Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Aatma
Aatma (releasing on March 22) is your first purely commercial film…
… And I am loving the kind of interest it has generated so far. The unusual pairing of Bipasha (Basu) and me is getting a lot of attention. That will work to our advantage.
The last time we spoke, you had said that you had rejected 123 scripts after Kahaani! Why did Aatma, in which you play a ghost, get a nod?
See, more than a horror film, this is actually a very realistic story that presents an emotional tangle between the mother and the daughter on the one hand and the father and daughter on the other. The story touched me very much kyunki main bhi ek beti ka baap hoon (Nawaz has a two-year-old daughter named Zora). I am very well versed with a father’s emotions for his daughter. And as far as playing a ghost is concerned, itna toh aapne abhi tak mujhe dekh ke jaana hoga ki bhoot ki tarah to main ussey play nahin karunga. This is not a gimmicky horror film. It’s a very realistic story.
In the past, a horror film in Bollywood would invariably mean a C-grade film, but that isn’t the case anymore. Aatma will overturn the concept of the horror genre in Bollywood… Suparn (Verma, the director) has thought of making a horror film that goes beyond just the horror element. That’s the mark of a good horror film…. See any film in this genre worldwide and you will see that horror and emotions are actually two sides of the same coin.
A lot of people have asked me if I believe in spirits and the supernatural and while I do not, one thing I am sure about is that what we always count as the reality may not be so. There may be something even beyond that. Our impression of what reality is stops at the point where we can’t see visually beyond, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a world after that.
How much of your relationship with daughter Zora did you pour into the father-daughter dynamic in Aatma?
As an actor, I gather all my emotions from my own life. There were a number of scenes here between the father and the daughter as well as a courtroom scene which were very emotional for me. There were so many instances when Suparn actually had to stop me because I would get so involved and would continue with my scene even after ‘cut’ had been called.
You have also shot for Ketan Mehta’s Mountain Man. How was that experience?
This is one film that has really stretched me as an actor, not only physically, but also psychologically. Ketan Mehtasaab has really made a wonderful film. The fact that it’s a biopic… about a labourer in Bihar who single-handedly cut through a mountain to make a road… makes it special for me as an actor.
From Kahaani to Talaash, you have proved time and again that one doesn’t need to be a film’s leading man to be noticed. Why then this decision to only feature in lead roles from now on?
I don’t think anyone has done more character roles than me, ever! (Laughs.) But honestly, that phase of my life is over. Everyone has the right to improve in life and so do I. If that means saying ‘no’ to character roles, then that’s my way of taking the next step in my career. Kaafi saal maine ek jagah pe baithke bita diye… ab mujhe bhi aagey badhna hai. I don’t want to keep repeating myself. That’s not what I became an actor for.
So, besides offering you the lead, what does a filmmaker need to keep in mind while approaching Nawazuddin Siddiqui for a film?
The criteria still remains the same. First, I must love the story, no two ways about that. Second, the director should have a vision of where he wants to go with the film and the passion that he has for the film must be visible at every point. Like, even now, Buddhada (Buddhadeb Dasgupta) has the passion and excitement of a young man. That’s one of the primary reasons why I accepted Anwar Ka Ajeeb Kissa. I feel that I grow as an actor every time I exploit the passion of my director. These are the main things that make me say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a film. Ussey zyada sochne ki mere mein dimaag nahin hai! (Laughs)
did you know?
Nawaz was born into a family of farmers and is the eldest of nine children
Worked as a chemist in a Vadodara-based petrochemical company
Younger brother Shamaas Nawab Siddiqui is a film director
Will you watch Aatma for Nawaz? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org