One of Bollywood’s finest actors, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s work has been getting global acclaim for a while now. In fact, he was felicitated at various international film festivals recently. On his way to New York to shoot for his upcoming film, Nawaz spoke to BT about crossing borders, overcoming language barriers and what he thinks he needs to work on at this stage of his career. Read on... You were conferred the prestigious Lesley Ho Asian Film Talent Award at the Singapore International Film Festival recently, for your contribution to International cinema (for International Emmy-nominated original series Sacred Games). You were also honoured with the Golden Dragon Award at the Cardiff International Film Festival for excellence in cinema in the international market. And your British show McMafia won the Best Drama series at International Emmys. Are you now aware of how popular your work is in the international market?
People abroad have seen my films, but the mass connect and reach of Sacred Games was perhaps higher. Unko Ganesh Gaitonde ka kirdar mazedaar laga. Initially, I wasn’t aware of the reach it had globally. Dheere dheere mujhe pata chala that people have seen it across the world and they have liked my character. Even Paulo Coelho wrote to me about it. Being appreciated by him was most special to me. I admire his writing a lot. I remember when we shot the show’s second season in Nairobi, there was a lot of frenzy around it there. Even when I shot for Roam Rome Mein in Italy, people would come to me and talk about that show. It feels good to know that people from other countries are also appreciating my work. Sacred Games was nominated and my British Gangster series McMafia won the Best Drama Series at International Emmys. This feels great. What is it about your characters that you think appeals to the global audience and filmmakers?
Many people and a lot of young filmmakers want to see experimental cinema. All good films may not work at the box office, but they give you worldwide recognition. A well-made film never dies, and good work never goes unnoticed. Kabhi Kabhi toh lagta hai ki apun hi Bhagwan hai — people make me say this dialogue (from Sacred Games) a lot; so much so, I am bored of it now. Jo bolne mein mazaa nahi aaya, wohi popular ho jaata hain. Maine woh dialogue bola bhi kharab tha. I could have said it better, with more thehrav, but people loved it. On the contrary, I loved my dialogues and the writing in Manto, but shaayad logon ne woh samjha hi nahi, ya phir difficult dialogue logon se boley nahi jaate. It is possible that those Urdu lines weren’t easy to emulate, and so, didn’t get as popular. But all of us still remember Dilip Kumar saab’s lines from Mughal-E-Azam. There was a lot of Urdu in that too, so you can’t predict what people will or won’t like. Cinema has no boundaries or language barriers per se, but it is always challenging for an actor to get the language or accent right when he/she does foreign language shows or films, isn’t it?
My upcoming international film, No Land’s Man is in English. Roam Rome Mein was predominantly an English film, too. English mein acting karna aasan hai. Om Puri wasn’t very fluent with English either. He was a hardcore Punjabi, but he has perhaps done maximum international films and his work was appreciated because he was a good actor. The problem occurs when you try and copy their accent, for instance. You recently said, ‘I only take criticism from people of my standard.’ It’s too strong a statement to make...
Aaj kal social media par har koi critic ban jaata hai. Let the film critics do their job. You need a certain understanding of cinema to be able to analyse a film, and that comes with certain years of experience and knowledge of cinema. I am always open to criticism, but you need to earn that right. Anyone can’t pass off an opinion as a review and say, ‘I give this film 2 stars.’ It reminds me of my Sacred Games dialogue, ‘Har koi bhagwaan banke baitha hai’ (laughs!).