Wild Cards: Nawazuddin Siddiqui
No Bollywood actor has ever associated themselves with poker. What led you to take this decision of collaborating with PokerStars India?
I have been very curious about poker for a while now because it looks easy to learn and understand but requires skill, spontaneity, wit, and a good presence of mind to fully master it, which will keep me motivated while I continue to learn the game. PokerStars India has a brilliant global lineage and I am proud to be associated with one of the most popular and trusted poker brands in the world. It offers players a large range of tournaments and games, excellent 24-hour customer support, and top software and security. They really stand out for me.
The game is mostly condemned as illegal by a lot of people. Why do you think this is the case? What would you like to do on your part to change this misconception?
Gambling is illegal in India, but poker is a skill-based game. It involves many calculations, observing your fellow players’ behaviour and interpreting a lot of information to make the best decisions. Of course, variance sometimes means that you might lose some hands even with good cards, but overall if you choose the right strategy then it is possible to maximise your chances of being successful. I believe that poker is a fascinating game, always offering something new to learn and I am looking forward to showing people this as I continue my poker education journey.
From Sarfarosh to Manto to Thackeray, you’ve done some phenomenal and diverse roles. How would you encapsulate your acting journey?
My core training is from the theatre. During my theatre days, we would experiment a lot with plays, and I continue to do that today. Right from Sarfarosh up until now, all the characters I have played are neither cliché nor typical Bollywood. I have always believed in experimenting with my roles and it is my personal responsibility and my journey. I am only truly satisfied and I want to explore new dimensions with every new character that I play. I have been conscious about the fact that I don’t play typical hero characters and it must be something different every time right from the start of my career. I have always believed in this philosophy and hence I have been able to play characters like Thackrey, Manto etc., and it has also led to the makers approaching me with interesting scripts. It is because of this I feel good about the fact that I am not a part of any race. I am leading my own journey that I enjoy.
You have also been a part of Sacred Games, and now you are working on the second season as well. How has the experience been so far as Ganesh Gaitonde?
See, Ganesh Gaitone is a greyish character, and this is an outcome of working with Anurag Kashyap. Whenever Anurag and I work together, we always experiment and attempt to find something over and above what we have already done before. Ganesh Gaitone, too, is an outcome of an experiment we did together.
As an actor, what do you feel is the difference between acting in films and a television or web series?
I am not too familiar with acting on television, but web series are experimenting so much and have brought about a huge change in the film’s acting method. I have watched a lot of web series, they have a standard of their own which they maintain.
Web series gives us the time to explore a character, so we can pay attention to smaller minute details like subtle characteristics, behaviour patterns, etc. So, I feel this is the difference.
McMafia is also in your kitty now where you play a Mumbai ganglord, any memorable stories from the set you would like to share with us?
McMafia’s entire team was extremely professional. I clearly remember one incident. There was this one day when I reached the set for the shoot and everyone on the set was quiet. I was not aware of what had happened, so I waited for a while. Say about 10–15 minutes. After that, I asked if something had happened and why is everyone so quiet? I was told they were waiting for me and will shoot whenever I am ready. I was pleasantly surprised at this level of professionalism. I still remember that day. When an actor gets to work in such an atmosphere, he can give his best.
Do you think it is possible for someone to play both poker and work a regular 9-to-5 job, or in your case, act?
Yes, absolutely. As a skill-based mind game, it is possible to enjoy poker as a hobby, just as some people play chess. It can also help improve your decisionmaking, maths, and calculation skills too. If you play online, there are many different types of poker games available. Poker Stars offers a wide variety of secure game and tournament formats so you can always find something that fits with the amount of time you have to spare, and whether you want to play with chips or real money.
Other than acting, what else do you enjoy?
In my free time, I love exploring world cinema. And, of course, enjoying the time I get with my family.
What is your future strategy for the game? Is there a world tournament series you want to win, perhaps?
I am excited to see the growth of the game in India and I am looking forward to being part of helping more people truly understand it as one that develops multiple skills in people. There are many great tournament series all over the world to play in such as the Poker Stars-sponsored EPT series, with stops like the EPT Barcelona in August. It would be great to go and experience one of them.
We are sure you are working on some more interesting and exciting projects, what can we expect from you on the acting front?
Currently, I am concentrating on my brother’s film – Bole Chudiyaan.