In an interview Nawazuddin Siddiqui did with Film Companion last year, he spoke about the real life inspiration behind five of his most iconic characters and how he got into the mindset of each. We revisit the conversation:

1. Faizal Khan from Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

“My thoughts went to my village straightaway after reading the script, but they also went to Scarface and The Godfather. I thought I would play the character like Al Pacino in Scarface or (Marlon) Brando in The Godfather. But there were people with the same attitude living in my village. So I abandoned them (Pacino and Brando) and focussed only on the villagers. People in positions of responsibility do not have any knowledge of things outside the village, but the way they sit and talk, they make it seem as though this is the whole truth, even though everything they say is a lie. Even their children had the same attitude. They behave like kings. So I picked up a lot of things from them. The incident (in which he tells a woman he wants to have sex with her) is based on a scene that happened in real life. The girl picked up her chappals and drove me out. I had told Anurag (Kashyap) this story. So the scene from my life, plus Anurag’s brief – that combined to make Faisal Khan.”

2. Shaikh from The Lunchbox (2013)

“I have a friend who is an actor. We had been living together for a few years. He used to tell me about the disappointing things that had happened to him. So I imitated him (in the movie). He saw the film when it released – I had moved out by that time – and he messaged me saying, ‘I saw The Lunchbox. Thank you’. While doing this scene (in which he asks Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan Khan, to be his guardian as he has no family), I was thinking of him. I portrayed his tragedy truthfully, the way he did. I was crying, but I had a bet with myself that I wouldn’t let it show in my eyes or on my face. My expression couldn’t change or the purpose of the character would be defeated. I tried hard to not make it even a little bit sentimental.”

3. Shiv Gajra from Kick (2014)

“I got the laughter from Manoj Bajpayee’s character in Aks. This role was as difficult as the one in Lunchbox, Gangs of Wasseypur or my first film Sarfarosh, or even Munnabhai. No matter what genre the film is – commercial or ‘so-called’ arthouse or parallel – the actor doesn’t think that this is a commercial film, so I’ll do it (the role) in a certain way. I did the character of Shiv Gajra as it was, as it was told to me. At the time, I wasn’t thinking that this was a commercial film, a mass-y film or a Salman Khan film. The character itself tells you, ‘Prepare for the role in this way. This is who I am.’ Economy – delivering the most impact with minimal things – is what the director wants. That’s also a task.”

4. Ramanna from Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016)

“After getting the script, I went to a deserted location in the interiors of Lonavala. There’s this shady hotel where I lived for three days before shooting began. I memorised the dialogues and was repeating them to myself. This character’s philosophy is ‘I can kill easily. I don’t feel pain. I can kill anyone, even while they are eating drinking, defecating, urinating. I’m not like you. I like killing people. It’s like my daily routine’. There was so much honesty. It was very difficult for me to believe in this theory. Over three days, I kept trying to convince myself that I could kill someone easily. There came a point when I left the hotel thinking about this and I kept staring at the villagers on the street. They didn’t know who I was. The moment I stared at them, they became awkward. This was a real experiment.”

5. Shyam Tekchand from Haraamkhor (2017)

“I saw a teacher like this in my village. Secondly, I have seen many people like this in my life who never glorify their sadness or tragedy. There are many people who think that in a film, the fair person is going to be a good character and the ugly person is going to be a bad one. This is shown in films in a scary way. It makes me angry that people are generalised like this on the basis of personalities, looks. I’ve met people who aren’t good looking but have such amazing souls, who are so beautiful on the inside. This character was one of them. He wants to love, he wants to be wild, he has fantasies of doing something weird. The gesture (of putting my hand behind my back) came from my maths teacher Tekchandi.”

Watch the full interview here:

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