Nawazuddin Siddiqui personifies the common man’s takeover of Bollywood. Slowly stepping into lead-actor roles, the man from the little-known town of Budhana, Uttar Pradesh, has acted in all the major films of Bollywood in recent times – Black Friday, New York, Peepli Live, Kahani, Gangs of Wasseypur, Talaash – winning a Special Jury Award at the 60th National Film Awards.
He is now working in Bengali auteur Buddhadev Dasgupta’s Hindi film, Anwar ka Ajab Kissa.
Anwar ka Ajab Kissa is about a man working as a small-time detective in an agency. How difficult or easy is it to portray ‘smallness,’ ‘small-townness’?
Buddhadev da said he wouldn’t do Anwar with anyone else. Because I’m familiar with this life, there was no getting into character. Anwar realises that people in cities are stuck in small places, there are issues of insecurity, lack of trust. People in cities may be well educated but in the small-town, we know how to live better.
How has the experience of working with directors Anurag Kashyap, Sujoy Ghosh, Kabir Khan been?
Anurag works with the actor’s personality. In Black Friday, I got no chance to know the dialogue for the interrogation scene. I was fumbling, nervous, but he didn’t stop the camera. Kabir Khan (New York) likes to leave his characters free. In Bollywood, a burra-sahib is usually a high-tech banda. I’m 5’6 and Sujoy made me a top IB officer in Kahani.
That must be due to your strengths.
In a film, I don’t do what I want. With my directors, I’m like a prostitute. Whatever he wants out of a character, I see to it that it is to his satisfaction. He sees the entire scene, I see to my character. I just want my performances to have truth.
Cops such as Amitabh Bachchan and gangsters like Ranjeet. We haven’t seen a nervy yet ruthless gangster like Faisal in Wasseypur.
I base my characters on people I’ve known, not on other actors. I don’t know where I’m going but I want to discover myself through my characters. In real life, people are neither too good or too bad but Bollywood does not show that.
Taimur sings as well.
To sing, dance, make people laugh, cry are easy to do. There are other things in between our films don’t deal with.
Your theatre training has served you well. What does it do differently from cinema?
Theatre demands acting. Cinema explores activities of a character to show who he is. Through dialogue on stage a character says ‘I am a bad man’. In cinema you don’t need to say that.
Does Bollywood need more reality?
Too much of reality becomes boring. What Bollywood needs is truth. It invests in fakeness. Crores are spent on dance sequences. A hero is shown running after girls. Ladki-baazi is his chief job.
We have 100 years of cinema behind us. Anyone you admire?
Directors like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Buddhadeb Dasgupta. Among actors Dilip Kumar, Naseeruddin Shah. Nasseer saab showed thousands of actors that education and training are important.
If singers and dancers can be trained, why not actors? You don’t just run away from home and become a hero. The problem is our cinema has not been performance-oriented.
Has it been difficult to be Nawazuddin in the age of Shah Rukh Khan?
Shah Rukh doesn’t need to be me or vice versa. He also came from outside and made himself.