to be a part of this film. “Most of my films have gotten the A-certificate. I think families started thinking that my films would be very intense or violent. I decided that I want to do some films that can be watched by every one. My daughter who is eight-and-a-half has barely seen any films of mine. I shot for this film, almost immediately after finishing Sacred Games Season 2. I felt the need to do a light film. I had done too many intense films back-to-back. So, now I am doing three of these light films. These were just so much easier to shoot. They didn’t require a lot of pre-prep. All I had to do was land up on set and deliver dialogues,” he admits.

Motichoor Chaknachoor, which also stars Athiya Shetty, is a rare romantic comedy in Siddiqui’s filmography. It’s not for the lack of wanting to make romances. The problem, though, has been the wide gap between Siddiqui’s and Bollywood’s idea of romance. “The way I see romance is very different from the typical Bollywood love story. For the last 60 years, we’ve been seeing a good looking boy, wearing great clothes, woo a beautiful girl and they sing songs. These days, these love stories have a social issue and that’s called ‘content-driven cinema’. My idea of romance is very different…it might or might not work at the box office but it is what it is. People might have thought Photograph was too slow but that’s the kind of romantic films I want to make. I have seen love stories like that in real life.”

Challenges galore

Siddiqui’s journey from the fields of Budhana, in Uttar Pradesh to the arc lights of Bollywood is a well-documented one. His years of struggle in Bollywood ended with Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live (2010) where he played a journalist. It’s been almost a decade since and a lot has changed in the 45-year-old’s life. What hasn’t, though, are his reasons for picking a film, he insists. “I start from a place of not believing that I can’t play a certain kind of character but when I am offered a film where I am required to play that character, then I take it up as a challenge. Every time I sign a film, I find myself exploring how much I can push myself as an actor. This is why I love being in front of the camera,” says Siddiqui.

Dramatic connections

Seated in a non-descript banquet room at the Sun n’ Sand Hotel, Juhu, there’s an unmistakable glint in Siddiqui’s eyes as he talks about his process. “Before I start shooting, the character is just in my mind; it’s an abstract. It’s while I am on the set that the character starts to take shape and that process is so fascinating. Some times ‘he’ becomes who I had imagined and some times I fail. That sense of satisfaction when I manage to create the character exactly how I had imagined him to be, is the biggest high for me.”

How, then, one wonders, does dancing to ‘The Bhoot Song’ in Housefull 4, challenge him as an actor? “In theatre, there are many different forms. In Parsi theatre, everything is larger than life; body language is exaggerated, much like Molière’s (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) plays. Even if you don’t understand French, the body language and actions of the actors are so over the top that the audience had no difficulty understanding what is going on. For me, this role in Housefull 4 meant exploring this form that I hadn’t since my theatre days,” he explains.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 7:23:13 PM |

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