The amphitheatre at the India Habitat Centre was packed to capacity for ‘Nawaznama’, the session with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui on day five of the six-day Spring Fever Festival in Delhi, which ends on March 20.
In the hour-long session, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and writer-journalist Rituparna Chatterjee, who is co-authoring his memoir spoke to Hindustan Times Brunch editor Poonam Saxena about the forthcoming book, and Nawaz spoke about his days of struggle, the many memorable roles that he has played and of finally finding success in Bollywood.
The memoir, to be published in 2017, would focus on the ups and downs in the actor’s journey from the small town of Budhana in Uttar Pradesh to Bollywood. When asked whether the account would be a sanitized version of his life, Nawaz promised to put it all down as truthfully as possible. On the process of co-authoring the book, he confessed that he just told the “qissas’’ from his life to Chatterjee and had no idea how she was going to put it all together. Chatterjee said the process of writing the book was “very organic’’. She said a part of the book would be devoted to Nawaz’s mentor Anurag Kashyap and that it was too early to divulge more about the memoir.
Nawaz, however, did reveal that he was currently shooting a romantic film where he would be seen opposite British model and actor Amy Jackson (of Singh is Bling fame). He admitted that he had not found much luck with women in real life though. In fact, the famous ‘parmisan’ date scene between him and Huma Qureshi in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 was inspired by an incident from his life, which did not end very well.
The Gangs of Wasseypur 2 star was at his candid best, endearing himself to the audience with his simplicity and political incorrectness. He admitted that when he landed at the National School of Drama in Delhi, he did receive quite a cultural shock in the big city, especially when he saw women smoke in public. “I nearly fainted the first time I saw a girl smoke at NSD and I thought that such a girl would let you do anything to her,” he said, quickly admitting that he learnt later that it was completely wrong to make such assumptions.
Nawaz, who has starred in films such as Kahaani (2012), Talaash (2012), The Lunchbox (2013), Badlapur (2015), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), had to struggle for long after he graduated from the NSD in 1996 before he got his first big break in Peepli Live (2010).
When asked whether he ever thought of giving up and going back home, Nawaz said he did, but then going back would have meant either Budhana, where he had been told before he left that he had little chance of tinsel town success (“na shakal na soorat”) or Delhi where theatre directors would taunt him with “aa gaye?”. This fear made him stay. Nawaz said he worked very hard and he was satisfied as long as work, no matter how minuscule the role, kept coming his way. His first break in a Bollywood film was a cameo in the Aamir Khan-starrer Sarfarosh (1999).
Speaking of the diverse characters he has portrayed, Nawaz said he found Faizal Khan, the small-town gangster from Gangs of Wasseypur 2, to be quite difficult to play as he was nothing like that man in real life. “It is hard to distance yourself from such characters. I need time to normalise after playing such roles that seem to take something away from your life and make it feel dry,” he said.
Stressing on the importance of training in the craft of acting, Nawaz said that anyone can become a star, but not everyone can become an actor. “You need to learn, practice and gain experience just like in any other profession,” he said. On being requested by the audience, he also enacted his famous railway station entry scene from the film Bajrangi Bhaijaan where he played the role of Chand Nawab, a Pakistani TV journalist.
When he was asked by a member of the audience if there existed any discrimination between stars and actors in the film industry, Nawaz said there was no such thing and everyone had their share of struggle. “Even a star kid gets just one launchpad film,” he pointed out. “After that there is struggle for everyone.”
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