Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui on Wednesday described Mumbai as a "city of dreams" that has helped several outsiders like him pen their success stories.
The Uttar Pradesh born actor's next release is "Thackeray", a biopic on Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray who advocated the "Maharashtra for Maharashtrians" plank in the late 1960s.
The actor, who has done the pendulum shift from playing progressive Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto to enacting the role of Thackeray, dismissed fears of belonging to a Hindi speaking northern state and living in Mumbai and said the city welcomed everyone with open arms.
"I think Mumbai is a place which has the maximum number of outsiders. I am also an outsider there. Lakhs and thousands of people have realised their dreams in that city... Whoever has come there from the outside -- someone is a superstar, a writer, a singer. They have become someone or the other," Nawazuddin told reporters here.
Not so long ago, in the years before he became a star, the actor from Budhana village in Muzaffarnagar reportedly could not act in the local Ram Lila because of his minority status following objections from the local Shiv Sena unit.
But Mumbai dispelled many of his fears.
"If this zehniyat (mindset) had been prevalent 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. And it happened in a bindas (carefree) manner. The kind of narrow-minded thinking that we harbour about Mumbai, it doesn't exist in the city," he said.
Nawazuddin's casting as Thackeray raised a lot of eyebrows but the actor said he has "full freedom" to pick or reject any role.
"Since 1991, I have only thought about becoming an actor day and night. Whenever I get a role like this, I feel happy that some of the hard work that I have done in the past 25 years will be executed.
"I will do whatever role I want to do. I enjoy doing challenging roles. I like to be pushed outside my comfort zone. Experiment as much as possible, there is only one life to live," he said.
However, the actor said he draws a line at doing some kinds of films and, stretching his arms in a gesture reminiscent of Shah Rukh Khan, said there are some roles he cannot do. The two actors had starred together in the 2017 film "Raees".
Every character he plays has an effect on his personal life, Nawazuddin said.
He said his mother was overjoyed when she found out that he was playing the title role of Thackeray in the biopic.
"Her happiness is my happiness. That's it," he added.
If things were in his control, he would only do romantic films, he joked.
"I love doing romance. But Anurag Kashyap has spoiled me. He always puts a gun in my hand. My upcoming films 'Roam Rome Mein', 'Photograph' and 'Motichoor' are all romantic and I had a lot of fun working in these," he said.
As a National School of Drama graduate, Nawazuddin has a special connection with the capital.
Asked if he would like to go back to plays, the actor said he is currently enjoying his time at the movies.
"As of now, I'm very happy doing films. If I reach a saturation point, I'll definitely head back to theatre. It is has given me a lot," he said.
Also present at the event were actor Amrita Rao, senior Shiv Sena leader and producer-writer Sanjay Raut and co-producer Urvashi Raut.
"Thackeray" is set to clash with "Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi" this Friday.
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