'A human chameleon', is how Pune Mirror describes Nawazuddin Siddiqui in their interpretation (there have been many doing the rounds) of the Gangs of Wasseypur actor's brush with stardom. While it can't be credited with a lot of imagination, the tabloid does manage to put its finger on what has probably ensured Siddiqui a place among the industry's highly regarded actors - his ability to slip into characters.
However, that's not the only reason he is the toast of a largely fickle and glamour-greedy entertainment media. As a DNA interviewer recollects, Siddiqui has not let success get to him. He is still rooted in his struggles, travels in a cab and hasn't hired an mixed-accented PR professional to take media calls for him. Siddiqui is almost, one of us.
Gangs of Wasseypur and Siddiqui, one could say were made for each other. The same DNA article says:
The going wasn’t always this easy for Nawaz, born in a small town "B-U-D-H-A-N-A” (he spells out lest I miss it) in Uttar Pradesh in a family of farmers. "In my gaav, only three things work,gehu (wheat), ganna (sugarcane) aur gun," he says matter-of-factly.
Having worked in a chemist shop and as a watchman, Siddiqui knew life wouldn't be a cakewalk for him. So, even though he was taken up by the idea of acting he kept doing odd jobs to keep the hearth fires running. After graduating from the National School of Drama and working for a while in Delhi, Siddiqui moved to Mumbai. He tells The Indian Express:
Later, I moved to Mumbai and tried my luck in television serials. That was the time when Indian television grew inclined towards glossy looks and started decking up its actors. There was no place for people like us. Between 2002-05, I hardly did any work. Four of us shared a flat. I survived by conducting occasional acting workshops. At times, I also had to borrow money from friends.
Gangs of Wasseypur has gotten rave reviews with praise coming his way from critics and not-very-critical movie watchers alike - in fact, it's a film that seems to have deftly bridged the gap between the mainstream and niche in Bollywood. Siddiqui, however, isn't carried away by it all. In fact, in one interview he even spoke of how the media baffles him.
"My only concern was the interaction with media. I am not very good at it. I often try to duck the questions and put the responsibility on the director," he says.
Siddiqui's parents, who still live in Budhana, travel 40 kilometres to catch their son on the big screen when they are told of an important release. Honour killings are still the order of the day in his hometown and his decision to become a 'hero' was mostly met with a healthy dose of mockery. Siddiqui may have not lost sight of any of these and that probably, is also why he is as much an actor on the big screen, as he is just another guy in the crowd.