Nawazuddin worked as a chemist before making it big: 31 Bollywood stars and their tales of struggle

Updated: May 19, 2020, 11:26 | Nikita Wagh
  • Nawazuddin Siddiqui

    Nawazuddin Siddiqui: He was born in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Nawaz worked as a chemist in Vadodara for a year. However, soon he left for Delhi to pursue an acting course from the National School of Drama (NSD). After graduating from NSD, he moved to Mumbai to pursue his acting career. Though he bagged a small role in Aamir Khan-starrer 'Sarfarosh' in 1999, he never set foot into Bollywood until 2007. Between 2002-05, he was largely out of work, and lived in a flat he shared with four others and survived by conducting occasional acting workshops. He hung out at film studios and shootings but only got stereotypical roles. In 2004, which was one of the worst years of his struggle, he couldn't pay rent and asked an NSD senior if he could stay with him. The senior allowed him to share his apartment in Goregaon if he was willing to cook meals for him. His big breakthrough came with Anurag Kashyap's 'Black Friday' (2007), which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. In 2009, his role of a journalist in Anusha Rizvi's Peepli Live (2010) got him wide recognition as an actor and he never looked back.

  • Manoj Bajpayee

    Manoj Bajpayee: At a time when Manoj Bajpayee had no money at all, he agreed to do the serial 'Swabhimaan' for a mere fee of Rs 2,000 per episode.

  • Shah Rukh Khan

    Shah Rukh Khan: He has mentioned several times in his interviews that when he came to Mumbai he did not have money to eat. He even slept on roads for many days near Oberoi Hotel. He and his friends used the Oberoi washroom, behaving as if they stayed at the hotel itself. SRK also recalled that in those days he did not even know that there was Mumbai beyond Haji Ali. In picture: With Divya Bharti on the sets of 'Deewana'

  • Akshay Kumar

    Akshay Kumar: While looking for work, Akshay Kumar assisted one of his photographer friends during photo shoots. Akki wasn't paid for the same. He would bring clothes and other products from Bangkok and Singapore, and sell them here. He would also aid friends in buying and selling flats, and took some commission on the same.

  • Amitabh Bachchan

    Amitabh Bachchan: Much before becoming a megastar, Amitabh Bachchan spent some nights on a bench at Marine Drive in Mumbai. It is also well known that he was rejected by a radio company more than once. Big B was not even given a chance to audition.

  • Shatrughan Sinha

    Shatrughan Sinha: Before tasting success, Shatrughan Sinha lived in a small room in a slum area in Mumbai, which he shared with five to six people. He struggled to gather even Rs 200 per month needed for basic expenses.

  • Jackie Shroff

    Jackie Shroff: Known for his 'tapori' roles, Jackie Shroff used to reside in a chawl in Teen Batti, in south Mumbai. His house comprised seven tiny rooms with 28 occupants.

  • Irrfan Khan

    Irrfan Khan: Early in his career, the late Irrfan Khan wasn't paid for some of the movies in which he acted. The producers bluntly told him that his work didn't merit any pay.

  • Rajinikanth

    Rajinikanth: Following his education, South superstar Rajinikanth did many odd jobs in Bangalore. He worked as a bus conductor for the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation. Rajinikanth used to practise stunts at a temple near his house.

  • Sonu Sood

    Sonu Sood: As a struggler, Sonu Sood once had to pay a bribe to get an entry into the Film City Studio.

  • Shahid Kapoor

    Shahid Kapoor: Many years ago, Shahid Kapoor's family used to live in rental flats, and thus they had to constantly shift from one place to the other. On one such occasion, Kapoor's family was not in town and the flat had to be emptied a day early. The actor ended up spending the whole night in a car.

  • Neha Dhupia

    Neha Dhupia: She may be a former beauty queen, but not many know that in the first fashion show that she was part of, her job was to help models with their shoes backstage.

  • Dharmendra

    Dharmendra: The veteran actor was the winner of a talent hunt, yet he had to bear extreme hardships for a year till 'Bandini' came his way. Reportedly, there were numerous days when Dharmendra did not even have a morsel of food. Another story goes that a producer once refused to pay for Dharmendra's taxi fare, following which the actor got very upset. Shashi Kapoor then took him home, and they had lunch together.

  • Dev Anand

    Dev Anand: The legendary Dev Anand worked as a clerk in an accountancy firm before achieving his superstar status. His salary from the job was all of Rs 85.

  • Manoj Kumar

    Manoj Kumar: As a nobody, Manoj Kumar aka Bharat Kumar worked as a ghostwriter at different studios and was paid Rs 11 per scene.

  • Dilip Kumar

    Dilip Kumar: Former BCCI president PM Rungta paid for Dilip Kumar's tram tickets as the struggling actor had no money to go to film studios from his home.

  • Madhuri Dixit

    Madhuri Dixit: As a newcomer, Madhuri Dixit got plenty of negative feedback from the film industry. Then reigning star Meenakshi Seshadri was among those who felt Mads did not have it in her to succeed in Bollywood. In picture: A still from the film 'Abodh' starring Madhuri and Tapas Paul.

  • Asha Bhosle

    Asha Bhosle: Singer Asha Bhosle was paid Rs 100 for her first song. How did she spend it? By eating batata wada with her husband on roadside stalls in Mumbai. It may be hard to believe now but, in the 1950s, when she resided in Borivali, she used to take the early morning train and go to work, interacting with commuters on the way. In picture: With sister Lata Mangeshkar.

  • Zeenat Aman

    Zeenat Aman: After tasting failures in her initial movies, Zeenat Aman was ready to pack her bag and return to Germany with her mother. This was when 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' (1972) happened. Zaheeda, the original choice for the role, refused the film, and Zeenat was drafted in at the last minute. The rest is history!

  • Mithun Chakraborty

    Mithun Chakraborty: During his days when he danced on stage, he was not even sure whether he would get a meal. He used to wish after every performance that someone big would see him dance, and give him a break.

  • Rajesh Khanna

    Rajesh Khanna: The affluent Rajesh Khanna had a struggle of a different kind. He approached filmmakers in his own MG sports car!

  • Amjad Khan

    Amjad Khan: He slogged for 10 years, did some insignificant roles and had virtually no money when 'Sholay' came his way in 1973. The day Khan signed the film, his son Shadaab was born. There were also stories that Salim-Javed were unhappy with Amjad's performance and wanted him replaced. Khan survived all that and went on to create history.

  • Mumtaz

    Mumtaz: Before she became popular, people from the industry mostly referred to Mumtaz as the actress with a pug nose who had no chance of making it. Post her success, the same criticised nose became among her admired features. In picture: A still from film 'Aandhiyan' starring Mumtaz and Prasenjit.

  • Rekha

    Rekha: She was born to Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan but since her mother and Ganesan were not married, the latter didn't acknowledge his paternity. With her family in a financial crisis, Rekha quit school and took up a career in films. She came to Bombay (now Mumbai) at the age of 13. In picture: A still from 'Agar Tum Na Hote' starring Raj Babbar and Rekha.

  • Sanjeev Kumar

    Sanjeev Kumar: The actor, who is rated amongst the greatest actors of Indian cinema, had failed a screen test conducted for a Rajshri film. He was part of numerous C-grade stunt films before turning the tide with some amazing performances.

  • Danny Denzongpa

    Danny Denzongpa: Renowned for playing villainous roles, Danny Denzongpa used to sleep at Shivaji Park and Juhu Beach in Mumbai. Mostly, guards would shoo him away. He continued to struggle, since he had decided he wouldn't show his face to his parents until he tasted success as an actor.

  • Mahendra Kapoor

    Mahendra Kapoor: He used to always travel by train while searching for work. On one of his trips, he met filmmaker H S Rawail, who took him to the Famous Studio at Tardeo, Mumbai. There, Kapoor met Rajendra Kumar, who introduced him to Shyam, the hero of 'Patanga', and, in fact, made him sing in front of him.

  • Govinda

    Govinda: The actor, who used to stay in a chawl in Virar, would go to Rajshri Studio every day, but was rejected on the basis of being too young. Not disheartened, Govinda even made a showreel in which he was seen acting and dancing and showed it to the production house. In picture: A still from the film 'Awargi' starring Govinda and Meenakshi Sheshadri.

  • Anupam Kher

    Anupam Kher: Frustrated at not getting work, Anupam Kher would many times take a train from Bandra to Churchgate, sit idle at the station for hours before taking another train back to Bandra.

  • Johnny Lever

    Johnny Lever: Before getting his big break, Johnny Lever was a part of Kalyanji-Anandji's group, but was hardly getting any work. In those days, one of the comedian's friends gave him a musical instrument. Lever did not know much about it and gave it to Kalyanji-Anandji. The duo started using the instrument in their compositions and paid Lever Rs 1,000-1,500 per month for the same.

  • Boman Irani

    Boman Irani: Before becoming an actor, Boman Irani used to work as a waiter at the Taj Hotel. Later, he got into the family's bakery business. The Iranis had a shop in Byculla known as Golden Wafers.

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About The Gallery

Behind most successful, rich and famous people, there are inspirational stories of how they overcame hardships on their way to the top. On Nawazuddin Siddiqui's birthday, we bring you his inspiring story and that of other celebs from Bollywood