By Hindustan Times
Khan: The rough, foul-mouthed IB officer
Film – Kahaani
Character – An arrogant, aggressive IB officer. Crass and abrasive, he knows his job and does it well.
Life changer – “For someone who’s been struggling for
12 years to get more than a couple of scenes simply because he doesn’t “look” like an actor, this is a stunner,” says the unassuming Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He’s nothing like the gritty, abusive IB officer Khan of Kahaani whose onscreen presence unnerved the audience.
“Is film ne shuru se sirf surprise kiya hai,” is how he translates the stir that Khan has created. “I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be appreciated so much. It is
Nawazuddin was equally surprised when he heard that director Sujoy Ghosh wanted to cast him as an IB officer. “I asked them if they had contacted the right Nawazuddin! I am a 5’6”, thin fellow, nothing like an IB officer. So it seemed strange. But I guess they were sure,” he smiles.
Born and brought up in Budhana, a small village in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, Nawazuddin’s first introduction to theatre was when he came with friends to Delhi and watched a play. He was hooked. He watched close to 250 plays before he joined the National School of Drama in Delhi and started doing theatre. Soon he moved to Mumbai, where his struggling days were worse than what he had anticipated. A few two-minute roles were offered to him – till Black Friday happened in 2004.
Though work became somewhat steady, the limelight proved elusive. “I don’t think anyone remembers me in New York or even Paan Singh Tomar but Kahaani worked. And how!”
Up next – “Ab toh kaam shuru hua hai,” he laughs. “Finally, all these filmi people are taking notice and saying, ‘You are an actor’, instead of ‘Are you an actor?’” he grins. With seven films ready for release in the next few months, a new chapter has begun in Nawazuddin’s life.
Satyaki/Rana: The cultured, helpful cop
Film – Kahaani
Character – The rookie cop has all his niceties in place. Cultured, shy, mild mannered, he goes all out to help the very-pregnant Vidya Bagchi. And of course, he secretly nurses a massive crush on her.
Life changer – “This kind of adulation from all quarters is quite mindblowing,” says actor-director Parambrata Chatterjee. “Without sounding immodest, I can say that I was decently known in Kolkata. So it wasn’t that I was trying to establish myself. But Kahaani has taken it to a different level altogether. The industry guys are now treating me as an actor to reckon with, and the general public in other cities – Mumbai, Delhi etc – is actually recognising me and coming up to me at odd places like the airport to congratulate me on my performance. It’s just overwhelming,” he adds.
Having started his acting career in 2003, Parambrata finished the edit of his directorial debut and went off to UK to pursue a master’s degree in filmmaking. A year later, when his course was over, he got a call from director Sujoy Ghosh. “Before going home, I decided to just travel around. I was in Amsterdam when I got a call from Sujoy saying he wanted me back immediately. I heard the story on Skype! So convinced was he about me that he did a look-test for me over mail and just fixed it. I had to cancel the rest of my trip to Rome and get back! Sujoy still owes me the trip,” he laughs.
Up next – Life has suddenly become extremely busy for this new poster boy of Hindi cinema. “I don’t know about the poster boy bit, but yes, a lot of female attention is coming in,” he says, half shy, half smiling. And work? Is Bollywood the next destination? “Well, I’m meeting a lot of people and reading some very good scripts. Some endorsements are also in the pipeline. I’m open to travelling for work, but I won’t shift. Kolkata has lots of great work happening too. And finally, this is home for me.”
The Patrakar: The nervous, small town hack
Film – Paan Singh Tomar
Character – He’s a typical small town, small time journalist. Half scared and half heroic about meeting an athlete-turned-dacoit. His only motivation: the interview will turn ‘him’ into a headline.
Life changer – So disappointed was Kala by the “no-show” of his role as a munim in Agneepath that he didn’t realise how widely he was being appreciated for his role of a journalist in this year’s other surprise hit, Paan Singh Tomar. “When you feel that you haven’t got your due in a big film, you never imagine that you’ll be noticed in a small film. And why me? We were surprised even by the film doing so well. Paan Singh Tomar was in the making for three years. The producers just weren’t ready to release it. So expectations were rather low,” says a matter-of-fact Kala.
“I’m very happy. In fact, there is always a risk of fading into the background with big stars, but Irrfan and Tigmanshu made sure they got the ratio right,” he smiles.
Brought up in Mathura, Kala did most of his theatre in the small circles of this small town. “We performed a lot in Brajbhasha. I never thought I would go to Mumbai and do films,” says Kala. It was perhaps his small town sensibility and regular interactions with journalists from the hinterland that brought out the gritty realness in his performance.
Up next – Soaking in all the appreciation, Kala isn’t gloating about it. “I have been here for long. Been appreciated and disappointed. This is big but work continues,” he says. Though critics have loved his performance, Kala feels that does not necessarily translate into work. “Neither am I looking at establishing myself any more. I’m just happy to be appreciated.” With three films, Fatso, Jannat 2 and Dekho Yeh Hai Mumbai Real Life coming up this year, Kala expects a good year ahead.
Bob Biswas: The polite, smiling assassin
Film – Kahaani
Character – A seemingly inconsequential insurance agent, Bob Biswas leads a dual life as a ‘bhadralok’ contract killer.
Life changer – Saswata is stunned by the reaction to his Bob Biswas turn. “It is amazing. In fact, rather unbelievable,” he says. Bob Biswas has changed the way we see villains in Hindi cinema. He’s like that dimwitted, harmless uncle next door. But he’s made sure that every time someone says, “Aik mineet?” you duck. Saswata concedes: “I agree. His innocence is rather scary.”
Life, says Saswata, has changed suddenly and dramatically. “It’s been some time now, but I still feel I am living a dream. It’ll take time to register. My days seem to be passing doing round-the-clock interviews. Never before have I talked so much in Hindi and English,” he says with a laugh.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, he has done theatre, television and films in Bengali. So naturally, Saswata was surprised to get a call from director Sujoy Ghosh for a Hindi flick. With a brief to be polite, like a typical Bengali bhadralok, Saswata was told that he had to kill sweetly.
And has Bob Biswas gone for the real kill? Has his success spelt more money for Saswata? “I really hope it happens, though I haven’t seen any signs of things moving that way,” he laughs. “But what I really hope for is that there should be some interesting roles in films. Somehow, earlier they never seemed to come,” he adds.
Up next – With some good offers coming in from Bollywood, Saswata is taking time to pick and choose. “Life is rather settled in Kolkata. I am looking forward to doing roles in Hindi films but have to watch my step. I can’t compromise on work at home either. See, there are just that many in “character” roles that you can get. So I will wait for something mind-blowing to come my way.”
“I know I’ll be under a spotlight, I know I’ll be under the microscope” – Lisa Guerrero, journalist and actress