In a career spanning 22 years Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s brilliance has been acknowledged unambiguously in films like Gangs Of Wasseypur, Manjhi The Mountain Man, Raman Raghav 2: 0, Manto, Thackeray and The Lunchbox. What about the ones you have missed?
1. Dekh India Circus: It began in 2011 during the year of fame via Wasseypur and Kahaani when Nawaz gave a stellar performance as an impoverished rural Rajasthani father struggling to find the money to send his two children to the circus in Mangesh Hadawale’s Dekh India Circus. An absolutely delightful slice-of- life tale about an impoverished family in the deserts of Rajasthan that craves for a visit to the circus. While Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannistha Chattterjee are brilliant as the parents it is their children played by Virendra Singh Rathod and Suhani Oza who take centrestage. With no acting experience behind them the two kids deliver utterly natural performance under the direction of Mangesh Hadawale.Undoubtedly Nawaz’s career’s best performance, it remains unreleased to this day.
2. Patang : The following year 2012 Nawaz played the lead in Prashant Bhargava’s internationally-acclaimed Patang .In spite of winning laurels at several international film festivals this too was never released. Giving the film his maximum rating of 4 stars legendary critic Roger Ebert wrote, “This film is joyous, but more than that: It's lovely in its construction. The director, Prashant Bhargava, born and raised on Chicago's South Side, knows what his basic story line is, but reveals it subtly. The story in outline would be simple enough for a made-for-TV movie. But there is nothing simple about "Patang." Nawaz once told me his two favourite performances are in Dekh Indian Circus and Patang .And then Liar’s Dice.
3. Liar’s Dice : Long before her Malayali masterpiece Mothoon director Geetu Mohandas’s Liar’s Dice a haunting road film directed by Geetu Mohandas won its leading Geetanjali Thapa the National award for best actress. Nawaz deserved a National award too.Such glorious acclaim did nothing to endear the film to film distributors. Liar’s Dice also remains unreleased. It is a lyrical ‘moving’ story(Nawaz and his co-star are mostly travelling) of a woman with a little daughter accompanied by a helpful man(Nawaz)travelling from the Indo-China border to Delhi to find her missing husband. I wonder why Netflix or Amazon has not lapped up this lap-top classic!
4. Monsoon Shootout: This neglected film is a curious case of a potentially routine cops-and-killer sanguinary saga given a certain fresh twist of ambivalence by writing skills that know their Dirty Harry as closely as they know Ardh Satya.There is a tadka of circumstantial ambiguity,a twist of fate, if you will, whereby a rookie cop’s rookie-rookie si zindagi gets more unscheduled excitement on his first assignment than he had bargained for.A serial killer is on the prowl. It was a hammer in hand in Raman Raghav, It’s an axe here. The slayings are staged stylishly in the slippery monsoon of Mumbai when it’s easy for the elusive to give the pursuant the slip.This is exactly what the narrative does on us. Like Nawaz’s Shiva it repeatedly gives us the slip, leaving us with unanswered questions just when the cop Adi(Vijay Verma, impressively callow and intense) corners the killer at gunpoint. Repeatedly, and with incessant pounding at the plot’s epicenter, the narrative takes on a what-if tangent creating a cat-and-mouse game of its own between the camera and the audience.It is an impressive performance, staged to seduce and please us, not always hitting bull’s eye but never losing sight of its target . There are energetic sexual encounters involving a migrant sex worker(Sreejita De) that convey the desperation of a city on the edge,and a populace on the prowl. Monsoon Shootout succeeds in gripping us by our collective jowls in spite of a certain staleness in the plot, and a stiffness in the joints of the narrative . The camera manned by Rajiv Ravi prowls through Mumbai’s crowded monsoonal mayhem with emphatic energy .
5. Miss Lovely: A not so lovely look at the squalid world of thw sleazy horror film industry in the 1980s.The film told the story of two brothers played with cheesy brilliance by the neglected Anil George and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Though swooping down on a sleazy world Ahluwalia’s film never fell prey to the malaise of murkiness. To put your creative feet in the mud without dirtying your vision is no small achievement. To aesthetically capture the scummy on screen in all their naked glory is not an easy task. Debutant director Ashim Ahluwalia has achieved a stirring and disturbing synthesis of a documentary-styled narrative on the not-defunct world of horror-porn from the 1980s , and a conventional Hindi-film love triangle (two brothers, one girl, tension tension.....). The storytelling is not just unique, it is also extremely disturbing. The characters do not follow the redemptive path from sleaze to atonement. They remain till the end damned doomed and despicable in their greed to capture female flesh in lascivious close-ups. The lure of the leer is laid out with a brutal directness . The tale is trap for the compromised. But it’s not a morality tail.The camera space between the characters and the audience is next to non-existent in Ahluwalia’s narrative.And that’s the highest compliment one can pay the film’s cinematographer K U Mohanan and co-editors Paresh Kamdar and Ahluwalia who have done their jobs so well, they seem non-existent in the scheme of Ahluwalia’s scathing sting operation on human depravity and uncontrollable sexual appetites. There is an unevenness about the narration which perfectly matches the smoky seedy mood of the story. Barring Niharika Singh’s character which epitomizes beauty in the sleazy cesspool all the actors are captured in grotesque flabby close-ups. Niharika looks aloof and detached from the sleaze. She seems to be playing the title role. But then, deception is the name of grime.There is nothing pretty or lovely about Miss Lovely. Penetrating into the horrifically immoral world of horror-porn films in the 1980s Ahluwalia expends no shame in exposing the characters the low-life money-spinners desperate to make a fast buck by shooting a fast f..k in hazy garish ligh Nawazuddin’s Sonu Duggal is a curiously untarnished soul trapped in a world of unmitigated debauchery. His romance with the wannabe starlet Pinky(Niharika Singh) comes to an expectantly sticky tragic end . The bitter rage with which Nawazuddin confronts the betrayal of his innocent love for the girl is more Shakespearean than you’d expect a film of this nature to be.The blend of Ramsay and Shakespeare, of the perversely potent and spiritually impotent is unparalleled. Loath or love it. But you’ve never seen anything like Miss Lovely. It builds a world of vicious vices with the raw stock of gritty stark visuals and elemental emotions.
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