On Sunday, Nawazuddin Siddiqui travelled to Gehlore in Bihar, the birthplace of Darshrath Manjhi, the man who cut a road through a mountain with his bare hands and a chisel.
The actor was accorded a son’s welcome.
Emotionally wrenched by the experience Nawaz says, “They look at me as the real Dashrath Manjhi. The entire village calls me ‘Baba’, as they used to call Manjhi. It is unreal. I’ve never in my entire career been so deeply affected by any role. I’ve poured the entire reservoir of emotions at my disposal into playing this part.”
At Gehlore, locals line up to gaze at ‘Manjhi’. Nawaz says he is not daunted by the attention. “I have established some kind of a connect with Manjhi’s soul. It is not a normal rapport between actor and character. And the locals, his family friends and villagers who knew Manjhi personally sense how deeply I am connected with Manjhi. We could make this film only because Manjhi’s village, the people close to him, believed in me and the project.”
Director Ketan Mehtta says it was Nawaz and no one else for the film.
For once Nawaz forgets to be modest. “I don’t think I’d have been able to bear anyone else playing Manjhi. The role is mine. It was always meant to be mine. This film and my role are destiny.”