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Looks can deceive

Published Jan 19, 2014, 5:04 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 7:07 am IST
Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks about how his looks held him back before finding a foothold in Bollywood.

He has a string of hits to his credit today, ('The Lunchbox', 'Gangs of Wasseypur', 'Bombay Talkies', 'Kahaani', 'Talaash') but that wasn’t the case a few years ago. It’s been a long struggle for Nawazuddin Siddiqui — 20 years to be precise — before he shot to fame. Armed with extra-ordinary talent and average looks, the actor says there was never a moment when he was discouraged. “My father used to ask me, ‘Abhi toh kutte aur billi bhi aa gaye TV pe (referring to the Discovery channel). Tum kab aaoge?’ (Even cats and dogs have appeared on television now. When will you make an entry?) But then it’s natural for one’s parents to be worried about their child’s future, so I never took it to heart. In fact, I’d be happy if I got a small role in a TV serial and would deliver it with complete honesty,” he says.

It was his acting pursuit that brought him to Mumbai, the land of opportunities. “I had run out of money when I came to Mumbai from Delhi. I would borrow money for food and cigarettes from the new friends I made in the city. Sometimes I would starve for days because I had no money to feed myself. When you’re young, you learn to manage with limited resources  because you don’t have too many responsibilities,” he adds.


But when exactly did the acting bug bite him? “I remember watching a play in Delhi as a teenager and the audience reaction that it garnered, baffled me. After that I joined NSD (National School of Drama) in Delhi and performed street plays for about 3-4 years before moving to Mumbai as a struggler.”

Nawazuddin admits that while he had an indomitable spirit, it hurt when directors would reject him on the basis of his looks. “Everyone wants to be their heroes to look like Shah Rukh or Salman Khan. People on the sets would ask the director, hero kaun hai? (Who’s the hero)? When they pointed to me, people would have doubts about how the film would fare. But today I can proudly say that either I want to be the hero, or at par with the hero — I won’t settle for supporting roles.”


A large chunk of that credit goes to director Anurag Kashyap, he says. “In 2009, I had done a very small role in Shool and later in Sarfarosh. Anurag noticed my work in Black Friday and promised to cast me whenever he had a good role. He kept his promise by casting me in Gangs of Wasseypur.”

Known for his off beat choice of films, Nawazuddin will be seen doing an all-out commercial film, Kick starring Salman Khan. “I signed the film because the role is good and will give me a chance to play yet another varied character. Also, off beat films are my first love and if my popularity increases with Kick, it will benefit the smaller films that I feature in.”


Speaking of off-beat films, how did he react when 'The Lunchbox' was not nominated as the Indian entry for Oscars? “The film was appreciated all over the world and had a good chance of winning an Oscar. But what can one say when the film didn’t go from India? I think it was a huge loss for the country.”

A father of two beautiful children, Nawazuddin, tells us that his onscreen characters are very much like that off screen one. “In real life too my love life is dry. I try to be romantic but don’t really succeed,” he says.