Nawazuddin Siddiqui on upcoming comedy drama Ghoomketu, life under lockdown and completing 20 years in films
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays an aspiring film writer in Ghoomketu, also starring his frequent collaborator Anurag Kashyap.
After Motichoor Chaknachoor, a romantic comedy that released last November, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, true to his words, is once again taking a break from his brand of dark cinema with his next, Ghoomketu, a light-hearted family entertainer.
Siddiqui has been saying for some time that he wants to reach out to the family audience. “Most of my films are in adult, content space and you can't see that with family. I have deliberately changed the track,” he had recently said. Ghoomketu is a quirky comedy-drama told from the viewpoint of an inexperienced writer, played by Siddiqui. He plays an aspiring writer from a small town in Uttar Pradesh struggling to make it big in the film industry in Mumbai. On his quest to come up with a great story, he is shown inspired by day-to-day mundane activities.
Siddiqui, who shot to fame with his portrayal of local goon Faizal Khan in Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur, portrayed quite a few gangster roles since then (most recently he was seen as a criminal overlord in Sacred Games, a Netflix Original series) but what irks him the most is getting labelled and being remembered only for the raw, dark characters. “It may be that certain dark films that I did have haunted the audiences’ mind for a very long time but I have done all kinds of roles and I don’t want to get tagged in any one type of genre. Then it will look as if there is less focus on me. I have done Thackeray, Manto, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Photograph, Freaky Ali, Manjhi - The Mountain Man...Now these are not dark films. Yes, but one can say that these are not those typical Bollywood films. Actually I don’t want to do that kind of cinema. If I feel that a film is different and it doesn’t look like that typical Bollywood formula film then I would love to do that. Thousands of those typical Bollywood films release every year and they just come and go,” said the actor.
It may be recalled that Siddiqui had once created a massive stir on the social media with a cryptic tweet hinting about the prevalent racism in the Hindi film industry and how difficult it is for him to bag roles considering he is ‘dark and not good looking’ while the demand is for ‘fair and handsome’. Reiterating the same he said, “When I was doing theatre, I used to do a lot of comedy plays, but on the silver screen, because of my intense look, the characters moved towards a more serious genre. Here, they look at your face, and if you look serious and dark..and as it is I am dark complexioned and done dark films, so people don’t believe that I can do comedy. But I have done lot of comedy, I enjoy comedy and find very easy doing it,” said Siddiqui.
“In a comedy movie or a show, I believe that timing plays an important part and in Ghoomketu, because I play the role of a storyteller, I have to convince the audience about the character as well. The chemistry and rapport with all my co-stars made it even easier. I could let go of all my inhibitions and make a fool of myself on the sets as well, play around with the character, and do weird poses just like Ghoomketu would do. But here we are not trying to do any comedy, it is the situations that people will enjoy watching,” he further added.
Directed by Pushpendra Nath Misra and produced by Phantom Films and Sony Pictures Networks (SPN), the movie also features filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and actors Ila Arun, Raghubir Yadav, Swanand Kirkire and Ragini Khanna in pivotal roles. The film also has cameos by Amitabh Bachchan, Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, and filmmaker Nikkhil Advani.
What attracted Siddiqui to the script the most was its relatability. “I have also come from a small village to Mumbai and, I, too, used to feel that people here speak and behave to the point, so it will be difficult to adjust with them. I felt all were ahead of me and they talk cut-to-cut. There is a dialogue in the film, ‘Yahan sab to the point hain’. If you ask someone, ‘Kya bhai, kya haal hai?’, and they snap at you saying, ‘Yes, yes tell me what is it about?’ My character goes through all this what I had experienced 20 years back when I came to Mumbai. After reaching Mumbai he looks around shocked and bewildered, and even I had reacted the same way. Mumbai is very advanced, very fast, so people like us take some time to be part of that race. For the same reason I had to struggle a lot because I couldn’t match that speed, and similarly my character is shown struggling. He is struggling as a writer and I have struggled as an actor. Then, coming to Mumbai, getting emotional and going back home...I can relate to the journey of the character. So definitely there are lot of connections with this character and my life,” said the actor.
“Ghoomketu is also very unique and real because you feel you belong to this world. While shooting I felt like I am at home and I have my aunts, uncles around me. I had this experience doing a film for the first time. The director had created that world, that environment and we never felt that we were acting. It felt as if we were just chatting and could easily connect to our characters. After reading the script I felt the incidents were happening around me. It was like apne kisse. I felt as if I was sitting in my village and Pushpendra was narrating tales to me. The stories and incidents that were forgotten got refreshed in my mind through the film. The most important quality of a director is to transfer their actors into the atmosphere as per the film’s requirements,” he said.
The actor and Kashyap have been long time collaborators and the duo have previously worked together on multiple projects, including, critically-acclaimed Gangs of Wasseypur series, Black Friday, Raman Raghav 2.0 and Sacred Games. However, it is for the first time they have shared screen space as actors for a film. Kashyap plays the role of that of a lazy and corrupt cop.
When asked how was it sharing screen space with Kashyap in the upcoming digital release, the actor while having a hearty laugh said, “It was interesting because it was all so unpredictable. I wouldn’t get the idea when Anurag would pause which I usually get when I do films with other actors. But with Anurag it was unexpected. Though I really enjoyed working with him I could never imagine him as a character. I would think, ‘Oh well, this is Anurag’ (laughs-out-loud). And I was also a bit scared working with him. Since he is a director he might just say, ‘Cut’ if he found some mistake in my performance.”
Ghoomketu is set to premiere on ZEE5 on 22 May after a series of delays. The film was completed in 2014. However, Siddiqui is not concerned whether his films are seen in theatres, or on a streaming platform as he believes that there are times when getting a proper release is in itself a huge achievement. “How a film releases shouldn’t concern the actors. We shot it like how we shoot a film for theatres and in today’s time OTT is a great platform, a big support as that’s the only way people are able to watch films. So I don't personally think that it really matters to actors. It doesn’t affect them and actors shouldn't be concerned whether their films release on OTT or theatres anyways. The film is getting released is in itself a big thing,” he said.
The actor is currently in his hometown Budhana (Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, where he travelled with his family amid the lockdown as his mother was unwell. Siddiqui said that he has watched over 80 films ever since the coronavirus -forced lockdown started and he strongly believes that lot of things will change in his and everyone else's life when normalcy returns. He said he will start looking at his life and career with a new perspective. “This is a time of self-realisation. Our thought process will change, writing will change, film-making will change, my acting style will change. I think it will be a new beginning for me when I start shooting again,” he said.
“I am watching European, Middle-East and Japanese films and there is a change in my thought process while watching cinema. Earlier, I would pay more attention to performances rather than story-telling...I was aadat se majboor...but now I feel as if I am experiencing life. These films have really impressed me. They showed life and you feel you are part of it. So, these days I go deep into a film without thinking about acting. I completely forget acting and travel with these actors and their characters,” said the actor.
As everyone knows, Siddiqui has had a long struggle and has lived life the hard way before entering Bollywood doing odd jobs, and while he debuted with bit roles some time in 1999 in films like Aamir Khan’s Sarfarosh among others, he got recognition only after over a decade with 2012 release Gangs Of Wasseypur and Kahaani. When asked about his journey of 20 long years and what more he aims to achieve, he laughed saying, “I never thought about this because I started getting good work only in the last decade, the initial 10 years went by in struggle. I will only say that I have to just keep working and it doesn't matter if the role is big or small. There are lot of things that I still have to achieve in life and career," he concluded.
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