Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has graduated from playing blink-and-miss roles to being the most-looked-forward-to element in highly acclaimed films. His journey may have been a spectacular one but his humble demeanour reveals how he hasn’t let fame get the better of him.
He smiles self-effacingly as he shares how his journey began in a small town where his only cinematic exposure was to “C-grade” films. “I grew up in a place where most people are farmers. I had no intentions of getting into films. I was never chosen in any audition or through photos,” Siddiqui laughs. He still feels that he hasn’t discovered his true potential as an actor and this is what drives him.
The 39-year old Siddiqui started his career in the film industry with a bit role in Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Sarfarosh’ way back in 1999. Siddiqui shares, yet again in his signature unassuming tone, that he only got this chance because the other actor who was cast for the role didn’t turn up for the shoot. Even though his role was for a short duration of about 40 seconds, it did open the gates for more opportunities. Anurag Kashyap got a peak at Siddiqui’s performance and promised him a role in whichever film he would direct in the future.
Kashyap kept his promise and gave Nawazuddin Siddiqui three scenes in ‘Black Friday’. The actor, at that time, was overjoyed at the chance and still considers it his real big break in Bollywood.
When Nawazuddin made his way to Mumbai after having graduated from the National School of Drama in New Delhi, the reception he received from his friends was less than encouraging. “Since I was a trained actor, I was confident that I would find work in a jiffy. But when I reached Bombay, my bubble burst. Even the warmth I expected from my old friends seemed to have dried up with the heated pace of life in Bombay,” he reminisces.
The struggle to establish himself as an actor continued and it was only in 2012 with full-fledged roles in films like Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘Miss Lovely’, Prashant Bhargava’s ‘ Patang’ and Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2’ that Nawazuddin got his due.
But essaying the role of Faisal Khan in Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur gave Siddiqui sleepless nights, quite literally! “The first two days, I simply couldn’t understand the nuances of the character. Then Anurag sat me down and told me that the problem was that I was making the portrayal of power too overt. It had to be extremely subtle.”
“I kept mulling over Anurag’s words throughout the night. They kept bothering me. ‘Why couldn’t I be like Faisal Khan? Why can’t I fathom the scope of his power?’ These thoughts kept me up all night and I reached the set without having slept a wink,” he adds.
Over the sleepless night, Siddiqui had to convince himself that he was a powerful man, that he was the veritable Faisal Khan! Once he gave the shot with this conviction at heart, Anurag was satisfied and the rest, as they say, is history!
While his role in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ was that of a passive aggressive character, his role in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’ was that of a man who only used aggression to get his way.
Siddiqui himself was a little surprised when Ghosh approached him for the role of a controlling, forceful cop. This role helped both Siddiqui and the audiences in learning that he could do more than just essaying soft roles. The frustration of being stereotyped that was creeping in within the actor finally found a cure. “I think it was my real-life frustration at being given roles where I’m usually bullied, that helped me play the aggressive character better,” he surmises.
Today, there is no shortage of critical praise for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s work. But one role which made even an accomplished actor like him nervous was walking the ramp for designer Troy Costa as his showstopper at the Lakme Fashion Week last year.
Troy Costa shares with us the reason behind his unexpected choice: “When I met Nawazuddin, he embodied a certain quality about himself that brought me back to who I was when I left home at 17. His raw earthiness reminded me of the days when I couldn’t own a machine. When I spoke to him that evening it brought back many memories for me of 14-15 years ago. Perhaps, this is what spurred my choice.”
Nawazuddin, is a trendsetter in his own right who started with small roles but can carry off the role of the leading man effortlessly today. His flawless depiction of a range of characters and the depth that he brings to all of them has made him a favourite with ardent fans and connoisseurs of Hindi Cinema alike!