MUMBAI: When Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui walks the red carpet at Cannes he may take a moment to ponder just how far he has come and where he is headed.
In just over a decade, Siddiqui has gone from a struggling bit-part actor worried about finding food to an acclaimed international star coveted by directors for his versatility across all genres.
“When your film gets selected in a good category, you feel confident that you are on the right track and your choice of films is good,” Siddiqui told AFP in an interview.
His latest film sees him play the lead role in “Manto”, a biopic about the troubled life of Indian-Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto.
The movie, directed by Nandita Das, has been selected for the Un Certain Regard category of the film festival which opens Tuesday.
“I enjoy Cannes because it is such a big and prestigious platform. It’s a whole world revolving around films,” said Siddiqui.
Manto (1912-1955) is considered to be one of the Indian subcontinent’s greatest ever short story writers.
He was lauded for being bold and progressive and a proponent of free speech, writing truthfully about the brutal violence that followed the partition of British India.
To others he was a subversive troublemaker whose stories featuring pimps and prostitutes broke too many taboos. Manto was charged with obscenity a total of six times by authorities in colonial and independent India.
Siddiqui is one of Hindi cinema’s great success stories — a poor man, who from humble beginnings in a village in Uttar Pradesh state, defied the odds to make it big in Bollywood after moving to Mumbai in 2000.
By his own admission the chances were stacked against him: “I’m a five-foot six-inch, dark, ordinary-looking man. People didn’t imagine I would make it,” he told AFP in 2015.
But after years of playing small parts Siddiqui achieved his breakthrough in 2012 with “Talaash”,
“Gangs of Wasseypur”, “Miss Lovely” and “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”. He has not looked back.
“I spent 10-12 years struggling. My lowest point was to find food and survive. Now I can do the work according to my choices,” he said at his office, a collection of posters from his biggest hits hanging on a wall behind him.
Siddiqui has held his own with superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan and also successfully crossed over into Hollywood, appearing in the 2016 hit “Lion”.—AFP