The rise and rise of Nawaz

Source :SIFY
Last Updated: Mon, Nov 29th, 2021, 12:00:52hrs
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He has seen it all, from waiting desperately to be called for one-minute roles on screen to receiving standing ovations at the Cannes Film Festival for his performances.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui may have returned from the Emmy Awards ceremony in New York empty-handed, but his second outing in a row at the awards is a reward in itself, indicative of his growth as an internationally-recognised talent.

Having attended in 2019 with two shows—Sacred Games and McMafia—nominated for Best Drama, this time Nawaz was there for the Netflix film Serious Men, based on the novel of the same name by Manu Joseph, and hoping to receive the Best Actor award. He lost out to David Tennant for Des.

If one were to go back fourteen years, to Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s first notable performance, in Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday, it is hard to imagine that the diminutive man being interrogated by Kay Kay Menon would grace various red carpets across the world over the next decade. It was a short scene, almost the real-life enactment of Patol Babu, where the actor had barely a word to speak.

In 2015, Nawaz told a group of film students at a workshop that he was so nervous while shooting the scene in Black Friday that he couldn’t remember the few words of dialogue he had. He claimed at the workshop that he had decided to keep a reference chit on a table during the close up, so that what had come off as the character searching for words was in fact the actor straining to read his script.

It may be argued that 2012 was the Year of Nawaz. After outings in Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar, he went on to act in Miss Lovely and all three films in the Gangs of Wasseypur series. Nawaz was a household name, no longer “the guy from Black Friday.”

At the Cannes festival that year, where he had the audience hooting and cheering when he got up on the dais, he told me in an exclusive interview for, “It took lots of patience, you know. I did very small roles, and maybe in five films, had one-minute scenes. After six or seven years, I finally got Black Friday, and things got better after that.”

To audiences, Black Friday marked the introduction of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. To him, it was the big break. At his alma mater, National School of Drama (NSD), he was among the most promising students. But the film industry is no easy place for a man without the right connections. In the case of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, he had only his training and capacity to work hard to rely on. His characters made an impression on the audience even when he had barely any screen time. “We did lots of exercises in method acting,” he told me, speaking of his time at NSD, “and in getting into the shoes of a character, so I must have picked up the ability to execute myself as an actor, and it’s become easy over time.”

For years, though, he was only called upon when they needed a little guy to get beaten up in jail, or a rogue on the road to be put in place by the hero.

All that changed in 2012.

The next few years were a period when it appeared he had the Midas touch, culminating in a stellar performance in Badlapur (2015), by way of Talaash (2013) and The Lunchbox (2014). He would pick up the National Award, Filmfare Award, IIFA Award and Producers Guild Award, and Screen Award multiple times, and won every time he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at international film festivals.

It might have been a grouse that he was always “supporting actor”.

Come 2018, and Manto had him playing the lead. It was a chance for Nawaz to show the audience just how versatile an actor he was. He would shine on screen, bringing to life the firebrand that was Saadat Hasan Manto and embodying him so well that one could almost see a resemblance between the two very different faces.

It also changed the conversation around Nawaz, which had taken a poor turn with the publication and subsequent withdrawal of an autobiography which detailed—without consent—his many relationships and his analyses of the women involved in each. His Miss Lovely co-star Niharika Singh was furious about her having been mentioned in the book, and veteran television actress Sunita Rajwar filed a case. But the release of Manto had Nawaz the actor back in focus, and nobody cared about the mistakes Nawaz the man had made.

Then came the era of OTT, with Sacred Games in 2019 and Serious Men the year after pitching Nawazuddin Siddiqui to international fame.

Perhaps it is his on-screen vulnerability, and the shade of Everyman that is so apparent in a man of ordinary looks and puny frame, but people like to see a hero in Nawaz. The women about whom he wrote in his autobiography have tried to write back about him, particularly during the #MeToo movement, but Nawaz continues to rise and rise. Whatever his personal life may be, he has made a grand success story of his professional life.

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Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is:


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