Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the ebony-complexioned superstar of Bollywood whom every producer wants to sign at any cost. He is barely out of one highly-lauded role in "Mom" when hes already looking at another crowd-pleasing role as a hoodlum dancer in "Munna Michael".
Many consider Nawazuddin to be one of the finest, if not the finest actor of Hindi cinema today. Therefore when he speaks the world listens.
Last week after casting director Sanjay Chouhan spoke about how co-actors cast with Nawazuddin have to be dark-skinned, the actor raised the question of racism through 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."
A lot has been said and written about his words.Finally he clarified the whole issue in an interview which threatened to go into tricky tangents on societal prejudice.
Said the actor 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 isskobanao 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."
Nawazuddin says he hates playing the victim card. "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 bachche kale nahin honge.' As if my criteria for choosing a life partner must be the colour of her skin."
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 feels we take no pride in our talent.
"We wait for our artists 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."
The actor also 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 dance 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 challenge for me as an actor. I hope I've pulled it off."