Since time immemorial, the Hindi film industry has been obsessed with fairness and an impressive physique. Inspiring and talented actors would have to go into oblivion just because they would not look ‘good enough’ to fit in the niche carved for a typical Bollywood hero or heroine. Physical beauty was always placed above acting prowess. But there has been one man who has somehow managed to make a strong foothold in this biased industry and that man is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Being born in a family of farmers in the village of Budhana in Uttar Pradesh, Siddiqui’s struggle story has been tiresome, legendary and an absolutely filmy one. The fact that he grew up among nine siblings in a lawless area managed by goons did not stop him from completing his education. He attained a degree in science from Haridwar and started working as a chemist. Disenchanted from his work there, he moved to the national capital, Delhi. Delhi gave him the opportunity to take interest in theatre acting. Due to lack of financial support, Nawaz took to learn acting just by watching plays. Eventually, he got himself enrolled in the National School of Drama and made his living by taking up the job of a watchman.
After graduating with a degree in acting, it was time to finally go to the dream city Mumbai. Siddiqui’s first Bollywood appearance was a 61-second role in the 1999 hit Sarfarosh. The actor was paid a meager Rs 500 as a day’s wage. Post Sarfarosh, life became tough for Nawazuddin. A string of rejections and a life of anonymity resulted into him becoming broke. Just when Siddiqui had lost hopes from life, life sprung surprises after surprises at him and changed his life forever. Anurag Kashyap had spotted him during his theatre days and offered him a meaty role in the controversial film, Black Friday and the actor never looked back. Critically acclaimed movies like Paan Singh Tomar, Dev D, Peepli Live, Kahaani, and New York followed. However, it was Anurag Kashyap’s epic gangster drama series, Gangs of Wasseypur that catapulted Nawazuddin into the lap of success. He has been loved by the audiences and celebrated by the critics in successful movies like Talaash, Kick, Badlapur, Manjhi and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Today Nawazuddin Siddiqui is one of Bollywood’s most sought after actors. A versatile performer with a strong grounding in theatre, he surprises audiences with every role he plays—from Officer Khan in Kahani, Faisal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur and Shaikh in The Lunchbox to Liak in Badlapur, Chand Nawab in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dashrath Manjhi in Manjhi.
However, the journey to fame and fortune was far from easy for the actor who went from being a watchman in Delhi to ruling the film industry. The book An Ordinary Life: A Memoir is a celebration of his life and struggles associated with it. The book will instill confidence in many budding actors and it’s a sad state of affairs that this book had to be withdrawn from the shelves.
By Nilabh Krishna