A man of many moods

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Last Updated : 25 June 2016, 18:43 IST
Last Updated : 25 June 2016, 18:43 IST

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Just as water takes the shape of any container, and chameleons change colour to match the environment, Nawazuddin Siddiqui goes through a metamorphosis in every role he does.

The theatre veteran with over 150 plays (“Mostly comedies!”), started out with a “less than 40-seconds role” as a suspected terrorist in Sarfarosh (1999). More bit cameos, followed by slightly longer turns happened before his first featured role in Black Friday (2005).

Nawazuddin, 42, hailing from a farming community in Uttar Pradesh’s obscure village of Budhana, first swept into limelight with Kahaani, Talaash, Paan Singh Tomar and Gangs Of Wasseypur, all in 2012. And in an unprecedented move, the government awarded a special National Award for all his performances that year.

From here, Nawazuddin moved to greater glories with Kick, Bombay Talkies and The Lunchbox, Badlapur, Manjhi — The Mountain Man and Bajrangi Bhaijaan and TE3N this year. Next, the actor will be seen as the psychopathic serial killer Raman Raghav in Anurag’s Raman Raghav 2.0.

How did he get into the character of a psychopath? “I took off with the script to Lonavala (a hill-station near Mumbai), hired a secluded cottage,” he replies. “I took along apt background music, something I have done in the past as well, and tried to get into Raman’s mind. This was challenging, because his beliefs, philosophy and his entire world are completely different.”

He explains, “Raman enjoyed murder. He had his own justification for his crimes, which were unacceptable to the society. As an actor, I had to think like him and believe in his thought process to be convincing as Raman. And I remember that on the third day, mujhe khud se darr lagne lagaa (I was scared of myself). So I stopped. Once I had gotten into the skin of the character, the rest was easy.”

Does he take his characters home, then? “No, no! I leave them at the shoot,” he grins. “Otherwise my wife will revolt and my kids will be severely disturbed. But after every film, I rush to my village to relax, because people there don’t treat me like a star. I also till the fields just to test my stamina.”

How does he accomplish so much variety so effortlessly? “It is not easy,” he smiles. “Any complacence or being in a comfort zone will make me look similar each time. My constant endeavour is to concentrate, mentally and in every way, to be different each time, minus the get-ups. That’s my koshish (attempt), though I do not know how successful I am.”

We assure him he is, of course. He smiles and replies, “So sweet of you.” We also add that he is never monotonous, unlike some other hyped names. “I have entered the film industry at the best time,” he goes on. “I will be playing the romantic lead now in Sohail Khan’s new film and in Ritesh Batra’s movie. But that doesn’t mean that I only play the hero. One of my favourite roles was in the recent TE3N, in which I played an emotionless, matter-of-fact cop. I try and choose roles even to test myself as an actor, like in the case of Kick — I was keen to find out whether I could play a neurotic in that big set-up.”

He then reveals the big secret of his versatility. “I practise acting even when I have no work,” he reveals. “Singers practise, so do dancers, so why not actors? My training, my experience of 15 years in theatre — everything helps me. An actor’s evolution must be a continuous process. I also select roles with a definite beginning, middle and end, which are a decisive part of the plot.”

All of Nawazuddin’s characters — good, gray or evil — have a funny streak. So how humorous is he as a person? “Oh, I am a confused and boring person,” he replies, though his eyes twinkle. “Ladies find me boring and run away.”

He then adds, “I think any normal man, with an undercurrent of humour, is an interesting combination. In most of my 150 plays, I have done comic roles.” Why has he not done comedies? “I might, as an experiment again,” he replies. “Most comedies today are farcical. I find them easy, so they don’t fascinate me.”

Nawazuddin would rather not talk about his forthcoming assignments. So we ask him instead about his recent mission to help his village with a French irrigation technique. “I have convinced 96% of farmers in my district, and will soon use this technique, in which only one-fourth of water that is currently being used, will help cultivate the crops,” he replies. “All this is for the future. Five years ago, water was available 80 feet below the ground, now it is at 220 feet!”

Published 25 June 2016, 14:46 IST

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