ABP Ideas Of India: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is known for his unconventional role and exceptional performances, had a candid exchange of words at a session during the ABP Ideas Of India Summit in Mumbai Saturday.
During the session titled ‘The Streaming Life | The OTT Boom: The Actor as Star’, and chaired by ABP Network’s Sumit Awasthi, the actor spoke about what it took him to make the person he is today, and the contribution of OTT in that.
Nawazuddin agreed he is one of the highest paid actors in the industry now. He said he is “an actor but charges ‘star’ rates”, and went on to add that while superstars do one film a year, he does five.
The same Nawazuddin took a local train and hitched a two-wheeler ride to reach the event venue because of high vehicular traffic.
“The Nawaz we know is this,” Awasthi said in the beginning of the conversation, adding:. “A person who came to Mumbai with dreams and worked as a watchman to fulfill them, now has a palatial house in it. He never lacked work. What then is his Idea Of India?”
The actor replied it is the quality of work that people do and the passion and determination to do it. What is required is the acquisition of skills, he said, and added that he believed it was his stubborn determination that brought him to the place he is in, and that determination should be there in everyone.
Talking further about how Covid-19 had an impact on his life, he said how it had both been a fortunate and an unfortunate time but where it helped was in ushering in a time for realisation, which can be ultimately used to create a better future.
So does he ever have the feeling to quit everything and go away? In reply, Nawazuddin said he had actually twice attempted to go to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh and live like a monk, some time in 1990 and 1991.
‘Disappointing when independent films don’t do well’
The highlight of the event remained his observation on the rise of OTT platforms. When asked which platform he preferred, he batted for all. Making a plea to watch more independent films, he urged the audience to watch and appreciate the films that are screened in film festivals. He also pointed out how these films do exceptionally well on global platforms yet tank domestically.
Talking further about the rise of OTTs, he recalled how the platform had taken good content to the global audience yet had become limited to business now. Expressing disappointment over this, he went on to say how “good things do not sustain in this country” and how OTTs have now been taken over by the “stars” who have “ruined the platform”, content wise.
Asked about the freedom and creative liberty that OTT platforms allow, he said when there’s nudity in Sacred Games or some expletives used, there is a subtext to it and is generally done as a part of the characterisation in the content. He opined that using abusive language just to sensationalise is wrong.
When the conversation inevitably moved to the recent success of a film like The Kashmir Files, made on a small budget, he said the director has a perspective and a lens through which they view a story and present it, and that should be allowed.
‘Yet to see a dark-skinned female superstar in Bollywood’
Moving ahead with his own personal achievements, when asked to recall the time he felt the sense of achievement, he replied stating that material possessions do not bring him happiness. What brings him happiness is a well executed scene. He said how some of his best work that did give him that feeling were never released for the audience to see.
Concluding the discussion by raising an important point and calling out the aspect of racism in Bollywood, he made a few unapologetically truthful remarks stating how he is yet to see a dark skinned female superstar in Bollywood.
Asked what needs to be changed, he was quick to reply that there needs to be education and awareness to recognise talent and skill of the craft. He went on to highlight how money and marketing help shape the career and images of fairly “average” actors.
Asked if he sees Hollywood coming to India to make a film, he questioned the constant need for Western validation and pointed out how Iranian and Korean cinema had successfully carved a niche for themselves and attained a stature much bigger than that of western cinema. Ending his discussion, he yet again called out the need for good content that would reign supreme over any other aspect if we are to carve out a place in global cinema.