Friday, 1 June 2012

The Unsung Hero -- Nawazuddin Siddiqui...

In this series of posts, I’ll take the honour of introducing to you some of India’s ‘bestest ka bhi best’ actors who I feel truly define what acting actually is but yet not so celebrated ones. These actors are the rarest of the species of actors on earth yet we miserably fail to acknowledge their unending talent. Have you seen ‘Kahaani’? Yes? Then you must have unfailingly noticed  the cocky CBI agent Khan, who struts around scaring the hell out of local cops in Kolkota. yes, that’s Mr. Nawazzudin Siddiqui for you. to make you more familiar to this extra-ordinary actor, I have a series of articles I came across which  best describe him. Please, spare a would be worth it!!

The mark of a good actor—Aseem Chhabra for Mumbai Mirror.
Nawazuddin is gifted with charm and a certain energy that helps him transform into diverse characters he plays on screen.
In Patang, he is Chakko — a wedding band singer in Ahmedabad — who resents his wealthy relatives and holds them responsible for his father’s death. In Chittagong, he is Nirmal Sen an idealist freedom fighter who has a hard time expressing his love for a colleague. In Dekh Indian Circus he is a poor villager, a mute man and father of two, who has to face his children’s disappointment when they realise he cannot take them on an outing to a circus. And in Gangs of Wasseypur, he plays the younger son of rural gangster who reflects the nervous energy of Freddie Corleone and also the aspiring confidence of Michael Corleone (The Godfather).

These are the four faces of Nawazuddin Siddiqui — the terrific actor of indie Hindi cinema — that I have seen in the past two weeks. In a field packed with Bollywood stars who rarely take risks and play anything other than the one-note characters the audience want them to be, Nawaz is a rare actor, a human chameleon. .
Nawaz, in the still from the movie,'Peepli Live'.

Nawaz is in Cannes celebrating the world premieres of his two films — Gangs of Wasseypur and Miss Lovely, a rare achievement for an actor unknown on the world stage. But we are also witnessing the summer of Nawaz in the US.

Patang and Dekh Indian Circus played the week before last at the Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival in Pittsburgh. And then I flew back from Pittsburgh to come home to the New York Indian Film Festival, where I saw three of Nawaz’s films — Chittagong, Gangs and also, one more time, Circus.

And if these diverse rich performances of Nawaz were not enough, on Thursday a set of wire image pictures from Cannes showed the Miss Lovely team — dressed up, posing under a cloudy sky. Along with the film’s director Ashim Ahluwalia, and his other cast, I saw the dashing Nawaz — far from the life of his village near Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, dressed in black suit, narrow tie and a crisp white shirt.

That is Nawaz, the 38-year-old graduate of Delhi’s National School of Drama who seems to be in practically every film I see lately. When I met him last month during his Patang promotion trip to New York (the film opens here on June 15), he said he had 10 films waiting to be released in India including Reema Kagti’s Talaash.

What is the mark of a good actor? To answer that question, one has to look at a person like Nawaz. He is unassuming, a bit shy at first. He has none of the arrogance that one sometimes sees in big stars. But his eyes sparkle and his smile is infectious. He is gifted with a lot of charm and there is certain energy in him that helps him transform into the diverse characters he plays on the screen.

In a field packed with Bollywood stars who rarely take risks and play anything other than the one-note characters the audience want them to be, Nawaz is a rare actor, a human chameleon. And that may be one reason why people often do not remember him from his supporting roles in many of his films.

This past week, as I would mention Nawaz’s name again and again to friends and strangers I met at the two festivals in Pittsburgh and New York, I would often be asked a question like this: “Remind me again, what films has he acted in?”

And so I would start off by describing his character in Peepli Live, the earnest journalist who dies in the end, or in Kahaani, where he is the cocky CBI agent Khan, who struts around scaring the hell out of local cops in Kolkota. And then people would seem to remember him.

But I know things will change if most of his 10 films open in India this year. I know people will be blown away by his relative small role in Dekh Indian Circus, especially a playful seductive scene between him and actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, who plays his wife. And I know people will smile watching Nawaz try to express his love to Vega Tamotia’s Pritilata Waddedar in Chittagong, as Shankar Mahadevan sings Bolo Na in the background.

Soon it will be a festival of Nawaz in India as well!

Nawazzudin Siddiqui :

On being asked about his role in the much acclaimed film, peepli live..
Except for Omkar Das Manikpuri, who played Natha, there were at least four actors who were auditioning for each role in the film. For the part of reporter Rakesh, I had auditioned too. I come from a small town called Buhana in Muzaffarnagar district. My father is a small-time farmer. I used to watch a lot of plays after my graduation. When I moved to Delhi, I joined Sakhi —the theatre group that has Manoj Bajpayee and Saurabh Shukla. Thereafter, I joined the National School of Drama. Kolkata's Subrat Dutta is my batchmate from NSD. Subsequently, I shifted to Mumbai and did "Firaaq",New York" and " Black Friday".
Nawaz with her co-star from the movie,
'Gangs of Wasseypur', at the Cannes
Film Festival.
On not being heartedly accepted by the Indian film industry….
It's taken me 14 years to reach this stage. Frankly, Indian cinema still doesn't give space to actors. Ginti mein aatein nahin hai woh. The format is such that you have to have a hero and a heroine. They will get separated and finally, they'll meet to live happily ever after. Where is the space for good actors in this scheme of things? It's only stars who matter. Actors are second grade citizen and that's how it has been for over 50/60 years. I have been eating, drinking and sleeping acting for over 14 years now. I have never thought of anything else and yet... it's only now that I have reached a decent stage.
On the haunting struggle story of his life…
There are so many. For four to five years, I was treated like a puppet. Even if I met very small-time directors for work, I was told, "Kuch karke dikha toh". Katputli bana ke rakh diya tha mujhe. I tried my hand at television but there too things were pretty difficult. When Ekta Kapoor's serials became a hit, even small roles like that of beggars required actors who were fair and tall. I was in no man's land. Then, I agreed to do one scene roles in movies like "Sarfarosh" and "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S." That too went against me because I became typecast as a one scene wonder! People just didn't want to give me roles worth two scenes.
Nawaz at Cannes.
As I write this piece, I get to hear the most wonderful news:  Nawaz has won the best actor award at the recently concluded 12th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) for his performance in Mangesh Hadawale's Dekh Indian Circus!!!Bravo...Way to go!
And that is exactly why I call him the unsung hero.:-)
In the next post:
Ever seen a female music composer? ever wondered why there are next to nil female music composers in our country? No worries, I’ll take the rare honour of introducing one to you , in my next post, ‘The Sound Trapper '. Till then..HAPPY READING!!


  1. I love this guyz work, was seeing peepli live again last nyt tabhi i remembered him, and he's hell of an actor to watch out for. His kahaani's role was amazing, moreover his role in new york was good too. If i m nt wrong he is Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of wasseypur too. Hats off to such actors, who do not beg for lime light.....

    1. thank you so much for appreciating his work...he truely deserves it..:-)

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  2. well nyc work , i usually dont read blogs but m commenting coz i was told to XD

  3. I never noticed this guy before. I'm gonna go back, watch all his movies, starting with Kahani.
    A great insightful into his life.
    I agree with him, that "real actors" are secondary in today's hindi cinema, which is quite sad. I hope for better times in the future!
    Thanks for the information! :-)

    Next post... Is it Sneha Khanwalkar?

  4. nice workk.............well written n designed

  5. That's a good post, a very informative one about Siddiqui.. I have heard very positive views from my friends abt his performance in GOW II.. I watched it yesterday only.. Before that I saw him in Kahaani as a tough officer Khan.. Awesome..!! and Faizal Khan is terrific.. expecting more and more from him in coming days...

    1. Seconded!
      Thank you for appreciating! :)
      Keep coming back here :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. by the time you have replied, i have become a Nawazuddin Siddiqui freak... FYI he is a frequent collaborator of Anurag Kashyap. Have you noticed him in Dev D and Black Friday?.. I guess his role in Dev D may be as a token of friendship with the director. Expecting his next venture Moonsoon Shooting...

    4. Yes!I know, he frequently collaborates with Mr. Anurag Kashyap as can be seen from his body of work. His work in Dev D and Black Friday is commendable. :)

    5. And to correct you, his most recent outing's name is 'Monsoon shootout' and not 'Moonsoon Shooting' which had its world premiere at the recently concluded Cannes film festival,2013 ...:)

  6. bollywood needs more of actors like siddiqui. The best thing about him is that despite the accolades he has kept his feet firmly on ground. He continues to perform extremely well. He has certainly come a long way since his Sarfarosh days and he continues to do fantastic work. GOW2, kahani and even Talaash, he has been marvelous.

    1. Completely agree on that.Thank you for appreciating! :)
      Keep coming back here :)

  7. Being a Nawazuddin fan ... i really appreciate this piece of work ... very well written .. Unfortunately Indians have lost the ability to appreciate quality artists ... there was a time when people like Guru Dutt were recognized and hailed as champions of our cinema ... but people like nawaz, kay kay menon, manoj bajpai have never been appreciated in such a manner .. the guru dutt of our times - anurag kashyap too sadly remains underrated ... hopes are still high from my side for a better future!

  8. Absolutely! It is these actor's works that have kept me assured that true cinematic geniuses still exist in today's 'show-off' business.Thank you for appreciating! :)
    Keep coming back here :)