Many of Bollywood’s current crop of ‘stars’ are actually sons or daughters of stars. They, therefore, had it very easy gaining an entry in the industry, nonetheless their fictitious claims of struggle. But, some of the most powerful performers who have emerged in the last few years never had the advantage of being the offspring of some star. They had to struggle and struggle very hard, just to step inside the door of the industry. One of them is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. His story comes to us as a painted picture, ready to be filmed on the large screen to break the myth that only fortunate souls can succeed.
Nawazuddin is one of the nine children of a Muslim farmer born in a small town called Budhana (never heard of it, right?) in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps this is why Bollywood thought he looks like a farmer.
“How can someone with such looks make it big in an industry obsessed with fairness?” you ask.
He started working as a chemist in a petrochemical company, but quit soon after because he dreamt of becoming an actor. Shortly afterwards he moved to Delhi, where he took up a job as a watchman. He also joined a theatre there, and started watching plays.
By the time Nawazuddin graduated from the National School of Drama in 1996, he was broke.
He thought, “Bhukha marna hai toh Mumbai mein jaake marun”, and shifted to the Maximum City. True, he was armed with a degree from NSD, but…
…if an NSD degree could guarantee a promising break, Bollywood would have been flooded with exceptionally talented actors instead of the nincompoops that dominate it now.
He tried getting a role in several television shows or small roles in movies, but could not grab any. No one noticed his talent but kept rejecting him for his looks. Talent doesn’t counts in Bollywood, your looks do.
Nawazuddin’s struggle proves that if there is one industry in India where racism of color is rampant, it is Bollywood.
Sample this: Nawazuddin played a waiter in his first film, ‘Shool’ (1999); a quintessential criminal of the Mumbai underbelly in his second, ‘Sarfarosh’ (1999); a pickpocketer in his third, ‘Munnabhai MBBS’ (2003); and a bandit in his fourth, ‘The Bypass’ (2003).
In his first four films, Nawazuddin played characters we consider the lowliest in the society. He got the roles, lasting only a few seconds, because he “looks like them”.
Notice that he was technically out of work for five long years after ‘Sarfarosh’!
Yes, he shared screen space with Aamir Khan in his second film! But that role lasted for only 61 seconds, and it took him another 12 years to cement his name in Bollywood.
He plays a street-side conman who is being interrogated by Aamir’s ACP Rathod character. (Remember?)
‘Black Friday’ (2004) gave him some opportunity to show his acting talent, but not before ‘Peepli Live’ in 2010 did Bollywood offer Nawazuddin Siddiqui his long overdue recognition. This would never have happened had he given up after 2004.
Nawazuddin believes his looks or personality do not fit the image of ‘hero’ as understood by Bollywood.
But despite his ordinary personality he was determined not to give up. It is this spirit of his which has now been acknowledged and applauded with awards. His years of struggle helped him keep his feet on the ground, and he constantly maintains a low profile when it comes to attending events or parties.
In this color-obsessed world of Bollywood, Nawazuddin managed to carve out space for himself thanks to his determination, passion for work, embracing rejection like a friend, and never giving up on his dream. The success of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who continues to be unperturbed by the glamour of Bollywood, is the real rags to riches story.