Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the troubled star

The recent news of Nawazuddin Siddiqui finding himself amid turmoil when his wife of 11 years, Aaliya, initiated divorce proceedings is the latest in the off-screen trials that the 46-year-old-actor is undergoing.

The notice was sent to Nawazuddin while he had taken permission to travel to his hometown in Budhana in Uttar Pradesh to meet his ill mother. 

One of the widely respected actors in India today, Nawazuddin has had a chequered professional career where he started with nondescript roles films and underwent hardships for years.

A familiar face for over a decade, Nawazuddin took a while to burst on to the scene and tales of struggle are now a part of industry folklore. He cracked the A-list when he featured in a cameo in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. (2009) and finally announced his arrival in the filmmaker’s Gangs of Wasseypur (2012).

With films such as Miss Lovely (2012), Nawazuddin was a heralded as a star, and the global success of The Lunchbox (2013) was a testimony to his talent. 

But trouble has been a constant factor in Nawazuddin’s life. Running parallel to his upward professional swing, his personal life also kept him in news. While there were hardly any rumours about his supposed affair with Niharika Singh, his co-star in Miss Lovely, his autobiography was laden with their fascination for each other.

The said affair transpired during his marriage with Aaliya, the two got married in 2009, it was Nawazuddin’s second marriage, and they have a daughter named Shora and son Yaani. He himself spoke about his reported affair with Niharika Singh in autobiography, An Ordinary Life (Viking Penguin), but invited much ire from not only Niharika but another woman, Sunita Rajwar, with whom too he supposedly had an affair. Both accused Nawazuddin of fabrication. 

Written with journalist Rituparna Chatterjee, Siddiqui’s autobiography appeared to have a great disconnect between how the actor talked about love affairs with Sunita Rajwar and Niharika Singh and what transpired. Both Rajwar and Singh openly slammed Nawazuddin for fabricating stories and projecting lies.

Additionally, a complaint was also filed with the National Commission for Women (NCW) by a Delhi-based advocate, Gautam Gulati, where the actor was charged with outraging the modesty of Niharika Singh. The criticism and the backlash resulted in rescinded his book. 

There are actors whose real-life struggles and trials far outdo what they do on screen. More often than not, these events often shape the journey of the artist. When it comes to such actors or artists the names of Sahir Ludhianvi, Gulzar, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson come to mind but one can add Nawazuddin Siddiqui to the list.

The actor also lost his younger sister a few months ago that resulted in his 71-year-old mother suffering from anxiety attacks. Nawazuddin Siddiqui tweeted that the reason why he took the government’s permission to travel to Uttar Pradesh during the coronavirus pandemic was to attend to his mother.  

For an actor who featured in a blink-and-you-would-miss kind of a role opposite Aamir Khan in Sarfasrosh (1999) went on to feature as one of the antagonists in the star’s Taalash (2012). Nawazuddin’s arrival in popular films was complete when he played the main villain in Kick (2014) and the ‘protagonist’ who takes on the ‘anti-hero’ in Raaes (2017) antagonist.

His ability to focus on his craft even in the middle of professional and personal troubles is the stuff of legends and even celebrated. This ability is a common factor in  actors that hail from the Stanislavskian school of Method Acting.

Practiced by famed theatre stalwart Konstantin Stanislavski, under this style, actors are told to cultivate the art of experiencing to deliver more realistic performances and most institutions such as the National School of Drama, Siddiqui’s alma mater, often promote it. 

While Nawazuddin’s onscreen’s roles have rarely revealed the impact his personal life might have had but in a day and age of social media dominance, real-life events tend to overshadow an actor’s standing.

Going by the lacklustre response to his last two releases Motichoor Chaknachoor and Ghoomketu, which released digitally on May 22, Nawazuddin’s reel persona seems to have paled before his real life.