Since his breakthrough performance in film-maker Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW; 2012), Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been making people sit up and take notice of his craft. But the actor doesn’t believe he is doing anything extraordinary. In fact, he insists he is just “focusing on doing his job.” Next month, his next film, directed by Anurag Kashyap, will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, in the Directors Fortnight section. Here, he tells us more about his presence at the international film event, dealing with people’s expectations, and more.
In four years, eight of your films have travelled to Cannes. How does it feel?
Sometimes, I feel like, “Meri picture Cannes toh jaani hi hai (my film has to go to Cannes), and I feel it every year (smiles).” I, of course, also feel very happy. It only goes to show that you are on the right track and are making the right choices. Someone recently joked on the sets [of director Sohail Khan’s film] and said to me, ‘You either do films for Cannes or for the Khans.’ But the truth is that both these films have their own fun and challenges.
Do people’s expectations ever become a burden for you?
Knowing that people’s expectations are high gives me a kick. Those expectations motivate me to work harder, with a lot of focus and concentration. This motivation is what can take me places; it will make me more focused. It is not a limitation.
You are now considered a star. But you said somewhere that stardom also corrupts an actor.
Look at our three biggest superstars -- Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan; they have maintained their stardom for the last 25-30 years, and that’s extremely inspiring for me. But the day I start feeling like I have become a star, that’s when the corruption will start. For instance, if your aim is to only become a ‘hero’, then, while performing, you will forget the character’s detailing, because in that ‘heroism’, you will miss out on the small details and nuances of the character. That’s why I feel heroism can corrupt you as an actor.
Watch: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs Of Wasseypur trailer
You and Anurag are a great team.
I respect Anurag a lot because he is a real genius. Like in Dev.D (2009), I had never expected him to make me do an item song. Also, in GOW, I could have never imagined the kind of character he offered me. So, be it his scenes, characters or films, they are all very unexpected. Even the treatment of our new film is completely unexpected.
What’s the best thing about him?
Anurag has this distinct imagination that might even be weird for many. And that comes out at the time of characterisation. What I like the most about him is that he offers me only those so-called weird roles and not any straight ones. Maybe because we have a connection, he thinks I can do whatever he has in mind, or at least try and do justice to it. I like his style. The kinds of bouncers he throws towards me take me by surprise so often, and that’s what I call fun… when you explore newer things during the film-making process.
You have a very interesting mix of films coming up. Have you planned this?
You have to plan. You get so many scripts and so many people meet you, and you have to make the right choices. I choose offers that excite and challenge me. It (a role) should put me in an uncomfortable zone. As an actor, I need to make such choices.
Your line-up seems very exciting…
I am very excited about it. This is all a result of the times that I am working in. Sridevi has always been my favourite actress. According to me, she is the best actress — and not just one of the best — in the industry. So, when you get to work with your favourite actors, you’re bound to be excited.
Watch: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Manjhi trailer
Does all that praise that comes your way ever make you feel powerful?
Whatever is being said, it’s [being said] because of my work, right? So, that’s another reason why my focus shouldn’t shift from what is making people say good things about me. I will keep working with the same focus regardless of the monikers people give me. The process of film-making and doing a scene well inspires me. I enjoy it, and I want to continue enjoying it.
As an actor, are you more comfortable with a particular genre?
I don’t want to feel a sense of comfort in any zone ever. So, I am playing a romantic role in Sohail’s film, but at the same time, I am also playing a deadly killer, Raman Raghav, [in Anurag’s movie]. This is the best time to be an actor, as you can utilise it intelligently by doing different kinds of roles.
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