Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the ebony-complexioned superstar of Bollywood whom every producer wants to sign at any cost. He is barely out of one highly-lauded role in Mom when he’s already looking at another crowd-pleasing role as a hoodlum dancer in Munna Michael. Many consider Nawaz to be one of the finest, if not the finest actor of Hindi cinema. Therefore when he speaks the world listens. Unconventional actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui opens up on the racism debate in an exclusive interview with Subhash K Jha
Last week after a casting director Sanjay Chouhan spoke about how co-actors cast with Nawaz have to be dark-skinned, Nawaz raised the question of racism through a tweet that said, “Thank you for making me realise that I cannot be paired along with the fair and handsome because I’m dark and not good looking” A lot has been said and written about Nawaz’s words. Finally he clarified the whole issue in an interview which threatened to go into tricky tangents on societal prejudice.
Nawaz says he hates playing the victim card. “But the fact is, I have faced prejudices all my life because of my dark complexion, because of my humble background and because I come from a small village. Prejudice is embedded deep in our minds. All of us are prejudiced. It begins at home where the mother says, ‘Beta goribahu le aao tab bachche kale nahin honge.’ (Choose a fair daughter-in-law, so that kids won’t be dark) As if my criteria for choosing a life partner must be the colour of her skin!”
Nawaz doesn’t want to point fingers at any particular section of society. “I am not saying there is more prejudice in the film industry. It exists in every profession, every walk of life, even in cinema. I don’t think I’ve been rejected for being dark-skinned. Nor has any heroine refused to work with me for the way I look. But yes, you can’t deny that leading men are supposed to look a particular way. Hero ka matlab hota hai gora-chitta (hero means fair-complexioned). There is a lot of curiosity to see the children from film families. And invariably the question of how fair-skinned he or she is, comes up. Someone like me with no connection in the industry has to prove myself. Because I’ve no background in cinema and I don’t look like a film actor. Yeh kya karega? That’s how I was initially welcomed.”
Nawaz recently came out in full praise of Sridevi. “Yes, I said she’s the best actor in the world, and I meant it. Look at her beauty talent and grace. Meryl Streep is a great actress. But can she dance like Sridevi? But Sridevi can act as well as Meryl Streep.”
Nawaz doesn’t want to take away from the struggle of actors from film families. “Look at Tiger Shroff. See how hard he works. I got a chance to watch him dance in Munna Michael. Believe me, he is miraculous. Though he is the son of a star like Jackie Shroff he never tried to use that as a calling card in the industry. In fact, I think he worked towards being a fantastic dancer as that was one area where his father was not skilled.”
Nawaz himself has tried some dancing in Munna Michael. “I am very nervous. I want to know what people think about my dancing because I’ve always had a mental block about dancing. Dancing on-screen was challenge for me as an actor. I hope I’ve pulled it off.”
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