From left, Anil George,
Niharika Singh and Nawazuddin
Siddiqui attend the Miss Lovely
photocall in Cannes, May 24
The year of Nawaz
ANDREAS RENTZ/GETT Y IMAGES
Corleone and also the aspiring
confidence of Michael Corleone.
In May, Nawaz was in Cannes
celebrating the world premieres
of three of his films — the two
parts of Gangs and Ashim
Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, a peek
into the world of the C-grade horror and semi-porn films produced on the fringes of
It is a rare achievement for an
actor unknown on the world
stage to have three films in
Cannes, by all accounts the leading international film festival.
In the fall, all three films also
played at the Toronto
International Film Festival. Miss
Lovely was also screened in
October at the Mumbai Film
And if these diverse, rich performances of Nawaz were not
enough, we saw a set of pictures
from Cannes showing the Miss
Lovely team — dressed up, posing under a cloudy sky. Along
with Ahluwalia, and his other
cast, I saw the dashing Nawaz, far
from the life of his village near
Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh,
dressed in a black suit, narrow tie
The actor from a small Uttar Pradesh town is the man to watch out for
Early this year when I would mention actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s name to friends, film afi- cionados and strangers, I would often be asked a question like this: ‘Remind me again, what films has he acted in?’
And so I would start off by describing his character in
Peepli [Live], the earnest journalist who dies in the end, or in
Kahaani, where he is the cocky
federal detective Khan, who struts
around scaring the hell out of local
cops in Kolkata. And then people
would seem to remember him.
Things have changed dramatically for Nawaz in 2012, as he has
been seen in many more films — at
festivals and in theaters in India
and the US.
This year, Salman Khan had a couple of huge hits, Shah
Rukh Khan turned the late Yash Chopra’s final film into the
Bollywood event of the year, and Aamir Khan had a big
success with his hard-hitting television show.
But if you look at the number of films in which one single
actor has appeared and has given the most solid, consistent
performances, then that would be Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
The year 2012 was virtually a one long film festival of
Nawaz, and for that reason he definitely deserves the title
of Actor of the Year.
Given the state of distribution of small independently
produced films, some of his work has yet to be seen in India
and in the United States. But just look at the sheer breadth
of his film work.
In Chicago filmmaker Prashant Bhargava’s Patang, he
was Chakko, a wedding
band singer in
resents his wealthy relatives from Delhi, holding them responsible for
his father’s death.
In Los Angeles filmmaker Bedabrata Pain’s
In Mangesh Hadawale’s Dekh Indian Circus — winner of
the audience award at the 2011 Busan International Film
Festival — he is a poor villager, a mute man and father of
two, who has to face his children’s disappointment when
they realize he cannot take them on an outing to a circus.
And in Anurag Kashyap’s five-plus-hour-long saga Gangs
of Wasseypur 1 and 2, he plays the younger son of a rural
gangster who reflects the nervous energy of Freddie
and a crisp white shirt.
Earlier this year when I interviewed Nawaz for
Rediff.com, he told me that the village he comes from only
gets two hours of electricity in a week. While his parents
had a television at home, he had not bought them a DVD
player and the first film of his they watched was Kahaani,
when they took a trip to a movie theater in big city close to
That is Nawaz, the 38-year-old graduate of New Delhi’s
National School of Drama. When I met him in person in
New York this summer — he was here to promote Patang
— he told me his years of struggle were behind him and he
had 10 films waiting to be released in India, including
Reema Kagti’s Talaash.
Talaash opened November 30. In the film, with three of
Bollywood’s biggest stars — Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor
and Rani Mukerji — in the lead, Nawaz stood out on his
own, giving a solid performance. Some critics and audiences may have had issues with Kagti’s work, but nearly all
mentioned that Nawaz as Tehmur, the scheming, henchman of a pimp, was the real highlight of the film.
Meeting Nawaz in person in New York City, I began to
think about what marks a good actor. And I looked at
Nawaz. He is unassuming, a bit shy at first. He has none of
the arrogance that one sometimes sees in big stars. His eyes
sparkle and his smile is infectious.
He is gifted with a lot of charm and there is a certain
energy in him that helps him transform into the diverse
characters he plays on screen.
The Hindi film industry is cluttered with Bollywood stars
who rarely take risks and play anything other than the one-note characters the audience want them to be. Nawaz, on
the other hand, is a rare actor, a human chameleon. And
that may be one reason why people often do not remember
him from his supporting roles in the films from past years.
That has certainly changed as 2012 comes to an end.