It’s far too early to know what secrets and insights Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s memoir will reveal, but this much is certain: the journalist charting the journey of the 41-year-old actor from a village in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai will focus on the man more than the movies.
Rituparna Chatterjee lives in San Francisco but has been spending the last few months in Mumbai, meeting Siddiqui as well as the directors who have shaped his on-screen persona. The yet-to-be-titled memoir will be out in 2017, and it was teased at publisher Penguin Random House’s annual Spring Fever Festival in Delhi in March.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a work in progress. Was there any particular role that convinced you that there was a book waiting to be written on him?
I was fascinated with the character he played in Talaash, it stayed with me. I was on maternity leave in the US, so I had no idea what a big deal this guy had become. I watched Talaash on Netflix in San Francisco. The character is creepy and freaks you out and it stayed with me.
Everybody knows him for his struggle, but I see a different dimension. His life is very different from typical Bollywood. He has a complete life. I don’t see that much emptiness that is generally observed in so much of the industry. Of course, the struggle and the darkness will be there, but along with it, there is also the hope of it all – of how alive he is and he how lives everything to the fullest.
Did Siddiqui need to be persuaded?
I had to sell him the idea. He heard me out. Stars tend to be wary of a girl who comes out of nowhere and approaches you. So much of this kind of writing is about trust and being presented in the right light.
It’s early days, but what have you dug up so far?
We are still in the process of figuring it out. The book will be in written in the first person. We start at the beginning, and I plan to leave the book open-ended. There will be a chapter on director Anurag Kashyap, who has given him so much.
Nawaz is such an amazing storyteller that it is almost as good as seeing him play a role. At the Spring Fever festival, he gave a performance based on his Chand Nawab character from Bajrangi Bhaijaan and the crowds loved it. The festival was a revelation to me. He had just arrived from a shoot and despite that, he was fresh. People came to him for selfies and it was endless. A lot of people had come for the event from his village, Budhana.
What has Siddiqui been like to interview?
Nawaz is open and candid. He always says, ‘Na shakal hai na surat’ (I don’t have the face or the looks). There is something genuinely endearing and child-like about him. His sincerity is very endearing and it touches me every time I meet him. He has this work ethic that is very disarming.
This is going to be a very emotional book. You will get a very emotional and personal Nawazuddin. It is going to be about cinema, but it is not about a Bollywood star. He is very funny in real life and he keeps doing these impersonations. I am hoping all this will come across in the book.
What is the secret of Siddiqui’s success?
His career has evolved so much from Black Friday to Bajrangi Bhaijaan. People relate to him. In some ways, he is like an updated version of Amol Paleker. He represents the underdog in a country in which so much is going on and everything is a battle even for the best of us. He represents hope; he is a fairy tale. If he can make it, anybody can, not just in the movies but also in life.