“In India, dark-skinned actors are always chosen for a particular type of role.
Photograph: Courtesy Nawazuddin Siddiqui / Instagram
Nawazuddin Siddiqui was quite surprising with his frank speech about the discrimination he faced in his community for being dark skinned and being a Muslim.
“Please name a dark-skinned Bollywood superstar,” he asks Subhash K Jha.
“Well, thanks for saying that,” Nawaz replies.
“But there’s still a truckload of discrimination against dark-skinned actors in Bollywood. Hollywood has overcome that prejudice. They’ve got black superstars like Will Smith, Idris Elba, Kevin Hart and the late Chadwick Boseman alongside Tom Cruise and Chris Hemsworth. “
“In India, dark-skinned actors are always chosen for a particular type of role.”
“If you see the graph of my career so far, I still play gangsters and killers in shabby clothes. The tuxedo look and suave moves are for the Mountain fair skinned stars. “
“For dark skin tones, darkness is the color of choice in life and in the movies. That’s why when I first started dressing for Cannes and other international film festivals, it was an experience. out of the body for me. “
Nawaz points to color discrimination in Indian society.
“This is especially applicable to women. If a man has two daughters, one light skinned and the other brunette, he will not stop singing the praises of fair skinned while the brunette frowns. no matter how good she is. “
“I encountered this prejudice in my hometown of Budhana, Uttar Pradesh. I was small and dark and therefore considered a good-for-nothing. All the other men in my family are tall, not dark and handsome, ”Nawaz laughs.
IMAGE: Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Aakshath Das in Serious men
“I guess I took my grandmother who was short and dark,” he adds.
“I must have heard the taunts of my relatives. Also, even though we were zamindar, my family owned much less land than others in our village. We were always shown our place at weddings and other gatherings.
“We received invitations, but we would be subjected to a rigorous criticism which left many like me marked for life.”
“I knew I had to escape this life, just like my character in my new web series Serious men. The character I play is a Dalit, but he could have been any oppressed individual in India who wanted a better life for his son. “
“A better life means a good education. But then, even if you escape the oppression of fate and your fellowship, you don’t necessarily get recognition for your accomplishments.”
IMAGE: Nawauddin Siddiqui in Wasseypur Gangs.
Now a major player in Bollywood, Nawaz is still a “wastrel” to some of his villagers.
“Nothing has changed in their minds. How could that? If they see a man coming out of his oppressed existence to the other side, they close their eyes,” he explains.
“The status quo must not be changed. So even now for part of my village fraternity, I am still the dark-skinned, small and ugly Nawaz who cannot do anything with his life.
“When they are informed of my accomplishments, they dismiss them as myths.
“One of my cousins is so strongly opposed to the idea of me doing anything with my life that he refused to believe it was me on screen. In the only rickety theater in my village, my movie Wasseypur Gangs was screened. Almost the whole village went to see him. “
“” My cousin also went. After the movie, he said the man on the screen was someone else, a lookalike. He refuses to accept that I have done something with my life. “
How does Nawaz react to this kind of blind and incurable prejudice?
“I believe what Nelson Mandela once said,“ Our world is not divided by race, color, gender or religion. Our world is divided into wise and foolish people, and fools are divided by race, color, sex or religion “.”
“I saw the kind of fame and fortune that I never dreamed of.”
“Today, the same Nawaz who is considered small, dark and ugly in his village is called handsome in the international media.”
“I assumed that success changes the perception of beauty. When you are successful, everything in you is appreciated. But for those who wanted to make sure that I stay oppressed, I will always be there.