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I want to be the highest paid actor: Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is relaxing in his airy apartment in suburban Mumbai.

Written by Geety Sahgal | Mumbai |
May 31, 2013 3:27:48 pm

His visit at Cannes has left him dazzled. Nawazuddin Siddiqui,who has just got back after spending a week at Cannes,is relaxing in his airy apartment in suburban Mumbai.

It’s a Sunday afternoon and he,wife Aaliya and their two-year old daughter,Shora,are enjoying the calm. Three of his films,Bombay Talkies,Lunchbox and the cop and gangster thriller Monsoon Shootout,were screened there.

While Bombay Talkies was the official selection,Monsoon Shootout was screened at the non-competition section and Lunchbox at the Critics’ Section.

“The reaction to Monsoon Shootout,which had a midnight screening,was mind-blowing. The audience stood up and clapped non-stop for 10 minutes.

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Sony Pictures has bought the film. In the Critics’ Section where Lunchbox was screened,13 odd films were shown to 100 people and ours was selected amongst all for the Audience Choice award,” he says.

The films made significant impact at the French Riviera and Nawaz was at the receiving end of rave reviews.

The Hollywood Reporter had stated in one of their write-ups: ‘The most memorable of all is Siddiqui,who is every inch an unstoppable force of nature and lucky we are that so much of the violence he wrecks happens offcamera.

’ In the Bombay Talkies review in which he played an out-of work theater actor,the same paper had described him as versatile Nawazuddin ‘unrecognisable’ when compared to the fierce killer in another of this year’s entries,Monsoon Shootout.

’ The actor is,however,unsure how Monsoon Shootout and Lunchbox in which he plays an apprentice in a corporate,will be received in India.

“The reaction there was awesome,but I don’t know how the people here will react.

I am 100 per cent sure of it.”

Monsoon Shootout had been in the competition section,it would have won some awards. It feels nice that they respect our films and watch them keenly,” he says.

Siddiqui would be the only Indian actor who has had five of his films screened at the prestigious festival in a span of two years. A rare and laudable achievement.

If he had three films this year,last year Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely and Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur were screened there.

“Thanks to all my films,I am known there. When the guests there would see me,their comment was ‘this is the artiste,” he says.

Siddiqui’s has been one of the most intriguing journeys in Bollywood.

Hailing from Budhana,a small town in Uttar Pradesh,films were not a childhood dream for the actor.

Cultural activities like theater and films were not part of the sleepy town where he grew up in a large joint family of 100 odd members living under one roof.

“People are either farmers or dacoits there. It was only when I came out of Budhana and started working in Delhi,that I came in touch with these cultural activities. When I saw a play in Delhi for the first time,I was fascinated by the whole experience.

What endeared me was the immediate reaction of the audience to an actor’s performance,which got him claps if good and rebuff if bad. I saw a direct connection with the actor and the audience. There was no corruption,or recommendation,” says Nawaz who was 22 at that time.

Watching plays only increased his fascination for the world of acting and he enrolled himself in the National School of Drama in Delhi.

After the three year course,the actor landed in Mumbai about 13 years ago.

The journey here was slow and arduous with him giving several auditions and only landing blink and miss roles in films like Shool,Munnabhai MBBS,Black Friday,Peepli [Live,Paan Singh Tomar. But he did not let his dream die.

“It was my friends who instilled the confidence in me and asked me not to give up and there was also Anurag Kashyap who had become a close friend,” he says.

Then came Kahaani and Siddiqui’s portrayal of the no-nonsense and curt intelligence officer,Khan.

He stood out in the Vidya Balan film. Sujoy Ghosh,who directed the drama,says,“Nawazuddin believes in method acting and follows his own process,and he pulled off Khan beautifully. It would be interesting to see how he has tackled his roles in his other films like Miss Lovely and Monsoon Shootout,” states Ghosh.

After Kahaani,Gangs Of Wasseypur and Talaash quickly cemented his name as one of Bollywood’s most dependable actors.

His fine portrayals in four films,Kahaani,Talaash,Gangs Of Wasseypur and Dekh Indian Circus won him the Special Jury Award at the National Awards this year.

The appreciation has been quick and offers have been pouring in ever since.

In fact,Nawaz has turned down close to 200 films in the last few months,each offering him a prominent part.

Did he ever think that he would carve out a niche for himself in Bollywood where,like he says,he gets half a dozen offers a week? “I knew I would work hard and keep getting work but no,I never dreamed aisa bhi ho jayega,that I would land a National Award and be offered so many films.”

Presently,the two films which he is looking forward to are Ketan Mehta’s Mountain Man and Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa.

“My character in Mountain Man is the most difficult I have done till date.

I age from 22 to 75. It’s easy to be 22 and then 75 but it’s the in-between years,the 30s and the 40s,where you have to show the difference.

On the other hand,Anwar is a character who peeps into other peoples life since childhood and slowly he makes it his profession as a detective,” he says adding that both the films are complete,but he wants a little break before he takes on more work.

The obvious question to ask an actor who has made an impact with his talent is about his craft.

Siddiqui,as he acknowledges,is not a born actor as they say,but a craft he developed.

“Of course you need talent but with talent,you can do one film. After that,you need knowledge and training. Stars are more about looks and glamour,but actors who have to tackle new characters need that training. Exercises taught at the course,helps you to visualise and make one character completely different from the other in terms of body language and mannerisms. In India,stars get away without training,because formula films with their standard mannerisms is something which even a man on the road can do. But executing a character is another ball game all together,” he explains.

The actor prefers to stay away from the typical commercial cinema even if he gets a strong character,because it will be the star who will walk away with all the accolades.

“I started with one minute scenes,graduated to two minutes,then 15 minute then 40 minute. It’s time I selected lead roles. Also actors like us should also get their due where remuneration is concerned. My dream is to be the highest paid actor,as we are the artistes who take a film to another level.”

Not much is written about the actor’s personal life and one has to prod him to learn that he had a what he calls a love-cum-arranged marriage with the very pretty looking Aaliya about three years back.

“She’s from Jabalpur and we met in Mumbai almost 10 years ago and have been together ever since,” is all that he is willing to divulge.

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