Nawazuddin Siddiqui isn’t your everyday Bollywood celebrity. No disrespect intended, but he doesn’t qualify the checkbox traits of the proverbial Bollywood star. He had no connections in the industry to make it as an actor. The road was long and hard for him. But, today he is counted among the finest actors our country has produced. Thanks to his incredible acting chops and the ability to portray characters with an unrivalled intensity, while carefully and wisely choosing his scripts.
As he turns 45 today, here’s a look at some of his finest performances (in no particular order):
1. Manto (2018)
A searing portrayal of an intense writer caught in the madness of India’s partition and the havoc it wreaks on its divided people. This is no time for romantic poetry, for the truth must be told to cleanse the soiled soul. In a prose that’s as stark and unsentimental as cold meat.
Manto’s short stories still work to shake our stricken conscience. Such is the power and endurance of his hauntingly real creations. Nandita Das does well to direct this difficult subject and beautifully weaves Manto’s stories in the narrative.
Pity we don’t make men like him any more. Manto. What a writer and what a class act by Nawazuddin. (By Sanjay Trehan)
2. Sacred Games (2017)
This is India’s first original Netflix series with Anurag Kashyap pushing the limits of Indian television and censorship. An addictive eight-part crime thriller, it’s classic Anurag Kashyap with abundance of bloodshed, curse words and fairly explicit sex.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as Ganesh Gaitonde, has become somewhat of an instant legend, with his portrayal of the complex gangster aspiring to rule the Mumbai underworld becoming hugely popular amongst critics and audiences worldwide. And that was just the first season. Season 2 is coming out soon and Sacred Games fans can’t wait to see what’s next in the (past) story of Ganesh Gaitonde.
Recommended: Sacred Games Review: Anurag Kashyap At His Finest
3. Gangs of Wasseypur 1, 2 (2012)
In Anurag Kashyap’s now iconic gangster flick, Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Faizal Khan, the second son of Sardar Khan. Faizal is a habitual marijuana smoker forced by circumstance to lead his family’s criminal enterprise after the death of his father and brother. One of the best Bollywood movies in recent memory, it also showcases the full extent of Siddiqui’s acting skills, and won him the Special Jury Award at the National Film Awards.
Gangs of Wasseypur inadvertently got inernational filmmakers eyeing Siddiqui, which elevated him to even bigger heights. He finally got the recognition he deserved.
Recommended: Anurag Kashyap Movies Ranked From Worst To Best
4. Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016)
Nawazuddin is to Anurag Kashyap what De Niro is to Scorcese. Whenever both pairs decide to team up, they create magic. Anurag Kashyap is known for pushing the envelope, and Nawazuddin, more often than not, acts as his enforcer. Based on the real-life serial killer who used to operate in Bombay in the 1960s, Nawazuddin, according to Variety, gave a performance of “literally unblinking intensity.”
Without the actual gore stemming from the crimes committed, Nawazuddin’s performance is enough to make audiences flinch. Combined with Kashyap’s peculiar, eccentric style of filmmaking, the film is a smash hit.
5. Manjhi – The Mountain Man (2016)
While the film was in itself excellent, Nawazuddin’s dedication to the role stole the show, which proved his versatility to adapt to any role. This film was based on the life of Dashrath Manjhi. Manjhi, widely known as the “Mountain Man”, was a poor laborer in Gehlaur village, Gaya in Bihar, who carved a path 9.1 meters wide and 110 meters long through a hill 7.6 meters using only a hammer and chisel.
In an interview during the film’s promotion, Siddiqui remarked that Manjhi was his most difficult role in his career till date, but it all seems so effortless on screen. A testament to his abilties.
6. Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a small-time Pakistani reporter, who often fails to get news for the channel he works for. Initially suspicious Salman’s character’s motives but eventually uncovering his truth, he decides to helps him in his journey.
Despite a supporting role, Nawaz turned in an unforgettable performance. It was also a nice change from his usual films where he plays a bloodthirsty gangster or a bloodthirsty psycho, or a bloodthirsty…anything. He was so full of warmth, and his impressive comic timing was testament to his versatility.
7. Badlapur (2015)
Based on the Italian novel Death’s Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto, this neo-noir crime thriller is a revenge tale that focuses on Raghu (Varun Dhawan), a husband broken by the loss of his wife and child at the hands of a former bank robber Liak, played by Nawazuddin.
Through his performance, we see through the eyes of a villain who thinks of himself as the wrong hero, reckless in nature, and a slippery character at that. The balance Siddiqui strikes between loathsome and irresistible in his performance is striking. Though both Dhawan and Nawazuddin had dominant roles in the film, it was the latter who received most of the plaudits through the sheer intensity of his portrayal.
Recommended: 7 Unconventional Bollywood Films Worth Your Time
8. The Lunchbox (2013)
If you look at Nawazuddin’s filmography, you won’t find a lot of romantic dramas in it. The Lunchbox was his first venture into the romance genre, and as usual, he did it without skipping a beat.
In a movie that focused mainly on the two lead actors, Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, Nawaz effectively supported the film, his presence only adding to it. He won his first and only Filmfare for The Lunchbox.
Watch The Lunchbox
9. Kahaani (2012)
The film that was effectively his big break. Up till 2012, Nawazuddin had had minor roles in films where he’d rarely be noticed. He brought an unsparing ruthlessness in his portrayal of a no-nonsense intelligence cop in Kahaani.
He was awarded the Special Jury Award at the 2013 National Film Awards. This performance saw his career take a drastic rise up as many directors started to (finally) take notice of his abilities.
10. Haraamkhor (2017)
Whilst the movie was not particularly excellent, it was Nawazuddin’s portrayal of Shyam, a school teacher that stole the show. According to Rajeev Masand, Nawazuddin’s “brilliant, mostly understated portrayal of a violent predator is the film’s biggest strength.”
The film was shot in just 16 days. Haraamkhor premiered at the 15th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), where Nawazuddin won the Best Actor Award.
11. Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012)
In a film packed with star celebrities Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherji, it was Nawazuddin in his sideshow role of a pimp named Tehmur that got audiences’ attention.
Fresh off the astronomically popular Gangs of Wasseypur, Nawazuddin didn’t mind slipping into a supporting role in this film, and played it to perfection. Playing a physically disabled on screen isn’t a cakewalk, but Siddiqui pulled out the task so well that he won the Asian Film Award for the Best Supporting Actor for the role.
This birthday tribute is incomplete without mentioning one of his strongest scenes in the initial part of his career from Black Friday.
By Aditya Sarma
I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.