Every time you see Nawazuddin Siddiqui on the big screen you know that man has something new to offer. A powerhouse of talent, he leaves an indelible impression on your mind from the moment he enters a film.
Beware, this time he is out to scare you out of your wits as a serial killer with Anurag Kashyap's 'Raman Raghav 2.0'. Just before the film opens in theatres we catch up with Nawaz for a quick chat. Dressed in a smart shirt and jeans and smoking a rolled cigarette he talks about how Raman Raghav affected him emotionally, why he doesn't watch his own films, how his humble beginning has kept him grounded and much more.
Excerpts from the conversation-
1. You were last seen in Ribhu Dasgupta's 'TE3N'...
A. I tried to give an impressive performance. But certain things got chopped off at the editing table because of which we couldn't build a graph in my character. If that wouldn't have happened then my role would have had some more clarity. I don't know whether I succeeded or not but I had tried my best to bring out something new. I like to do roles which are emotionless. It is very easy to do roles which make one laugh or cry. But doing a neutral character is a bit tough.
2. Raman Raghav was a serial killer from the 60s who had created a huge mayhem back then. However we get to see that Anurag Kashyap has given his own spin to that infamous killer in 'Raman Raghav 2.0'. So tell us something about your role in the film.
A. I think it's better that you understand it that much only (laughs) But I can't reveal much about my character else you won't enjoy the film. There should be some suspense and thrill left.
3. Has the film affected you emotionally?
A. Ya of course. See when you play a character you take back something from it. At the same time the character too takes away something from your real life. At the end of the day an actor is left with an empty feeling. That happens when you do every character. This role left an impact on me mentally and affected my thoughts. That's because the character of Raman isn't social. He doesn't think like the society. He has his own perspectives, thinking, logic and philosophy. He has justification for every murder that he commits. He finds it fun. But in real life I didn't think that way. I am not like him. So it became very difficult to believe in him and his philosophy. But finally since you have to play that part you have to believe in him.
4. You had earlier mentioned that Sriram Raghavan's 'Raman Raghav' is one of your favourite films. So how does it feel to do something similar?
A. I think now is the time when I can experiment with my roles. I have a couple of films coming up next where I am playing the hero, at the same time I am also getting to play characters like Raman. I want to experiment as an actor for every film of mine.
5. Since 'TE3N' and 'Raman Raghav 2.0' belong to thriller genre, how would you differentiate between your roles in both the films?
A. TE3N was an emotional thriller whereas 'Raman Raghav 2.0' is more of a thoughtful thriller.
6. How do you let go of a character after you finish a film?
A. Once I finish my shooting for a film I go back to my village where I do farming and interact with other farmers there. My mind gets its peace. I get back my breathing space because here there is too much of hustle and bustle in life. I can feel the silence there and rewind. That time is the one where I let go things which leave an impact on my mind here. So, when I come back I can get into any character and give it my best shot.
7. How did you come on-board for 'Raman Raghav'?
A. We had already made our plans of making 'Raman Raghav 2.0' earlier..like I think four-five years ago..but in between we came up with 'Gangs Of Wasseypur'. However after completing that, Anurag got busy with his other films. I was also immersed in my work. Finally we got a chance where we could work together on this film.
8. Why did you sign an intense flick like this?
A. I have never been fascinated by regular characters. Like the role of hero which has been played in our films since last 50 years...it never fascinated me. Thank god, people have now started experimenting in that space! Nowadays the actors too are ready to experiment with their roles. I always like to take up characters which are difficult and challenging since I immensely enjoy playing them. I have only one life and I will try and take up roles which are out of my comfort zone. Once you put yourself in a difficult zone you feel that you have done something. Cliched roles are like a job where we go in the morning and come back in the evening.
9. You raise your performance bar a notch higher every time you do a film. Does that build a pressure on you?
A. Honestly it becomes very difficult to outdo one's own self each time. But now I have become habituated to this process.
10. Do you revisit your films?
A. No, I don't. I may sometimes watch my films at their premiere or I don't. I am yet to see many of my own films. Actually I enjoy working on films more rather than watching them. I am afraid I might stumble upon a few mistakes in my films. (laughs)
11. A few people think that when you do films like 'Raman Raghav 2.0' you end up glorifying the character in real life. Do you agree to that?
A. When we have such characters in a film we make sure that we also show the moral of the story. You pick up any such film from the world you will see that it brings out the horrific end. To be frank we all know what's happening in the society today. But we need make them aware of the evils and the fact that each one of us has shades of grey to them. Interestingly we love watching such characters because they are humane.
12. How do you look back at your journey in the world of films?
A. Even when I am not working on films I only talk about cinema and discuss about this art with my close friends. My life revolves around just that. I would feel I have become crazy if I don't talk and discuss about acting even for a single day. I enjoy the process of film-making. When you are given an unknown character to play, you start researching about it, whether you succeed in achieving perfection in getting into the skin of that role or not..that entire process is something which interests me. The fact that people are appreciating my work gives me some kind of motivation so that I perform next time with the same amount of hard work and dedication.
13. You come across a very humble person in spite of such great achievements. What has kept you grounded?
A. If I start throwing starry tantrums and showing attitude will that bring an improvement in my performance? No, then why should I behave like that. I personally feel that I am a confused man. To be honest, I feel that I do not have much knowledge. Whenever I work with a director I keep thinking whether I am able to understand his perspective or not. I hail from a very small village, so even today I fear whether I understand things or not. If I start taking small things as an achievement then it wouldn't be fair. This is just the start. I have a whole life in front of me. I want to keep working hard irrespective of worrying about the results.
14. What piece of advice would you like to give to the newcomers who have no godfather in the industry and who look up to you as an actor?
A. There is no particular time when you will achieve success. Maybe you will get it at 50 years or 60 years. Till then you should maintain yourself mentally and physically. Try to steer clear of depression. Be always hopeful about things. Even I had no work for 12-15 years. But I used to give myself time. I was like 'okay now you are 30 years old, don't worry you will achieve your dreams by 40', if not then, than maybe at 45..I would still have kept trying hard even if I had hit 60s. That's how passionate I am about my work.