Two years ago, Nawazuddin Siddiqui had pulled out of a Ramleela programme at his native place in Budhana, Uttar Pradesh, after some people, allegedly of the local Shiv Sena unit, raised an objection against a Muslim artiste playing a Hindu figure.
So, years later when he was chosen for the role of Bal Thackeray in the late Shiv Sena surpemo's biopic, titled Thackeray, the news came as a surprise for many. But the actor believes he has "full freedom" to choose or reject any role.
"I'm an artiste. I have spent 30 years of my life in this field and have followed it passionately. When I get to do such roles I feel really happy that my 25 years of struggle will somewhere be executed. And, I think I have full freedom to choose and do whatever kind of roles I want to do," he said.
When asked about whether anybody issued fatwa against him for playing Thackeray, he replied, "I'm an actor, why would anyone do that?"
Bal Thackeray was known for his pro-Marathi ideology and embracing a broader Hindutva agenda. One of the tallest leaders in Maharashtra politics for nearly six decades, he targeted south Indians for their growing influx into Maharashtra. He had also expressed displeasure towards migrants from the north, particularly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
However, Siddiqui, who came to Mumbai in the '90s from a small town of Muzaffarnagar, denies having developed any kind of fear arising from religious intolerance or injustice in the city.
"I think Mumbai is one of the places which has a large number of migrants. I had also come here from UP. Thousands of people have fulfilled their dreams there. I don't think besides Mumbai there is any other city in the world which makes your dream come true. Whoever has come there from the outside— someone is a superstar, a writer, a singer. If this mindset had been there in the city, all these things would not have been possible. I came out of a small village in UP and went there and saw dreams. No other place would have helped me make my dreams come true," the actor said.
The actor, who has been getting rave reviews for his portrayal of the late Shiv Sena founder, says it was the toughest and most challenging part of his career.
"I had watched a lot of videos and interviews of Balasaheb for the preparation of my role. The thing is everyone knows him. There are still so many people who are emotionally connected to him. So, you automatically feel an immense sense of responsibility to do justice with the character. But I enjoyed a lot as I enjoy doing challenging roles. I like to be pushed outside my comfort zone and do as much experiment as possible because there is only one life."
Thackeray releases alongside Kangana Ranaut's Manikarnika- The Queen of Jhansi. When asked about the box-office clash between the two films, Siddiqui simply replies, "It's good. I hope both films will work."