Nawazuddin Siddiqui On ‘Serious Men’, Depression In Teenagers & Cinema’s Impact On Society

For those who have seen Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men, you know Nawazuddin Siddiqui has left no stone unturned to entertain us with the character of Mani. Based on Manu Joseph’s book by the same name, the film is about a devious Dalit man who cons the country into believing his 10-year-old son is a genius. He, later on, realizes that the only victim of his thought process is his own son.

I got a chance to talk to Nawazuddin about the film and also about issues like depression in teenagers, parents pressurizing their kids, and cinema’s impact on society.

Here are the excerpts from my interview:

On His Character Of Mani

As you said, Mani is a very atrangi character. He is also someone who’s very street smart and at the same time, he is also very innocent. I would like to thanks Sudhir Mishra who made Mani’s character this way and it stood out.

Prepping For The Role

My preparation for any role totally depends on the director and his thought process about the character that I have to play on the screen. If you look at it this way, you can say I am a very obedient actor. You can also say that if I don’t get a good director, it can also impact my performance. 

Dream Of Working With Sudhir Mishra

When in the 2000s, many actors came from NSD including me, everyone somewhere had in their minds that they wanted to work with Sudhir Mishra as his films spoke volumes of him as a skilled director. It always felt like that he is approachable but it did take me 20 years to fulfill the dream of working with him. Sudhir sir is very humble and his way of looking at life is very honest. The best quality about him is that he isn’t judgmental at all and I got to know this after talking to him. In his movies, there’s no hero per se as he tells you stories about common people like you and me.

On The Movie Addressing Casteism, Minorities And The Lack Of Humanity

We need to keep fighting for humanity. People need to understand that we all are human beings first. In the movie, Mani doesn’t represent a single community. He is a common man who’s a father who’s not educated and is not well-to-do and hence, he has a lot of angst. It’s the case with many parents who end up forcing their kids to achieve something because they couldn’t fulfill their own dreams. You will see how Mani forgets that his kid can have his own aspirations and ends up being cruel because he is actually chasing his own dreams. We have people like this in every community and religion. 

If Nawazuddin’s Father Was Like Mani

No, he wasn’t like that. He never forced me to do anything. He was a farmer and he made it a point to not intervene in my career choices. Main Woh Kiya Jo Mujhe Sahi Laga.

On Finally Putting A Full Stop On Pressurizing Kids

Yes, I completely agree with it. You must have seen how parents tell their kids to do Namastey in front of guests and they even force the kid to do so even after he or she doesn’t feel like. You need to understand that he or she is a kid. Let children live and give them their space.

On The Movie’s End Being Open To Interpretation

Life doesn’t follow a perfect ending like a typical Bollywood movie. Mani has reached a tipping point in his life but his life still moves on. It totally depends on the audience on how they want to interpret the ending. Mani hasn’t changed completely – fitrat toh fitrat hai

On Nawazuddin Being A Brand And Aspiring Actors Taking Inspiration From Him

I am happy that they take inspiration from me, but you also need to understand what all it took for me to become who I am right now. I did take professional training for acting and I believe more than taking inspiration from me, they should focus on harnessing their skills and taking proper education. You need to know the field you are planning to join. I also think you don’t have to be like me or someone else. I believe that everyone has that one special quality and only that will attract the audience to your work. People forget that actually it’s all about polishing your talent. 

On Depression In Teenagers

I think depression is somewhere because of the kind of content we’re consuming. You need to understand that life is beautiful. The problem is that if you keep on consuming filthy content for a good six hours on the Internet, it will impact your mindset. You have to be selective.

On Movies Promoting Stalking

There were movies that people used to love to watch wherein a hero used to tease the leading lady and those movies became hits. Back then, people didn’t react to it. When we started to see the repercussions of it on the society, then we started reacting but by then, the damage was done. I am glad that things are changing from the past few years – with filmmakers starting to focus on the stories of women and how they have their own identities. Earlier, women were just reduced to being objects and the heroines used to get married to the same guy who used to stalk them. 

The cinema that didn’t give any space to women and their dreams did create a bad impact. I feel Anurag Kashyap and his movies did show women as strong characters as they are decision-makers. You see by yourself that if a woman who’s talking sense on social media won’t get that viewership but if the same woman shows her skin, you will see how people go mad and give her lakh of views. This is so so wrong. You aren’t appreciating her for her intellect but her outer beauty. This surely needs to change. I have worked with almost six female directors and I did see cinema through their eyes and it’s beautiful. This is our fault that we didn’t let women speak. I am happy that women are now finally speaking up and showing everyone that they are no less than men.

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