During his days as a junior artiste in showbiz, he was told he can't be cast as they would need "extra light" to make him "visible". Nawazuddin Siddiqui, currently one of the most visible actors in the foreign film festival circuit from India, says he feels he represents the country's "majority" with his dark skin.
In a candid chat with IANS here, Nawazuddin recounted a story from his struggling days, and said: "In those days, I used to work on a daily basis for television shows as a junior artiste. Because of my brown complexion, people used to say, 'We can't take you... we have to put extra light to make you visible, you are dark and we don't have time.'
"Even after 12 years, nothing much has changed. People call me 'unusual'. They say that a dark skinned man is too unusual to become a hero of a mainstream film."
"In our country, a majority of the population have dark skin complexion. Even I have dark complexion, which means I represent the majority. I want to ask, how am I the 'unusual' when I represent the maximum," questioned Nawazuddin, who had called out racism via a tweet last month.
Trained at the National School of Drama, the National Award winning actor is known for slipping into a character of a contract killer and that of a noted writer with equal ease.
He says as an actor, he does not have any individual identity and that is the essence of his personality as a performer.
Known for his convincing performance in films like "Gangs of Wasseypur", "Badlapur", "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", "The Lunchbox" and "Raman Raghav 2.0", the actor says his mind gets affected by all the character he plays on screen.
"I am not a computer that can be switched on and off any time as per requirement. I am a human being. So, of course, I get a hangover of the character that I play in films, even after the shooting gets over.
"It is actually a painful process to build a character and then break it and get into another character. At times, I feel like I don't have any identity. I think my identity is that I don't have an identity as an actor," he said.
He is playing a contract killer in his upcoming film "Babumoshai Bandookbaaz" and has also finished shooting of "Manto", a biopic on playwright and poet Sadaat Hasaan Manto.
Highlighting the contrasting characters, he said: "Imagine how painful the process must have been... One man (Manto) is known to the world for his ethics and honesty, a man who is known as a truth teller and for showing some uncomfortable truth and the mirror to the society, and on the other hand, a man (Babu) who has zero ethics, a man who can kill anyone for money. I played both of them.
"After finishing my shoot for 'Babumoshai Bandookbaaz', I went to my village. I spent time with my childhood friends, I was doing organic farming... Basically trying to get rid of the hangover of Babu. There is a process of unlearning that I go through after every film. So that as an actor, I can approach a new character with a fresh mind."
"Babumoshai Bandookbaaz" is currently in the midst of a censorship row, wherein the film's makers have claimed the Central Board of Film Certification has asked them to make 48 cuts for an 'A' certificate. They want the rustic abusive language to be toned down or removed and want the makers to snip out lovemaking scenes.
Nawazuddin feels a film should be made on the "existing hypocrisy of our society".
"I know it might make many people uncomfortable to accept the truth, but cinema should be the mirror of our society."