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I Have Faced Prejudices All My Life, Nawazuddin Siddiqui Speaks Up

Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks about being prejudiced against for being dark-skinned.

Updated
Entertainment
3 min read
Nawazuddin Siddiqui (R) with Tiger Shroff and Nidhi Agarwal.
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Nawazuddin Siddiqui has emerged as the much sought-after alternate hero with solo-starrers like Freaky Ali and Raman Raghav 2.0 to his name. Currently, he is barely out of one highly-lauded role in Mom when he’s already looking at another crowd-pleasing role as a hoodlum dancer in Munna Michael.

Many consider Nawaz to be one of the finest, if not THE finest actor of Hindi cinema. Therefore when he speaks the world listens.

Last week after a casting director spoke about how co-actors cast with Nawaz have to be dark-skinned, Nawaz raised the question of racism via a tweet that said - Thank you for making me realise that I cannot be paired along with the fair and handsome because I'm dark and not good looking, but I never focus on that.

The actor elaborated on the whole issue in an interview which threatened to  go into tricky tangents on societal prejudice.

Said Nawaz with a deep sigh, “I was reacting to what I read about this gentleman’s statement on the kind of actors I need to be cast with. I found the statement very strange. Did filmmakers actually consider the colour of my co-stars’ skin before casting them with me? Yeh ladki gori hai yeh nahin chalegi…yeh ladka saawla hai issko banao Nawaz ka dost. Is that how actors are cast in our films? I thought actors were chosen for suitability and merit. Anyway, this gentleman says he was misquoted.”

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But the fact is, I have faced prejudices all my life because of my dark complexion, because  of  my humble background and because I come  from a small village. Prejudice is embedded deep in our minds. All of us are prejudiced.  It begins at home where the mother says, ‘Beta gori bahu le aao tab bacche kaale nahin honge,’ as  if my criteria for choosing a life partner must be the colour of her skin.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Nawazuddin Siddiqui with his <i>Babumoshai Bandookbaaz</i> co-star Bidita Bag.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui with his Babumoshai Bandookbaaz co-star Bidita Bag.
(Photo Courtesy: Yogen Shah)

Nawaz doesn’t want to point fingers at any particular section of society. “I am not saying there is more prejudice in the film industry. It exists in every profession, every walk of life. In cinema, I don’t think I’ve been rejected for being dark-skinned. Nor has any heroine refused to work with me for the way I look. But yes, you can’t deny that leading men are supposed to look a particular way. Hero ka matlab hota hai gora-chitta (hero means fair-complexioned). There is a  lot of curiosity to see the children from film families and invariably the question of how fair-skinned he or she is, comes up. Someone like me with no connection in the industry has to prove  myself. Because I’ve no background in cinema and I don’t look like a film actor. Yeh kya karega? That’s how I was initially welcomed.”

Nawaz also feels we take no pride in our talent. “We wait for our artistes to be endorsed in the West  before celebrating their talent. When I was in New York, I went to Broadway to watch  the rehearsal for a play. I was introduced to an actor as the best actor in the world. To them in America everything they have is the best. We have far less confidence in our talent.”

Nawaz recently came out in full praise of Sridevi. “Yes, I said she’s the best actor in the world, and I meant  it. Look at her beauty talent and grace. Meryl Streep  is a great actress. But can she dance like Sridevi? But Sridevi can act as well as Meryl Streep.”
Nawazuddin dances in a reality show while Tiger looks on.
Nawazuddin dances in a reality show while Tiger looks on.
(Photo Courtesy: Yogen Shah)

Nawaz doesn’t want to take away from the struggle of actors from film families. “Look at Tiger Shroff. See how hard he works. I got a chance to watch him dance in Munna Michael. Believe me, he is miraculous. Though he  is the son of a star like Jackie Shroff, he  never tried to use that as a calling card in the industry. In fact, I think he worked towards being a fantastic dancer  as that was one area where his father was  not skilled.”

Nawaz himself has tried some dancing in Munna Michael. “I am very nervous. I want to know what people think about my dancing. Because I’ve always had a mental block about dancing. Dancing on screen was a challenge for me as an actor. I hope I’ve pulled it off.”

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