Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ghoomketu mirrors his early days of struggle


HIGH HOPES: Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal/AFP/Getty Images)
HIGH HOPES: Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal/AFP/Getty Images)

by ASJAD NAZIR

THE closure of cinemas has triggered a trend of high-profile films being premiered directly on to streaming sites and given Bollywood fans a shot of instant happiness.

Ghoomketu recently premiered on ZEE5 and is a film that adds another chapter to the remarkable story of acclaimed Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui. What makes the comedy-drama about a villager going to Mumbai to make it big as a writer extra special is that it mirrors his own life.

He too was a villager who journeyed to Mumbai with big dreams and after a decade of struggle finally got noticed globally. “What I liked about Ghoomketu was that I relate to the story of this film and connect with the character. The village I come from is very similar to this character’s. He comes from a big family, like I and so many others do. I play an aspiring writer and just as I came to Mumbai as a struggling actor, he also arrives in the city to realise his dream,” explained Nawazuddin.

The soft-spoken actor connected with Eastern Eye over the phone during lockdown and admitted he was enjoying having a break from his massively demanding work schedule. He has been resting, watching films and recharging his batteries during the enforced Covid-19 lockdown. He was happy to talk about Ghoomketu because of how much he relates to the story and his own character. The fish-out-of-water comedy satire sees him playing a villager who arrives in Mumbai with big dreams.

“He finds that the speed of the city is high and is unable to match it. He tries his hardest to keep up with a fast city on the move, but gets left behind. He remains very much connected to his family and wants to make something of himself. There are emotions that most will relate to because we have our dreams, but also want to make our family proud.”

The new film, not surprisingly, triggered memories from the days Nawazuddin was struggling to get meaningful work and meetings with those who could give him his much needed big break. Perhaps one of the reasons why the acclaimed actor remains grounded and delivers a winning performance in Ghoomketu is that he hasn’t forgotten those early days.

“I came from a small village to realise my acting dream and was running behind a speeding city, trying to not fall behind. I struggled a lot and finally things happened for me. I remember wanting to speak to people, but they were always in a hurry and never had time for me. In your days of struggle, yes, there are a lot of disappointments, but there are good things too like learning along the way. All this happened to me and the same happens to this character I play in the film. So I have memories very similar to what you will see in the movie.”

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Ghoomketu

Nawazuddin is sure audiences will relate to the sentiments of the Ghoomketu story because the setting is very realistic, emotions are universal and the characters, including extended relatives, are so relatable. He is full of praise for the entire team of the movie and points out many of them came from a similar background of struggle.

“When I first heard the story from the director, I felt as if I was sitting in my village. He has a very sensitive approach to storytelling. All the actors are really great in the film too and many hail from similar backgrounds, so it makes Ghoomketu all the more relatable. When you see the film you will think of your own relatives and feel like you are sitting with your uncle back in a village.”

The past decade has been incredible for the actor, as he has mixed up commercial Bollywood films with international projects and high-profile drama serials. He has been praised for his acting and incredible versatility.

The actor received his biggest break from director Anurag Kashyap in the Gangs Of Wasseypur films, and they have formed a dream team on a wide array of projects since then ranging from Netflix serial Sacred Games to dark thriller Raman Raghav 2.0. In Ghoomketu, Kashyap swaps directing duties for acting and although they are close friends, Nawazuddin didn’t like sharing the screen with him.

A scene from Ghoomketu

“I have to tell you that it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience acting with Anurag Kashyap because I felt he would shout ‘cut’ at any moment because for me he has always been the director and in charge. So when I was acting in front of him I thought he would pull me up for my mistakes. Our relationship has always been that of an actor-director and in the back of my mind, I kept thinking he will find my mistakes. So I was always scared and didn’t feel comfortable acting with him. But I love his company, always,” he said smiling. Although Nawazuddin is known for his dark, intense roles, he very much enjoys comedy and loved playing a light-hearted role in Ghoomketu.

“If you look at my characters closely, however intense or grey, I find a route to add a little bit of comedy always, even if it’s subtly. It is always nice to do comedy. This is more of a situation comedy. So, if you look at the various characters, none of them tried to do comedy. In a situation comedy an actor has to remain serious.”

The film has a number of highprofile cameos from Bollywood stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha and Chitrangada Singh. His own favourite moment in the movie is a scene with legendary folk singer turned actress Ila Arun. “There are many great moments in the film, but my own personal favourite is a scene with Ila Arun, where I am telling her a story and she is attempting to perform it. That is a great scene and I loved doing it. I was so stunned at how great a performance she delivered in that scene.”

Nawazuddin doesn’t mind that Ghoomketu has been released directly on to popular global streaming platform ZEE5 and thinks it will give his film a much wider reach.

“ZEE5 has a huge viewership, so I am really happy so many people will get to see our film thanks to it. It is a great platform that will enable more people around the world to see our film. I am happy because an actor wants the most number of people possible to see their work and this way it will happen.”

Apart from becoming a huge star, Nawazuddin has become a strong role model for a new generation of aspiring actors.

When Eastern Eye asked him what advice he could give young actors, he said: “All I would say is that watch good films, on all the various platforms. Our film is being released on ZEE5, which is very rich in content. Watch films from around the world, as there are a lot of great ones right, now including experimental. Watch good actors and get inspired by their craft, but don’t copy them or follow them. Find your own uniqueness, which is there and find your own technique. Look for what is inside you and keep working hard.”

The in-demand actor will throw himself back into a hectic work schedule after lockdown is over, but like many he doesn’t know when that will be and is more concerned about all the front line workers risking their lives to keep others safe. “Lockdown finally being over seems like a distant dream that all of us are having. So we can’t predict or say anything, let’s see what happens. We can’t plan anything because we don’t know when it will end. But what I would like to say is that I hope everyone stays safe and remains healthy. I hope the infection rate comes down.

“I hope the workers, who are our brothers and sisters, get the support they need. We should support them in every way possible. I have so much admiration and respect for all those who are risking their lives right now, like doctors, nurses, police, cleaners and all those who are out there working in this pandemic. Hats off to all of them. I hope this emergency situation ends and they stay safe. I hope the world safely returns to where it was.”

After a life-changing decade, the actor isn’t making plans for the decade ahead.

“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone plan for years ahead. I just want to carry on working hard and doing what I love. I don’t have a dream role and just want to do every role honestly, truthfully and well, that is my only dream.”