Interview Hindi

How Piyush Mishra, Habib Tanvir shaped Nawazuddin’s character in Mom

Versatile actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui revealed that the two great theatre artistes inspired him to create a peculiar tone for his character in Mom.

Mayur Lookhar

Nawazuddin Siddiqui has enjoyed a great run over the last few years matching shoulders with the big stars, bagging roles that perhaps only he can pull off. The actor will soon be seen in the Sridevi-starrer suspense thriller Mom that hits the screens on 7 July.

The most striking trait of Siddiqui has to be his humility. He has definitely stocked up on confidence since this interviewer last met him in 2013. This confidence stems from his stellar performances in films like Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016), Badlapur (2015) and Raees (2017).

Excerpts from the conversation:

Bholenath ki kasam. Raakh se insaan ki kundali nikal sakta hoon’. By that saying, I can only presume that Dayashankar Kapoor is either an antaryami (omniscient) or a pakhandi (fraud).

(laughs) Well, this film is an emotional thriller, even if I try to speak little bit about my character, I’ll be exposed. It’s better that the suspense remains. You’ll know it once the film releases. You want the fun to be revealed now or later?

Not at all. It’s just that seldom have we seen a Hindi film trailer have such intrigue and mystery around it.

Well, building that intrigue was exactly the purpose of our trailer. I reckon we’ve succeeded in it.

Over the last few years, you’ve been part of quite a few crime thrillers. Is that a conscious decision?

I have no preference. I like to do films of all genres. I don’t want to do just goody good roles. I don’t want to create any image for myself. As an actor, you should be prepared to do any kind of roles. There is always a fear of experimenting but I don’t want to be typecast. There have been heroes in the past who’ve fallen prey to this tag. A hero is the most stereotyped, even if he’s willing, he’d not be allowed to experiment. I want to stay away from being stereotyped.

Typecasting is a reality, but eventually doesn't it all boil down to individual choice? Do you feel lucky to have played versatile roles?

You’re absolutely right. However, why should my knowledge, skills be credited to my luck? It is my hard work. I have gained knowledge. All the success is due to this. If everything boiled down to luck, then there are many deserving actors, luck should also be favouring them? Luck robs me off my hard work. You can’t be banking on luck, sitting at home and hoping for things to change. You have to get up, run around, do the hard work, acquire skills. Even when I was struggling, I never banked on luck.

What was about this character that attracted you to Mom?

It’s an experiment to play a character that you’ll perhaps see in your day to day life. You don’t observe them though. For preps, we observed such jugaadbaaz (people who get the work done by hook or by crook) characters in Darya Gunj, Chandni Chowk.

Jugaadbaaz? Oh, I must thank you for giving some hint about your character. We’ve never heard you speak in such an accent before. Was it hard to work on getting this accent?

No. Once we’d prepared the get-up, we shot the first day in Delhi. I was in my vanity, looking at myself in the mirror and trying to speak in various tones. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, I reminisced about late Habib Tanvir (theatre artiste) and Piyush Mishra. They speak in a similar tone. (Speaking in Tanvir style) Yeh sab aisa nahi hona chahiye. Piyush ji also speaks like that. I thought why not pick an in-between (Tanvir and Mishra) tone. It fitted perfectly with my character.

You have Mom, Munna Michael, there’s Manto, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. You’re the most sought-after actor in the industry. How do you manage your workload?

It’s not new. When I did theatre, I used to do 3-4 plays at a time. I did 10 street shows a day. I’ve now just carried this habit into films. Mind you, I have sat idle for 12 years too. I’m compensating for those 12 years now.

You sport a different hairdo in each of these films. Was it tough to fit into one character after another in a short span of time?

With Manto, we had to keep the look as original as possible. I experimented in Mom.

Did you really cut your hair?

No, I was wearing a wig.  

In the past, it was often said that you are the poor labourer of Bollywood. If I recall well, I’d once heard you acknowledge it. Aren’t you underrating yourself?

I never said I’m the labourer of Bollywood. I did play a poor man in Manjhi, but that was more of a passionate love story. I’m now playing a billionaire in Munna Michael, Manto is a great writer. In Kick, I was a billionaire.

So, you should now be called the billionaire of Bollywood?

(laughs) Yeah. You can call me that.