Top Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, star of series “Sacred Games” and several other Netflix originals, and a regular at Cannes, is currently wrapping feature film “Sangeen” in London.
Written and directed by Jaideep Chopra (“2016 the End”), the film, which also stars Elnaaz Norouzi (“Sacred Games”), is a two-handed thriller largely set in one room. Siddiqui was floored by Chopra’s script and describes his role as a “challenging part.” The action periodically breaks out into wintry London locales. This is Siddiqui’s first time shooting in London, a city currently in lockdown. “The city is completely deserted,” says Siddiqui.
Produced by Gurjit Singh and Ankit Khanna for Golden Era Films and AK Projekts, the shoot is taking place under strict COVID protocols with a pared down crew in a bio-secure bubble, including two sealed off floors at the unit hotel.
A graduate of India’s prestigious National School of Drama, Sidiqqui’s breakthrough role was in Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday” (2004) and he has had several memorable roles with the director since, including “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012″), “Raman Raghav 2.0” (2016) and “Sacred Games.” The actor is also known for “The Lunchbox” (2013), “Lion” (2016), “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” (2015) and “Manto” (2018), for which he won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for best actor.
Siddiqui’s films are routinely selected at Cannes. “(The festival) has a kind of atmosphere which is great for any artist, a get together of actors, directors and journalists which is great to be in, and I miss it in the years I don’t have a film there,” says Siddiqui.
While also starring in big screen ventures like “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz,” “Thackeray” and “Petta,” the actor is also a regular on streaming platforms. Besides “Sacred Games,” Siddiqui was the lead in Netflix original films “Raat Akeli Hai” and “Serious Men,” Amazon Studios’ “Photograph,” Eros Now’s “Roam Rome Mein,” and ZEE5’s “Ghoomketu,” with a significant role in Emmy-winning BBC/Amazon series “McMafia.”
“Both theatrical and OTT platforms are correct in their respective spaces,” says Siddiqui. “No doubt, platforms like Amazon and Netflix have a large reach – lots of people watch the films. For example, during the London shoot for ‘Sangeen,’ a lot of non-Indians recognized me from ‘Sacred Games.’ I feel happy that thanks to Netflix, your product is seen across the world – the reach is much greater than cinema, a theatrical release cannot even expect this kind of reach.”
For a population of 1.3 billion, India has just 9,000 cinema screens and Siddiqui says that films must compete for those screens. India produces some 2,000 films a year. “A film being a hit or a flop depends on the number of screens,” says Siddiqui. “If you release even a rubbish film on 4,000 screens, it makes at least INR 200 million [$2.8 million] on the first day of release, no matter how bad the film is. And even if you have a very good film, if you release it on under 1,000 screens, what can you expect? In that respect OTTs are good.”
In a post-COVID world Siddiqui hopes for at least 2,500-3,000 Indian cinema screens for his upcoming films. “Sangeen” is set to release later in 2021 and the actor also has romantic comedy “Jogira Sara Ra Ra” lined up.
Internationally, Siddiqui has Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s continent-hopping drama “No Land’s Man” coming up. The actor is also a producer of the film alongside Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman.