Rise of an Underdog: Nawazuddin Siddiqui

SarfaroshYou must have watched Sarfarosh that came in 1999. Remember that police interrogation scene where Inspector Salim (our very own Bulla) bullies two helpless & hapless malnutritioned locals of the nightclub area of Mumbai for some information? One of the guys breaks and accepts to turn informer. The camera then zooms to a triumphant, radiant Aamir Khan, who asks Salim to herd away the others.
You don't? Watch this.


Saab, mat maaro saab!

Some 13 years later a Godfatherishly authoritarian & equally merciless Faizal Khan rises out of that backless wretched soul. Mr. Nawazuddin Siddiqui deserves respect. He has earned it through some back to back strong performances, real hard work and a never say die attitude. Ah those golden and glamorous words of an overwhelmed biographer's dictionary! (On second thoughts, I AM an overwhelmed fan of Nawaz, so, pardon these glorious adjectives!)
gangs-of-wasseypur-2-movie-posters-37k
But seriously, just have a look on Nawazuddin's struggle in Indian cinema, and compare it with, let's say a chocolaty hero like Shahid Kapoor who was a Complan boy from day 1!
A very average looking person who neither had the height of Amitabh/Abhishek, nor the musculature of Salman/ Hrithik, nor the face of a Shahid/ Shahrukh and not even a family which could afford a barely comfortable life in Mumbai, Nawaz was not meant to be even the lead villain by the Indian stereotype of movie characters. No wonder a character role here or there with the hero beating him up black and blue was all he was getting. But he acted and the audience watched. Sarfarsosh's nameless character struggled hard for the next 5 years to even get a name in the script. (Having a name in the movie is important. For the actor, for the audience, for the story). 2003 came and went with an excellent short story called "The bypass" in which he starred alongside 'The Irrfan Khan' who had already won the Filmfare best villain award for Haasil. Still no glory for the underdog. Things went even worse as Nawaz literally had no roles offered to him between 2003-2005. Not even those nameless, faceless, spineless ones!
Then what happened?
Black Friday happened.
Enter Anurag Kashyap, a struggling movie director who had shown his scriptwriting brilliance in Satya (1998), but still had not directed anything worth praise (or better put, hadn't got a chance to do so yet!). Black Friday was released in India in 2007 after a long legal battle, and Nawaz, for the first time got both a name and some balls (reel ones) as Asgar Mukaddam. Strong performance now made some sense. There dawned a ray of hope on the horizon, or that's what must have occurred to a now hopeful Nawaz.Patna ke Presley
But the ray of hope happened to be a drunk light of a circus blitzkrieg. 2009 saw Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Rangila ( alongside Rasila), as they together formed the 'Patna ke Presley' band onscreen, and mouthed the 'Emosanal Attyachar' song in Dev D.
I sometimes feel it must be real cruel for an actor to go through all these nonsensical roles, especially if you have been trained in Bhartendu Natya Academy, Lucknow, and the National School of Drama, New Delhi. That's when you realise how important it is to be a khan or a kapoor or a complan boy, for God's sake! All Anurag Kashyap did was to give a name to Nawaz's character in Black Friday, and then turned him into a circus joker. (I think I shouldn't be harsh on AK. May be he was waiting for the right time to deliver a promise.)
Life has a strange way of working in circles. Aamir Khan decided to produce Peepli Live in 2010, and we saw a disoriented reporter out of Nawaz performing so brilliantly that it brought him to the limelight for the first time. (In retrospection, I must say that it should be Peepli Live's starcasting team which should be given some credit for Nawaz's ultimate recognition. After all, when the movie ends, you strain hard about who died finally in the movie that was all about dying. Who else, but Nawaz!)
Another strange twist of fate happened when our own Ramadheer Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) decided to make a Paan Singh Tomar in 2010. Nawaz was Gopi, the police informer. A brilliantly put work, as always. Things brightened up with Kahaani by Sujoy Ghosh in 2012, as we all saw a 5'6" lean and thin Intelligence Bureau official, Officer Khan, who took the plot and the audience by storm. Every Tom, dick and Hari going to the theatres now recognised Nawaj's face. IB Officer Khan. What a dominating character portrayal, and what a class act!
GoW 2 last sceneAnd then, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 happened. Anurag Kashyap delivered his promise. If you have had the patience of reading all the above till now, and then see the  concluding scene of GoW II, when our hero, Faizal Khan uses unprecedented brutality in the history of Indian cinema to shoot the villain from point blank range using all kinds of firearms, you will smile; for you will feel what Nawaz must have felt while shooting that scene.
"Keh ke Loonga." Indeed.
Waiting to see more of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in meaningful and strong roles. Though Chittagong (2012) was a brilliantly directed movie, Nawazuddin’s character was not done justice to, neither was it given enough screen share. Talaash as a movie disappointed, although Nawaz did some solid acting, and received Filmfare award nomination for best supporting actor. Looking forward to Dabba, Mountain Man and Black currency. Nawaz can't afford to go back to where he came from. He needs to deliver all the more now. Sarfarosh's informer has turned out to be a Batman of acting, and this industry does deserve a better class of actors. More than ever.
Alok K.
P.S. While roaming around in Copenhagen in the bright European October last year, I saw this poster stuck on a roadside.
Faizal going places!
Mr. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Respect.

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