After a bunch of bit-roles, that stellar-lead as Faisal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur turned Nawazuddin Siddiqui into the thinking man’s actor. He has gatecrashed into the big league with a slew of riveting performances in recent times. Giridhar Jha speaks to him after his latest release, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, sprang a surprise at the box office despite being embroiled in multiple controversies, including a run-in with the censor board for its ‘bold content’.
Did the commercial success of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz come as a surprise after its confrontation with the censor board and negative reviews?
I was a bit jittery about the success because of its adult content. I was wondering whether the audience would appreciate the film. It belonged to a genre which was not popular at the time of its release. Still, it did well everywhere, barring cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
What was the experience like, of playing a foul-mouthed, trigger-happy character, so unlike a conventional Hindi film hero?
The director (Kushan Nandy) had a lot of reference points for the role but I was a bit worried because it was the character of a shameless man who had no social or moral values. I put in efforts to portray the character realistically. People from the villages and small towns, those who generally lead carefree, happy-go-lucky lives, liked his character much more than those living in the big cities, where people tend to apply too much of their intellect while watching a movie.
Movies starring actors who are often called parallel cinema stars, such as Manoj Bajpayee, Irrfan Khan and you, are nowadays clicking frequently at the box office. Is the star system finally coming to an end in the industry?
Manoj and Irrfan are no doubt great actors, but it will take some time before the star system is demolished. It’s true that movies revolving around archetypal heroes are no longer working these days. They have simply stopped charming the audience. So, the industry is coming up with different films. Still, the star system is not going to end in the near future.
There was a time when art cinema, starring greats like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, hardly fetched money to producers. Things are looking up now as the divide between commercial and art cinema seems to be getting blurred.
True, there was a time when excellent art films featuring fine actors were made regularly. They were, of course, great for aspiring actors like us but never turned out to be money-spinners.
But actors like you are bucking the trend now.
See, the problem with Bollywood is that it has always had a herd mentality. It has its own seasons of movies. These days, the wedding season is going on. Whenever the industry runs short of ideas, it starts making such films. But such trends are not good for the industry as a whole. The real fun is in making a movie that clicks at the cash counters despite defying the prevailing trends.
Do you think new platforms such as Netflix and Amazon have brought about a change in the taste of Indian audience?
These platforms are having a great impact on the way we watch movies. Today, world cinema is easily accessible to people. After watching the best of movies from across the world, they have realised how they have been fooled over the past 60 years or so. They have now come to realise that there are subjects other than a mushy romance on which a movie could be made.
The audience is also not averse to accepting a hero who has his share of weaknesses unlike in the past, when the lead actor had to be the jack of all trades and master of all of them as well?
The definition of a hero is definitely undergoing a sea change. In earlier movies, the hero used to be sarvgunsampann (someone having all the good qualities). He was a good-looking guy who wore good clothes, wooed his ladylove in style and bashed up the villains to ensure a happy ending. He was perfect, a Mother Teresa. But today’s hero is closer to realities. They are also shameless, with flaws of their own. They are just like the audiences who are watching them in the theatres.
Is the idealist hero a thing of the past?
Cinema is also changing with the times. There was a time when the hero was invariably an idealist, but today’s audiences just do not want to see anyone spouting highfalutin idealism on the screen. They want the hero to be someone they can relate to. People are now realising that over the years Hindi cinema had fed them into believing that a hero must not have any shortcomings.
Babumoshai is your solo hit. Is the audience going to see more of your solo-starrers in the future?
A biopic on Manto is my next release. I am also working in the next venture of Ritesh Batra of Lunchbox fame. Now, I will do only solo-starrers.