Nawazuddin Siddiqui is in a better place this birthday than last year. What a birthday present Nawazuddin Siddiqui's wife had given him last year. I have seen him grow. And I have seen him change. Nawazuddin Siddiqui was a very simple small-town boy with a passion for one thing only. It was in the June of 2009 that I discovered the talent of Nawaz. I still remember being jolted by his monologue about Islamic isolation in Kabir Khan’s New York. I had never seen anything so raw, wounded and hurting.
I asked my daughter sitting next to me in the theatre (that's where we watched films once upon a time) if this was a real victim of terrorism-phobia that had gripped the world, spilling his seething hurt into the camera. She said he was an actor and done some television. This was not enough.
I thought Nawaz was sensational. I sought him out. Got his number from Kabir Khan, interviewed him. Every conversation thereafter, he would remind me of how big a hand I played in his belated success.
He was still warm and very respectful. But the effort to sound humble began to show. I could tell this was not the simple actor from the hills who only wanted to act. This was an actor who had tasted success and now craved to be another Shah Rukh Khan.
The image of the humble passionate actor took a serious beating when Nawaz was wrongly advised to write his kiss-and-tell memoir. The fake repugnant Don Juan tone used to describe his alleged encounters with various ladies was completely in keeping with his new personality. There came a point when I didn't know who this man posing at Cannes and being compared with legends of the world cinema was.
Happily, the process of healing has begun. Nawaz has been using the lockdown period to re-evaluate re-process and re-boot his lives. We've been talking about world cinema and how inadequate we are in comparison. Nawaz is a hungry actor once again.
I can’t blame him alone for the change in him. It is the people he surrounded himself with. The limelight moths who gathered around him creating a delusional cordon shutting him out from the light of reality. These sycophants and opportunists were pumping Nawaz up with myths of his own greatness. They jumped to his defence and sent nasty rebukes and messages every time there was criticism of Nawaz.
I have seen actors bigger than Nawaz turn into slaves of their own reputation. It is not too late for Nawaz. He only needs to get rid of the hangers-on who have convinced him that he can be another superstar like Salman Khan. Nawaz has strayed far away from his roots. It won't be hard for him to retrace his steps and find the centre of his creative universe.
But he can do it. It is not too late for Nawazuddin Siddiqui to return home.
At 47, Nawaz feels his life has just begun. “For 13 years I was given no room to grow as an actor. Kuch bhi milta tha main kar leta(I accepted what came my way). Gangs Of Wasseypur changed my life. Today I feel I’ve just begun my life. So this is my first birthday.”
Incidentally Nawaz and his son Yaani share the same birthday. So, a happy birthday to both of you.
Image source: SpotboyEarchives