Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the a classic case of the underdog. The actor is aware of the fact and at the same time, isn’t bothered by it at all, as he focuses on his work with renewed energy, film after film. In a candid tell-all interview he talks about consciously staying away from the ‘star’ tag, giving acting his 100 per cent, not caring for Indian film awards and taking in his stride the moment when he was a declined of an onscreen lip-lock.
Your film Haraamkhor has been in the eye of a storm for a while now. Why do you think it’s attracting so much trouble?
All the trouble and all the difficulties were actually faced by my director Shlok Sharma. It was his debut film that was stuck for four long years. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for him. As an actor, I have several roles to do but for a director, every single film is like a baby. The film was made during Gangs of Wasseypur. We just had an idea at that time and improvised on the sets. It was very challenging for us, yet lots of fun shooting for the film.
How was your experience working with Shweta Tripathi?
Shweta is undoubtedly a gifted actress. You won’t feel that she is acting for the first time (Masaan was shot later). There is a certain openness to her; her talent is trustworthy.
Do you think your film choices are not commercially viable?
For me, there is nothing like art or a ‘parallel zone’; I don’t think on those lines. It is just about one’s perception really. If you see big budget films in our industry, there are certain marketing strategies made to promote such films. People are hammered to say and write that a film is good in Bollywood. After a certain point, one starts saying that a film is good even if they may not truly believe that it is. Small films have no support here but they will continue to be made and released. Even if such films face losses, it hardly bothers the industry.
Do you believe that you are underrated as an actor despite having the fan following that you do?
To start with, my film has to reach my fans for me to have a “fan following”. I believe that if the cost of promotions for my films touch `10 crore to `20 crore, that is when I can say that I have a huge fan base. I don’t think I have it right now. Commercial hit films such as Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Talaash, and Kick had big superstars to sell them; that may not have been the case if it were just me.
I do big films just to experience personal satisfaction. I have done theatre and I enjoy the process of smaller films a lot more. When I do such films, there are certain things which I get to do which are untapped. The scenes give me the liberty to play and mould the character in accordance to the director’s mindset.
In Haraamkhor, I have explored a few things which I wouldn’t have been able to do in bigger films. The process of shooting this film was so organic that it enhanced me as an actor and an artiste.
How do you strike a balance between commercial and non-commercial films?
I never take up any film keeping such things in mind. If I do, I won’t be able to act or may be I will perform below average. Since I have worked in more than a thousand plays, I have a habit of improvising and evolving as an actor with each performance. I want to sustain this approach as long as I am a part of this industry. The day I will think that I am a star, I will not give my work my best shot.
Do you believe in the award ceremonies that take place in our country today?
I have been always sidelined from award ceremonies — for instance, no one considered my performance in Raman Raghav. But interestingly I got so many awards outside India for the same performance. I received a special mention for ‘Best Actor’ in Asia Pacific awards that is considered the ‘Oscars of Asia’. I also got an award in Spain and Melbourne in the Best Actor category. I don’t hold any kind of value for Indian cinema because people won’t get any brand endorsements with my name. But even otherwise, I don’t consider awards in India and I don’t even feel like attending them. The Hindi film industry is all about hardcore business and there is nothing wrong in it. There are very few people here who are trying to make good films. The audience, however, has given me rewards and I am happy about it.
How is your 2017 looking for you?
I am loaded with films this year, starting with Raees that is releasing on January 25. I am doing Manto, Chanda Mama Door Ke with Sushant Singh Rajput, director Ritesh Batra’s next and Bandookbaaz Babumoshaye.
Is it true that Chitrangada Singh walked out of Bandookbaaz Babumoshaye because of a kissing scene that she was asked to do?
I wasn’t involved in this issue. The issue was between her and the director of the film. I am okay if someone doesn’t want to kiss me. People have individual choices. I am not saying that she was wrong on her part. She must may have not liked my face to kiss me. I don’t have a good face anyway. (Laughs)
What is the progress of the social work that you have been doing back in your hometown?
It was going well but it is going a little slow for the past few months. I was tensed with my personal issues so I distanced myself from the work there. I had some issues with my sister-in-law, but now things are back on track. I was accused of a few things which affected my social image. I feel people only make breaking news when there is a negative angle to it but now thankfully my family issues are resolved. I just want my brother and his wife to stay blessed.
Any plans to release Miyan Kal Aana?
For now, the film is screening at festivals only. It has been screened in about 60-65 festivals around the world. We are planning to screen the film in India later since the current scenario is very sensitive. The film has a very bold subject and we wouldn’t want to risk it at the moment.