Nawazuddin Siddiqui recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival, where his upcoming film Raman Raghav 2.0, directed by Anurag Kashyap, was showcased. The movie got a great response. In fact, a Hollywood magazine even compared Nawazuddin’s performance to Anthony Hopkins’ in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991). “This time [at Cannes], a lot of people called me the ‘King of Cannes’ in jest. I guess I do have a special equation with the festival,” he says. The actor is now shooting for his next with Sridevi. Here, he talks about Bollywood actors doing international films, and more.
Were you expecting such a great response for your film at the Cannes Film Festival?
I won’t say that I wasn’t expecting a good response, as I have delivered a very honest performance in the film. I knew that it wouldn’t go unnoticed. But the way the French media responded was completely unexpected. The best part was that the audience gave it a standing ovation that lasted for about 15-20 minutes. It was sheer madness.
At this stage of your career, what is more important — box-office collections or accolades at film festivals?
As far as making money is concerned, a lot of films become hits. But I like it when a movie is loved by the festival circuit as well as the box office. As an artiste, there should be no division — in terms of the masses and the classes. If a film is good, it should be good for both. If it goes for film festivals, but makes no money at the box office, then no one will invest money in such films in the future.
Have you become comfortable in Bollywood now?
I am very comfortable. I may work in a Shah Rukh Khan-starrer or in Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), or any other film... I get a lot of respect from film-makers. But yes, I have a busy schedule now, and there is a lot of running around. In fact, I feel I should have taken a two or three-month break after completing my work on Anurag’s film. In fact, after every film, I feel I should take a break of two or three months. The moment I start enjoying my normal life, I have to start working on the next film.
Do you plan to work on any international projects?
I never sit, and think, “Now I will do international films.” If I ever do international movies, I will have to go through the process of discovering the character inside me. I am doing the same here. So, why should I kill myself to do an international film? Discovering the new dimensions of the characters offered to me is important, as every film comes with a new challenge.
But several Indian actors are working abroad now…
Doing international films is overrated; it is nothing more than a status symbol. People have done international films in the past as well. If you are getting work from another industry due to your talent, that’s great. But to get work there, if you have to hire an agent, publicise your work, and show them how good an actor you are, then it’s not worth it.
You have played so many emotionally challenging roles. Do they take a toll on you?
Absolutely. As they say, “If you take something from a character, the character also takes something from you.” At the end of the day, you start feeling empty, and you have no emotions left. Then you start thinking about what you should do next. And if your next film is about to start, you feel, “How will I do the film? I feel completely.’ You reach a saturation point.
How do you deal with this situation then?
I have to push myself to feel other people’s emotions. So, if a tragedy takes place, I have to involve myself in it. I don’t feel like laughing or crying when something tragic happens. The same goes with happiness; even when I do well, I don’t feel happy. I feel like I have used and saved all my emotions for my roles. My wife, brother and mother often get angry about this. I want to be involved in their lives, because I am a responsible person, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. But maybe, I have exhausted my emotions so much that I am left with nothing to offer to them.
Isn’t this challenging?
Sometimes, I feel I should remember my daughter more often. But I think about her more because she is my responsibility, as I am her father. So, the emotions, sometimes, go missing. Sometimes I feel like I live my characters when I act, and end up acting in real life (smiles).
Your films have consistently done well internationally. Does this surprise you?
My new film was screened with subtitles [at the Cannes Film Festival recently]; still, the audience connected with it. I feel that cinema has a universal language. Emotions have no boundary. It’s the same everywhere.
Working with the Khans (Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir) means you’ve arrived in Bollywood...
I don’t believe in the phrase, ‘I have arrived’. But, of course, one can’t deny that they (the Khans) are superstars. I appreciate them for the kind of position and stardom they have achieved, and maintained. It is worth applauding.
What’s the biggest advantage of working with them?
When you work with them, you realise that they work like any other actor. They don’t carry their stardom with them. I have worked with them. So, if I ever feel like I am becoming full of myself, I will look back at these films, and remember how down to earth and humble they were (laughs).