This week we got two trailers of films starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui. One was Nandita Das’s Manto, where the actor plays the revolutionary writer and poet. The movie made its debut a few months ago at the Cannes Film Festival. The other was the second trailer of Anil Sharma’s (of Gadar fame) Genius, which stars his son Utkarsh in the lead and Siddiqui as the antagonist. The trailer begins with Siddiqui quoting Aristotle. “There is no great genius without some touch of madness,” he proclaims. It’s hard to take those lines seriously with Siddiqui wrapped in an all-black ensemble – a black top hat, shades and a long trench coat. It almost makes you wonder if this is the same man who played the menacing Ganesh Gaitonde in Netflix’s Sacred Games recently.
This is not the first time Siddiqui has relished playing a bad guy in a movie that doesn’t require the depth and intensity we have come to admire him for. He was the corrupt businessman with an unforgettable laugh in the Salman Khan-starrer Kick, and the gangster with two left feet in Munna Michael. To Siddiqui, these parts were as challenging as any other but often go unappreciated. In an earlier interview with us, he defended his choices. “The problem is sometimes you perform in a commercial film what you couldn’t do elsewhere. But you don’t get any appreciation for it. Why? Because it’s a commercial film… People and critics think, ‘This is commercial so it can only be bad.’ People have a mindset now: Art films can only be good and we will give them 5 stars. No matter if nobody understands the film or how boring it is. And these commercials films, even if Robert De Niro works in it, they’ll say it is bad. This set pattern of thinking is very wrong. That’s why I’m saying that I’ve performed with full conviction in some films but I got nothing for it because they were ‘commercial films.’”
The actor also noted that mainstream directors tend to respect actors who have done ‘content-driven’ films a lot more. “When you work in small films or so called ‘content-oriented’ films, the commercial film directors respect those films and actors a lot. They have trust and faith in those actors. I did a scene in Genius that was about 7 minutes and when that ended, Anil Sharma who has made films like Gadar and Hukumat, thought, ‘This is engaging.’
“And he kept the scene as it was. Now since I’ve done it in that film, I probably won’t get as much appreciation for it. But if I had done the same scene in a content-driven film, people would have said, “Wow! What a scene he’s performed!”