Nawazuddin Siddiqui: Shah Rukh Khan can play any role easily if director is skilfull

From doing a 40-second cameo in Sarfarosh (1999) to being one of the finest performers in Hindi cinema today, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has come a long way. He will next be seen playing an unusual psychotic serial killer in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0. In a friendly chat with, the actor spoke about the kind of roles he has played so far, rigorous preparation for Raman Raghav 2.0, and his special venture for farmers in his native village. Excerpts from the interview:

Keyur Seta

You keep playing a variety of roles and manage to play each of them convincingly. What are the things you keep in mind?
It is very difficult. If I go into my comfort zone, all my characters will appear the same. I constantly try to perform one character differently than the other, even in terms of the psyche, without taking support from the get-up. 

Also, you get offered different types of characters.
I am fortunate for that. I am playing a hero in Sohail Khan and Ritesh Batra’s films. I am playing a romantic character in 2-3 films. But I won’t keep playing romantic characters continuously. This is a very good time for cinema, which allows you to experiment. I wish to take full advantage of it. But at the same time, I don’t wish to get stuck playing one character. My character in Te3n is my favourite because it gave me a chance to experiment with less emotions and less acting. 

Different actors have different ways of getting into a character. What is your method?
I have a vast experience of 12-15 years in theatre. The good thing is that I was always in the process. Even when I didn’t have work, I used to practise. This helps you develop your own craft. Generally, singers and dancers practise a lot but an actor doesn’t (smiles}. 

What are your criteria for signing a film?
My character should be complete, even if it is just for a scene. It should have a beginning, middle and end. And it should be an integral part of the plot. 

Most of your characters have that quirky element. Have you ever thought of doing an out-and-out comedy?
I have acted in around 150 plays and none of them were serious; there was comedy in all. Even my characters in films have that undercurrent of humour. I don’t quite believe in our trends of comedy. Farce comedy is very popular here. That is very easy for me. But if there is an undercurrent of humour in normal characters, then they become interesting. Doing out-and-out comedy is easy because the punch lines are already written, where you can even improvise. The comedy in cinema depends a lot on editing. 

Will we ever see you doing a film like Housefull 3?
I can of course do it as an experiment if I feel like. It is important for me to test myself in every genre. For example, I did Kick. It was my deliberate attempt to do it. I didn’t do it just because I was offered.

How humorous are you in real life?
I am very boring and confused in real life. I can’t take decisions quickly. People run away from me out of boredom, especially females, just like how my heroine ran away [referring to Chitrangada Singh’s exit from Babumoshai Bandookbaaz].

How did you prepare for Raman Raghav 2.0?
I took the script and went to a forest cottage in Lonavala. I used to prepare while playing the film’s background music. I like listening to background scores without any voice. Maybe music helps us achieve something that’s in our mind. After three days, one evening I started feeling a bit scared of myself (laughs). But I was able to grasp the crux of the character. The scene where my character is howling and then suddenly goes relaxed was achieved this way. 

What other challenges did you face while playing this character?
It was challenging to play Raman because his philosophy and belief are completely different and he belongs to a different world. He loves murdering people, for which he has his own justification. But I am a normal person and I don’t believe in his theory. This was the biggest struggle for me. 

Although Raman is a hardcore serial killer, was there any one quality in him that you could relate to? It is believed that every person has some good quality. 
Nobody in the world can be completely black or white. We are all grey. World’s worst as well as a good person is hiding inside us. Raman also has such quality that we can relate to. But I won’t reveal it now (smiles). 

How do you unwind after playing such strong characters? 
After completing a film, I run away to my village. Over there, hardly anyone pays any attention towards me. I like being with them. They don’t think highly of me. They are all farmers. After ploughing the field with them, meri aukaat mujhe yaad aa jaati hai (laughs). 

You have worked with Amitabh Bachchan and all the three Khans. What did you learn from them on and off the sets?
From the Khans I have learnt how to sustain success. They are able to do this because when they work on the sets they are so humble. They work like just a normal actor. Bachchan sahab is very punctual. He won’t leave the sets until the scene is done with. Normally we take a break between shots but Bachchan sahab doesn’t. And he has still continued that passion. 

You recently said that Shah Rukh Khan can do a film like Gangs Of Wasseypur. Why do you feel so?
I am sure he can play such roles easily if the director is skilful. Shah Rukh is a director’s actor. He is the same actor who did Swades and Chak De! India. 

You recently adopted a French farming technology in your drought-affected village. What is its status now?
We had adequate supply of water once. Now we get water at 220 feet below the ground. Five years ago, it was available at just 80 feet. There was lots of greenery. But the area is now declared a dark zone. I came to know about this French irrigation system. I sat with the farmers and asked if this would work here: 96% felt it would. It is now in the making. I will use it first on my land. This equipment will ensure that our needs would be met by spending just 25% of the water that we are spending now. We have to save water for future generations. 

You are doing a film with Sridevi titled Mom. What character are you playing in it?
I am playing a detective. I can only tell you this much.