Being a struggler in Bollywood was never an easy job but according to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, rejection has only made him grow stronger. Part of an upcoming anthology of short films, Nawaz talks about growing up on B-grade films and finally carving his own space in the industry.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in terms of acting?
The kind of place I come from (Budhana in Uttar Pradesh), inspiration was a luxury. You either became a farmer or a dacoit - and I wanted to be neither. The least I could do was get the heck out of there, which I did. During my childhood days, we used to watch B-grade films, and Dada Kondke was my personal favourite. Even today, I strongly believe that he is an underrated genius.
Does the fear of being typecast bother you?
No, not anymore. In fact, my career took off only after people stopped slotting me thanks to my blink-and-miss roles in films like Sarfarosh and Munnabhai. I’m done with that frustrating phase. Today I enjoy the freedom to choose varied roles.
That explains why you keep switching from mainstream to indie to short films.
The truth is that our art remains the same. Only the media change. If I feel like doing a street play tomorrow, I’ll do it. I don’t carry the baggage of stardom, so it’s much easier for me to listen to my inner calling.
You recently said that you want to be the highest paid actor.
Exactly. I want to be the highest-paid actor, not the highest-paid star. In the existing setup, stars - not actors - are paid well. Whatever I’ve done so far puts me in a comfortable spot. But still, acclaim is one thing and remuneration is another. Fortunately, I’m not part of any race as my fight has always been against me and I can’t complain much today.
You have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry - do you still have a wishlist of directors?
(Pauses) I always look forward to working with the younger lot. These filmmakers, despite the low budget and resources allotted, do magnificent work. I feel newcomers such as Rohit Pandey, Shlok Sharma, Anirban Roy, Neeraj Ghaywan and Siddharth Gupt are very promising. Almost all filmmakers start with shorties and then move ahead. Some years down the line, these talents will decide what our cinema will look like.
Lastly, why is it so difficult to find gossip about you?
(Laughs) That’s because I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. Bhondu lagoonga main (I’ll look like an idiot). I don’t attend social dos trying to be cool, spouting lines like ‘Hey man!’ or ‘Whatsup?’ If you ask me to enact a character like that in a film, I can do it very proficiently. But in real life, I’d prefer to be real.