His forthcoming film Miss Lovely (2012), that competed in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is set in the seedy world of C-grade Bollywood movies of the ’80s.
Lead actor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, admits it’s not an unfamiliar world. After debuting with a bit role in Sarfarosh (1999), he acted in many movies that went largely unnoticed. Some, like the one made by the late Joginder, never released.
He recalls waiting at Joginder’s office for a meeting with the actor-producer-writer-director-distributor. “From his cabin, we heard muffled screams. When the costume designer sitting besides me, asked his assistant what was going on, he was told that a set designer, who had fudged accounts, was being beaten up,” recalls Nawaz, adding that the dressmaker was warned of the same, if he asked for too much.
“Petrified, he accepted whatever he was paid. Even I didn’t enquire about money when I met Joginder for fear of being beaten up, doing the film for free, and then waiting for months for it to release. It never did.”
Between 2002-2005, Nawaz was without work. Anurag Kashyap came to his rescue with Black Friday (2007) and Dev D (2009), and Aamir with Peepli Live (2010). But it was Kahaani (2012) that made him a household name, followed by Gangs Of Wasseypur. He’s been signed to play Dashrath Manjhi by Ketan Mehta. For 22 years, the Mountain Man, as Manjhi was called, worked with a hammer and chisel to carve a 360 feet long, 30 feet high and 25 feet wide passage through Bihar’s Gehlour hills, reducing the distance between Atri and Wazirganj from 75 km to one km.
“I don’t set out to be a hero, I simply play a character and people turn him into a hero as they did with Faisal Khan. But Dashrath Manjhi was a real-life hero and it's an honour to relive his life through Ketanji’s films,” he says. “Even today, not many know me as Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Earlier it was Khan, now it’s Faisal Khan. Hopefully, next year it will be Dashrath Manjhi.”