He attracted attention as the poster boy of ‘parallel’ cinema. But now, Nawazuddin Siddiqui admits he is trying to strike a ‘balance’ between commercial as well as small movies.
We caught up with the prolific actor to know more about his shift to bigger films, working with the stars, and the recent honour bestowed on him.
You have films with big stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan coming up. Is this a coincidence?
It’s just that all these scripts have fantastic parts for me, and the directors are of my liking as well. What else do I need? I have made the decisions after thinking really hard.
Several people feel that you will lose your USP if you do commercial cinema.
I don’t think so. People will see and can judge my work in commercial films as well. I’m striking a balance. If I do a film like Kick (2014) and even five people after watching it, decide to see Liar’s Dice (yet to release), then the latter film’s actors and makers will be benefitted.
After Kick, Badlapur is also a product of a commercial set-up…
It was just like any other film that I take up. I never think that it’s a commercial or an art film; what inspires me is the storyline or my character, and the maker holds a lot of importance for me. Sriram (Raghavan; director), for example, gave me just a half hour narration, and I said yes, not because it’s commercial cinema, but because I knew this film will go to another level.
Is it true that you always wanted to work with Sriram?
Yes, it’s true. I had watched his short film, Raman Raghav, before watching Ek Haseena Thi (2004), and I was zapped. If you give complete freedom to him, he can create mind-blowing cinema. And he has his own way of extracting work out of the actors.
As a creative person, are you looking to experiment with other facets of film-making like direction?
I can’t direct because that requires you to work on multiple fronts at one go, which I can’t manage. I don’t want to think of anything else besides acting. In fact, if I could, I would shun social life, and only work on my acting. But I can’t do that, else my wife will kill me (smiles); you have to take care of your family and friends too.
You’ve just been honoured with the Yash Bharti Award by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Regardless of my innumerable international and national awards, nothing has given me so much happiness. I belong to UP, and when you get recognition from the place you come from, it is a different feeling. It’s like when your father compliments you — regardless of how much others praise you — it gives you a different kick. Also, I had a long-standing dream that I should get this honour.
You started off with a bit role in Aamir Khan’s Sarfarosh (1999). Later, you worked with him in Talaash (2012). You’ve shared screen space with Salman Khan in Kick (2014), and now you’re set to work with Shah Rukh Khan. Does it ever cross your mind that you are working with the biggest stars in the industry?
It does. After all, they are superstars. They have survived, and maintained their position for so many years… and that’s a huge thing. Having said that, when I work with them, I don’t look at them as stars. I see them as characters. Seeing them as stars will be disrespecting their work. The day I look at them as Salman or Shah Rukh during a scene, I’ll quit acting.
There has been a lot of talk about you demanding more money for films nowadays…
I am no one to demand money. In this industry, you are only paid what you are worth. If I am getting or charging a certain amount, that is happening only because people are giving it to me. No one will give me money if I ask for it.
People recognise you now, the media chases you and filmmakers want you. Do you have a better understanding of the star system?
No, but I believe that until a star behaves like one, he or she won’t be able to attract people. Stars have no other option but to operate within the star system. In India, 90 per cent of the audience likes to watch a movie because it features a star. They aren’t concerned about their acting skills; they just enjoy watching them.
Do you enjoy the attention that comes with stardom?
I don’t enjoy all of it. Anything besides my craft, I don’t enjoy as much. My thinking is, ‘Once a film gets over, run away and hide somewhere.’ You shouldn’t talk about a film or a character so much. You have to focus on other films too.
Do you consider this a good time to be an actor in the industry, since all kinds of films are being made and getting appreciated?
See, a film is either good or bad. You enjoy it or you don’t. That’s it. An actor shouldn’t get into the headache of classifying films. Another good thing today is that even the stars are trying to experiment and do performance-oriented parts. It’s a time for reshuffling and experimentation.
How has life changed for you since the release of Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012)?
Even now, I try to live my life with utmost simplicity. I try to bring ease to my existence. Since I play such complicated roles, if I complicate my life too, I won’t be able to do justice to the parts. That’s why I have made my life easier.
You’re working with Salman again. How has your equation with him changed?
He still has this child-like innocence to him, and that’s the beauty of his personality. He’s a great person.