In Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s upcoming memoir titled An Ordinary Life, the Gangs of Wasseypur actor opens up about his past relationships and a low phase of his life when he contemplated suicide. The book tracks Nawazuddin’s journey from being a young man from small-town Budhana in Muzzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, who moved to Delhi to try his luck at theatre and emerged as one of the most talented actors Bollywood can boast of.
Here are selected excerpts from the book:
“My First Relation Was Like Rain After a Spell of Drought”
I was performing in a play in Mumbai which was when I finally had my first romantic relationship. Incidentally, she too happened to be an NSD graduate, though we had never met there. It was very sweet, like rain is after a very long spell of drought. Sunita had fallen madly in love with me. Every day, she would come over, hang out at my house in Mira Road and scrawl our names in tiny font all over the wall... Then she went off on a holiday to her home town in the hills to see her folks. When she returned, Sunita would not take any of my calls. And when she did at last, I was flabbergasted. After such a deep, passionate love, she simply said, 'Nawaz, you focus on your career. And I will focus on my career.' She cut off all contact after that and I plunged into another deep, deep depression. I took a bucket of fresh white paint and began to replace her artwork on my walls with the blank canvas that they were before...
Living in Mira Road meant that the local train was our lifeline. We were at the station almost all the time. Soon after her call, one day I was at the station and stood there staring at the tracks. A train was coming, screaming its arrival with a lusty horn. It would be simple and instant. Should I jump on to the tracks and end it all? End this struggle, end this life? I had nothing. No love, no work, no money. But some being woke up in me and gave me a metaphorical slap. 'You know this is not your department,' the voice in my head said. 'Then why? Why did you go that way? Why!' it screamed at me.
The train sped away, screaming pompously, cutting through the air... I decided that I would never again be emotional in any relationship... Never again did I allow myself to be vulnerable like that again, not even with my wife... Yet it was important to analyse what had happened... [Sunita must have been advised] she should probably date someone successful, not a struggling, desperate actor who was out of work. Today, Sunita tells everybody that she was once together with me in a very serious relationship. Incredible, isn't it?
“What Happens in New York Stays in New York”
Those years between 2006 and 2010 were pretty incredible too. The industry had begun to notice me... Strangely, the West was kinder to me first, both in terms of love and work... I was at a cafe once with my friend in New York City's Soho area. The stunning waitress kept staring at me... 'You? You are an actor?' she asked a rhetorical question. 'Yes!' I replied. 'Which film of mine did you see? Gangs of Wasseypur?' She squinted, trying to remember, 'No, no,' she said. 'Another film!' After a few moments, she responded: 'Lunchbox!' We got talking and let's just say what happens in New York stays in New York...
Nawazuddin On His Affair with Miss Lovely Co-star Niharika Singh
Before that came Suzanne: a lovely, dear Jewish girl from New Jersey, who lived in New York City. We met there and hit it off. She came to Mumbai and began to live with me... Every few months, she kept extending her visa... The shooting of Miss Lovely commenced. Suzanne used to accompany me there. Then came the day when her visa expired and she needed to return to New York to sort it out. She was gone for many months. One day, while we were shooting a dance scene, something happened to my co-star Niharika Singh... She was suddenly cold, went out of her way to maintain a distance from me and began to keep mum. I was puzzled... She used to be friendly, social and talk quite a bit. I thought it was best to ask her what had happened and so I did, not once, not twice, but several times, for several days... I invited her over for a home-cooked meal, a mutton dish which was my speciality. She politely agreed and came over... Not only did she eat everything that was on her plate, but she praised it as well.
'Now you come to my house, Nawaz. I will cook mutton for you,' she said warmly. For the very first time I went to Niharika's house... When she opened the door, revealing a glimpse of the house, I was speechless with amazement. A hundred, or so it seemed, little candles flickered beautifully.
She wore soft faux fur, looking devastatingly gorgeous, her beauty illuminated even more in the candlelight. And I, being the lusty village bumpkin that I am, scooped her up in my arms and headed straight for the bedroom. We made passionate love. And just like that, out of the blue, I began a relationship with Niharika Singh, a relationship which I did not know then would last for almost one and a half years...
Meantime, emails from Suzanne started coming. 'Why are you not mailing me, Nawaz? What's wrong?' I did not respond... I trusted my silence would convey what needed to be conveyed. When I was checking my inbox one day, Niharika happened to see one of her emails. 'Who is this?' she inquired. 'You know very well who it is,' I said. 'It's Suzanne.' 'Wo-ow! It's still going on between you two! Amazing!' Niharika thundered in anger. 'It is wrong. I hope you know that...'
From that day, Niharika began to send emails to Suzanne from my email address. She would type, 'I cannot continue with you ...' and sign off as me. Imagine the shock for Suzanne. She would send heartbreaking replies... After a few of these email exchanges, Suzanne figured that this was not my voice at all. 'Who is this writing, Nawaz? I know this is not you... Who is she? Who is this b***h?' 'B***h!' That word infuriated Niharika so much that she made me end all correspondence with Suzanne forever... I was very sad. Then I thought, so be it, it's all right, I am with Niharika. My melancholy evaporated quickly.
“I Was a Rascal Who Cared Only for Himself”
Niharika was an intelligent girl. Being an actor herself meant that she knew and understood my struggle for work... She would call me in frequent spurts throughout the day demanding to know of my whereabouts... [Then] The regularity of the questions felt like being nagged non-stop... There was another piece to this puzzle.
Like all girls, Niharika obviously expected some of the sweet conversations that lovers have, to take place between us. But I was quite a selfish b*****d. I had a plain aim: go to her house, make out and leave. I could not talk lovey-dovey too much. It finally struck her that I was a rascal who cared only for himself. (Actually, all the girls I have ever been with have had this same complaint about me. I would only come to them for my own needs. Otherwise, I might not even take their calls.)
When I went to her place next, she was wearing a silk robe. I ran my hand over its coolness around her waist, grabbing her but she pushed me away. 'No, Nawaz!' she said. 'I won't meet you again. This is enough.' I pleaded, I cried, I apologized. But she remained adamant. She had had enough. So that was that, we broke up cutting off all contact. Two months later, another girl came into my life in a most mysterious way. I did not know then that years later, I would marry her."
“I Decided to Not Get Married at All”
Anjali and I continued to live together. We were madly in love but it was a tumultuous relationship, the course of which changed randomly, driven by fury. Her love was deep, her temper short. We quarrelled every few days or she would get upset. And ever so often she would pack her bag and storm out in a fit of anger, to stay with a friend at Lokhandwala. Sometimes I would follow her, plead for forgiveness and cajole her to return home. This became a sort of a ritual, like a cassette tape annoyingly put on repeat.
Although I loved her very much, I thought she might be too risky to get married to. So I decided to not get married at all. The saga of love and running around in circles continued for something like a year and a half. Then came a time when she did not return for a very, very long time. I forget the exact length of time. I was rather fed up of running around like this repeatedly Even though my heart pined for her, I did not go to get her. The prolonged period turned into a silent break-up. I think nowadays they call it ‘ghosting’. The loneliness was getting to me now.
Ammi picked a lovely girl called Sheeba who hailed from Haldwani, which is near Nainital. I got married a few months before the shoot of Patang. Ahead of Haldwani, lie Bijnor, Najibabad, etc.; most of Sheeba's family had settled in Haldwani and around it. Anjali had disappeared for almost a year; there had been no word from her at all.
I got married and went to shoot Patang in Ahmedabad, tagging Sheeba along. We lived together for nearly two months. The crew of Patang knows her well. Then she went home and I went on to shoot my next film. Sheeba was a wonderful girl with a heart of gold but her brother was very intrusive. He interfered in our marriage constantly.
Before I had set off for the court, Ammi too had advised me on similar lines. 'If you feel there is even a teeny bit, even a drop of love left between the two of you, suleh kar lena (go for a compromise). Tell the judge then that you have made a compromise and you two want to live together.' Her voice rang in my ears, her advice swirled in my head in a loop. I tried to make eye contact with the woman who was still my wife, but might not be within a matter of minutes. Her eyes were often lowered or gazing elsewhere. Perhaps it was a mismatch of moments. I tried again and again and again, my desperate, apologetic eyes seeking hers, but I just could not get her to look at me. (I got plenty of eye contact from her brother though.)
Our hearing began. The judge called Sheeba and asked her, ‘What do you want?’ She replied, as if with a sense of urgency, ‘I want a divorce. These guys have tortured us.’ My heart sank on the spot. My lawyer, to whom I had communicated ammi’s wishes as my own which indeed they were, whispered in my ears what I already knew, ‘They have asked for divorce. There is nothing we can do now. I’m sorry, Nawaz.’
Anjali and I began to meet again and soon after, we got back together. She would arrive very upbeat, with a confidence that my house was her own. She treated the tiny space—which then was still the one-room flat in Malad—as if it was her own. It was lovely. Her presence soothed me. But something was different. This time, she demanded marriage right away. She insisted upon it continuously. I was afraid: what if she repeated her ways of leaving in bouts of anger? she persisted, trying to assure me that she would not. In Budhana, we, especially the elders, believe that any spoilt child—a spoilt youngster actually— is bound to mend his or her ways once she or he gets married.
During the ceremony, the mullah told Anjali that she would need a Muslim name for the nikah, while her Hindu name would be in brackets. 'Zainab,' Anjali said instantly. 'You can keep my name Zainab.' I was completely shocked and looked at her wide-eyed in silent bewilderment. How did she come up with a random name like that on the spot? Your name is your identity. How could you change it just like that?
Approximately three years after our wedding, Anjali decided to rename herself.
Title: An Ordinary Life: A Memoir
Author: Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Rituparna Chatterjee
Price: Rs 599 (Hardcover)
Penguin Random House
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