'There were more posters of Niharika than Ash in Cannes'
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is on cloud nine. The actor has just returned after attending the Cannes Film Festival where his films Gangs Of Wasseypur and Miss Lovely were shown and he is really excited because both films received outstanding reviews.
Known for his gritty portrayals and rooted characters, Siddiqui is proving to be one of the brightest emerging actors in Bollywood and is being is also termed as the next Irrfan Khan.
Siddiqui was recenlty adjudged the Best Actor for his film Dekh Indian Circus at the New York Indian Film Festival.
The actor shares his Cannes experience with Sonil Dedhia and also talks about how the film festival is misunderstood by many people in India.
What did you think of the Cannes Film Festival?
I feel blessed and lucky that three of my films (Gangs Of Wasseypur part one and twoand Miss Lovely) were screened at Cannes.
I don't think any other Indian actor has so far achieved this feat.
Inspite of the language barrier, the response to both the films was simply remarkable. Gangs Of Wasseypur is almost a six-hour film but in spite of that people just loved it.
Audiences felt that Miss Lovely was a film that came from India but had an international feel to it.
I was surprised that the audiences in Cannes connected with all my films.
We were flooded with questions which confirms that people are interested in your film. It is a moment of prestige and pride to be a part of such a huge film festival. It was surely a moment that I will cherish all my life.
Image: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs Of Wasseypur
'People in the west thought only meaningless film were made in India'
What is the perception of Indian cinema in Cannes?
All this while they had a notion that only meaningless film with a lot of dance and drama were made in India.
To a certain extent that is true, but in the last couple of years a different kind of cinema has evolved.
A lot of people in Bollywood laugh at films made in Malegaon, which is how our films were regarded in the west.
They are now realising that good cinema is being made in India. They like our films because the kinds of films we are making are completely different.
What can be done to improve the image of Indian cinema?
I am hoping that filmmakers continue to make more films like Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, and Gangs Of Wasseypur to name a few.
We have some young and talented directors whose choice of filmmaking and subjects are different.
We also have an actor like Aamir Khan who can make Lagaan and at the same time make Peepli Live which is a big contribution to Indian cinema.
Image: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Patang
'I never expected I would reach this far'
What is the best compliment that you received at Cannes?
A Frenchman who had seen both my films told me, 'You did a brilliant job in Gangs Of Wasseypur.' When I asked him about my performance in Miss Lovely he was shocked, as he didn't realise that I was a part of the film.
For an actor it is a kind of compliment that people see you in different roles and fail to recognise you. It shows the kind of range and versatility that an actor has.
From a small village in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh to Cannes...how do you view your journey?
I never expected I would reach this far. I've always focused on my work irrespective of what the outcome would be.
I never thought that I would be awarded best actor at the New York India Film Festival.
As I said earlier, I have struggled a lot. There were times when I was part of the crowd in a commercial and I would hide my face when the camera would come on me because I didn't want people to say that he was just part of a crowd. This was all because I needed money to survive.
Image: Nawazuddin Siddiqui
'A lot of people in India think celebrities who sell cosmetics go to Cannes'
Director Anurag Kashyap recently mentioned that a lot of people in India don't know what the Cannes Film Festival is. Do you agree?
Yes, I think a lot of people in India don't have an idea what the Cannes film festival is.
They think that celebrities who sell lipstick, nail polish and powder go there.
People like us who take their films there to showcase them to the world are given more importance than any other celebrity.
There were more posters of Niharika Singh (lead actress in Miss Lovely) at all the stores in Cannes than of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
A lot of films go to a lot of festivals around the world but not all of them are good. Is the reputation of being on the international film festival exploited?
Every film festival has its importance. It's very difficult for a film to get an official entry at Cannes.
Members of the jury that selects these films are not fools to pick a bad film. There are millions of people who come and watch these films.
In India it has become very important to promote a film. If a film doesn't have a recall factor, no one will go and watch the film.
Image: Anil George, Niharika Singh and Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Photographs: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
'Roger Ebert loved my work in Patang'
You won best actor for your role in Dekh Indian Circus at the New York Indian Film Festival.
It's my very first award. It holds a lot of importance that my work was recognised.
As an actor it makes me a lot more confident. Finally my hard work is paying off. The past few months have been really amazing for me.
How did you become part of the film?
The director, Mangesh Hadawale, saw one of my short films Bypass. It was a silent film. My character in that film was very dark and intense. He liked my performance and called me for an audition and then things started falling in place.
In Dekh Indian Circus, I play a mute father of two kids, a daily labourer who works with a road construction company. The film is about the trials and tribulations the family goes through while fulfilling their dream.
You also met American film critic Roger Ebert recently.
Yes, my film Patang had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and had its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in Lower Manhattan. last year. Roger Ebert also showed the film at his annual film festival, Ebertfest, in Champaigne, Illinois.
I remember I was watching Citizen Kane, which was showcased at the festival, and I had a very painful experience watching it. Ebert had done the commentary for the film and when I heard his voice I felt really sad that the person sitting next to me, who had such a beautiful voice couldn't speak any more because of throat cancer.
He loved my work in the film and invited me to his place for lunch.
Image: Roger Ebert with Nawazuddin Siddiqui
'My responsibility towards my audience has increased'
There is a clear divide between mainstream cinema and alternative films. What is your perception about this?
The divide is going to exist. We have commercial cinema with films like 3 Idiots or Rang De Basanti which are interesting and you also get to learn something from them.
My problem is with meaningless cinema. There are filmmakers who make movies just to earn money.
Cinema is not only to have a blast and enjoy watching it. If I want to just enjoy, I would rather go and watch a porn film.
A lot of filmmakers say that their film is a brainless film and you should keep your brains back home. How do they do it?
The industry has appreciated your work in Kahaani. Has there been a change in the offers that are coming your way?
Yes, there is a big change. Earlier, people took me for a one-scene wonder, but now filmmakers have started taking me more seriously.
Also, my responsibility towards my audience has increased. I have to now live up to the benchmark that I have set and not take up films for the greed of money.
I think it has all happened with the right kind of training, dedication and education.
Image: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Dekh Indian Circus