Once he is on screen, the characters Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays feel like his second skin, inseparable from his psyche.
But the actor says after playing the title role in Saadat Hasan Manto’s biopic, a part of the famed short-story writer still lives inside him; a quality he imbibed – not to be judgemental.
Siddiqui believes every time one takes up a character, it adds something to the personality of the actor but also takes something away from them.
“I feel an actor should be like water. They should take the shape of the character when poured inside the mould What I learnt from Manto is that he never judged anyone, not even the ones in his stories.
“He always managed to find something admirable, especially in those people whom the society had rejected. I will always cherish this gift by Manto that you shouldn’t judge anybody. You never know what heights they end up achieving one day, the actor said.
Asked what Manto took away from him, Siddiqui says the writer robbed him of his ability to put up a facade so much so that he was haunted by the habit of speaking the truth, even 15 days after he wrapped up the shooting for the Nandita Das-directed film, which released today.
“I called up Nandita and said, ‘Pull him out of me!’. It was during this time that I had become more truthful than I usually am. Many mishaps also happened with me during that period.
“I eventually realised it would be best to get all of Manto’s truthfulness out of me. He took a lot of bad qualities away from me in those 15 days, but I snatched back all of that. I thought: ‘It’s better for me to be a liar. I have got in so much trouble because of you, Manto’, he says.
The news that Siddiqui charged a token Rs 1 fee from Das is viral on social media and the actor says it was a decision he took from the heart.
“You do a lot of films for money and then there are some you do for yourself. Can you decide a fee for that?” he asks.
With the phenomenal success of “Sacred Games”, Siddiqui’s fans seem to have tasted blood and the actor hopes the response to the Netflix India Original series, which has been renewed for a second season, will carry the momentum for “Manto” forward.
In “Sacred Games”, while frequent collaborator Anurag Kashyap helmed portions of Siddiqui’s local goon-turned-mafia overlord Ganesh Gaitonde, co-director Vikramaditya Motwane shot parts with Saif Ali Khan, who plays Sartaj Singh, an honest Mumbai cop trying to find his feet in the profession.
Looking at Manto and Gaintonde, the journey of both the parts was shaped by unforgettable, important female characters.
If the writer had mother Sardar Begum, wife Safiya and contemporary Ismat Chughtai among others by his side, Siddiqui’s gangster had the support of girlfriend Kukkoo, wife Subhadra and Kanta Bai as his voice of reason.
The actor explains, “Manto was very close to the women in his life. Safiya was one of his first readers and she was a harsh critic too. He considered her a sharp mind. He never treated Safiya just as his wife; she was first a human being for him. And largely too, Manto never thought of women as wives, sisters and daughters. They were humans for him first, like anybody else.
“Whereas Gaitonde had dedicated his everything to the women in his life. In the beginning, he treated them badly but perhaps he gradually realised his misbehaviour and changes it. But as he started getting closer to them, he started losing them.”
“Manto” also stars Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Neeraj Kabi, Divya Dutta, Ranvir Shorey and Rishi Kapoor.