Whether it's bringing alive illustrious writer Saadat Hasan Manto on screen in Manto or a essaying a rustic sharpshooter in his most besharam film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui's new projects are about exploring the unexplored.
At a time when a mega-budget entertainer like Baahubali has set new precedents for the Indian film industry, the versatile actor says a film's budget or the stars and directors associated with it don't motivate him to decide on a project.
"However big a scale of a film, or however famous a director is, or a star, I don't do a film till I don't understand it."
"If someone says it's a Rs.50-crore or Rs.70-crore film, I leave that and do a Rs.50-lakh film, because satisfaction is very important for me. Maybe the Rs.50-crore film doesn't allow me to tap a new side of my potential that a smaller budget film lets me discover," Nawazuddin said.
"If nothing happens to me from within after listening to a film's story, then I don't do it — budget irrespective," added the actor, who for the past three to four years, has come into his own.
Starting with a role in the 1999 film Sarfarosh, Nawazuddin has carved his own niche bit by bit and is today perhaps among one of the most visible faces from Indian cinema at international film circuits.
Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, Badlapur, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Manjhi: The Mountain Man, Haraamkhor and Raees are some of the projects which have let him show his range as an actor. Now he's out to stretch that out with Manto and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.
While Nandita Das's directorial Manto has already made the right noises at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month, one look at the trailer of the latter film tells you how bold can Nawazuddin get.
The actor, who has his roots in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, said: "Baabumoshai… is a very 'ajeeb, tedi-medi' (strange and crooked) film. I don't know how many people will like it because we are used to soft, sweet films or patriotic movies, but this film breaks all barriers."
"It's very realistic, very desi and it has all the 'besharmi' (shamelessness) from which we try to save ourselves. There are hypocrites all around who say we don't want to see these things, but when alone, they see it all… Only when they're out in the society, they become 'shareef'."
"This film breaks it all, and I would say, 'Bahut hi besharam film hai yeh (This is a very shameless film'."
In Manto, meanwhile, the actor will be seen bringing forth the simplicity of the writer, who was a strong advocate of free speech.
"'Manto has been a great experience… People know a lot about his work and he continues to be known for his daring and boldness," Nawazuddin said, drawing a deep breath of satisfaction — understandably of getting his due in the industry.
"I am doing the kind of roles that I really want to do… The industry is giving them to me. I never wanted to do black and white kind of roles. Our (Indian film) hero has no drawback at all… So I am not interested in those roles," Nawazuddin said.
"And there's one villain who has all the evil. I am not interested in that role as well. I am drawn to close-to-real-life roles where the character is a mix of black and white… I prefer grey."
The actor spoke to on the sidelines of an event in the capital where he came to support CSR initiative Shiksha by P&G.