Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a recent interview poked fun at the work processes in Bollywood and in a rather arrogant way remarked that English-speaking actors and filmmakers think that they can make authentic films in Hindi. Speaking at the special session named ‘Aspiration to Action’ at Times Network India Economic Conclave last Saturday, Nawaz mouthed a lengthy monologue where he tried to present himself as the damsel-in-distress who was continuously being run over by the English-speaking biggies of the Bollywood.
Nawaz in the video snippet that has since went viral said, “The directors and producers make the film in Hindi but prefer to communicate in English on the sets. Even the scriptwriters, costume designers, production designers, and screenwriters speak in English. Sometimes they all tend to discuss the same character but fail to understand each other’s point. The actor also gets confused. Performance gets affected”,
“Aap Hindi mein film bana rahe ho lekin director bhi assistance bhi saare english mein baatein kar rahe ho” #NawazuddinSiddiqui
Courtesy- TimesNow NavBharat pic.twitter.com/E94N3wrltr
— Bollywoodirect (@Bollywoodirect) April 25, 2022
He compared the Hindi film industry to the Tamil or Kannada film industry and said that ‘those films are best in performance as they all proudly speak in one local language’. “The directors, producers, make-up artists, screenwriters, actors, all speak the language in which the film is made. This helps everybody working on that project to understand every minute detail. No doubt, those films work well on the creativity graphs”,
Bollywood is a melting pot of different identities, cultures and languages
However, what Nawaz failed to recount was the fact that Bollywood, despite struggling in recent times is still seen as the final frontier of aspiring filmmakers, artists, and behind the scenes crew. They all want to work in the Hindi film industry. Thus, when they gather around to produce the movie, it is a melting pot of different identities, cultures and languages.
Not everyone in the crew comes from the Hindi speaking belt and not everyone is comfortable speaking Hindi. Just because a Hindi film is being made, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Hindi needs to be espoused continuously on the set. Whatever helps the crew get the work done efficiently is the language that needs to be used.
Moreover, an established actor like Nawaz does not have to deal with the backroom staff a lot, barring the few odd Assistant directors, the director and the producers. He can easily tell them to walk him through the stuff in Hindi if he feels overwhelmed by English.
Why is Nawaz so miffed? A little context
While it may look like Nawaz is doing the god’s work by promoting Hindi, a little context is required to understand where truly Nawaz is coming from. After all, you rarely see an established actor go on a tirade like this generalising the entire industry.
As reported by TFI, in October last year, Nawazuddin had remarked that OTT platforms had become a ‘dhanda (racket) for big production houses’. Announcing that he was quitting the streaming platforms for good, Nawaz also called the online platforms ‘a dumping ground for redundant shows’.
He said, “The platform has become a dumping ground for redundant shows. We either have shows that don’t deserve to be seen in the first place. Or sequels to shows that have nothing more to say,”
Nawaz quits OTT and cusses Bollywood actors
The Bollywood actor added, “It’s become ‘dhanda’ (Hindi for racket) for big production houses and actors. Major film producers in Bollywood have cut lucrative deals with all the big players in the OTT field. Producers get whopping amounts to create unlimited content.”
He mentioned that the excitement and challenge that he had experienced when he worked in Sacred Games had evaporated. He also targeted the big Bollywood stars for hogging the OTT space which once was his sole territory, “When I can’t bear to watch them how can I bear to be in them? Yeh star system bade parde ko kha gaya (this star system killed the big screen). Now we have so-called stars on OTT claiming big money and throwing tantrums like Bollywood A-listers. They forget content is king. ‘Woh zamana chala gaya’ when stars ruled. Before this lockdown and the digital domination, A-listers would release their films in 3,000 theatres across the country. People had no choice but to see them. Now they have unlimited choices,”
It is pertinent to note that Sacred Games was the first Netflix Indian original which gained national as well as international acclaim after release. At the time, OTT platforms were dubbed as the space where struggling, has-beens and B-lister actors plied their trade. Nawazuddin was still not counted amongst the top stars of the industry despite giving a plethora of powerful performances in the Hindi movies.
However, the success of Sacred Games changed the equations overnight. The desis started flocking the streaming platforms and soon the A-listers of Bollywood understood the power that OTT platforms held in the palm of their hands.
The advent of a global pandemic only hastened the process and big Bollywood stars descended onto the space. From Ajay Devgn to Abhishek Bacchan to R Madhavan – several big Bollywood names moved to the digital space and have already carved an identity for themselves on these platforms.
Nawaz fears that his space has been taken by the A-listers
The likes of Nawazuddin and their novelty factor have worn off. Nawaz through his routine outbursts is suggesting that the Bollywood industry is coming for his place. It feels as if Nawaz wants to say that Bollywood hid him for years. However, when he had his moment in the sun through the OTT platforms, the big actors descended together to snatch it all away from him once again.
Nawaz appears to be under the delusion that he is the only actor that is still connected to the roots. However, the truth cannot be far from it. Actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Sanjay Mishra have long been in the circuit and are far more versatile when it comes to acting chops. However, you wouldn’t see them cursing the very industry that made them big or the people that work behind the scenes.
Nawaz is the same actor who had refused to take criticism in his stride after second season of Sacred Games spectacularly bombed. Nawaz at the time had remarked, “Who are these people? I only take criticism from people who are of my standard. Today, every second person is there to criticise. Yes, I know the show got a little boring but these people criticizing, do they have knowledge of cinema? I can take criticism when the person has equal or more knowledge of cinema. Won’t listen to any ‘aira gaira nathu khaira’. Anyone criticises today, I am a trained actor, I do not take criticism from anyone.”
The entire monologue by Nawaz reeked of arrogance and elitism. OTT is not his heirloom. The audience will watch whatever it likes. Moreover, the language barrier is the last thing that an actor should let get in the way of his craft. It is advisable for Nawaz that he steps back, analyse his statements and come to the reality that he has to compete with the biggies as well. He is not the underdog anymore and trying to emotionally manipulate the audience can only take him so far.