A lot of actors have written memoirs of their life. But most of them have treaded cautiously while writing about their love affairs or about their equation with their colleagues or co-stars. There were some exceptions though. For instance, Dilip Kumar wrote about his tumultuous equation with Madhubala but then this is a different case as it’s quite an old one and also the actress is no more. Akshay Kumar has in fact said that he won’t like to write about his life since he doesn’t want to hurt anyone.
In this regard, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s autobiography An Ordinary Life: A Memoir stands out. The talented actor has written in detail about hooking up with a waitress in New York and also his relationship with a New Jersey-based girl, Suzanne, who used to extend her visa so that she can spend more time with Nawazuddin. He also narrates how he cheated on her and had a no-strings-attached affair with his Miss Lovely co-actor Niharika Singh. He further also tells how Niharika would write to Suzanne from his email account since she wanted to end Nawaz’s relationship with Suzanne. Nawazuddin however also makes it clear that he was quite selfish who only wanted to sleep with Niharika. Excerpts:
Strangely, the West was kinder to me first, both in terms of love and work. I gained recognition there through my films which travelled to most festivals. I was at a cafe once with my friend in New York City’s Soho area. The stunning waitress kept staring at me. ‘Boss, you’re all set!’ My friend chuckled. I was not used to such attention, especially from the female kind. ‘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, at least in my case. As you can probably guess from the titles of the films, this is a memory that happened way down the line when I had tasted the sweet nectar of success.
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. By then, Shamas and I had moved to Yari Road. Every few months, she kept extending her visa. It was a very sweet relationship. She was so lovely that the idea of marriage had begun to cross my mind, first in fleeting thoughts, and then slowly they turned into a decision. At the very last minute when I was about to propose, as if reading my mind, Suzanne said, ‘In my country it is divorce season right now.’ It was winter, famous for festivals and infamous for breakups in the West. Her brother had just gotten a divorce. Perhaps that was why she was afraid of marriage. ‘Let’s wait and watch what we want to do. Let’s see if we want to live together or not after a year,’ she said quietly. I was bewildered. Without telling her, I dropped the idea of marriage altogether.
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. When the director said, ‘Cut!’, she quietly rushed to her vanity van and stayed there. Something seemed to have happened to her. She was suddenly cold, went out of her way to maintain a distance from me and began to keep mum. I was puzzled. What was wrong with her? What had happened? 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. She responded that nothing had happened. I silenced my curiosity. I simply urged her to talk, be more social, that it was not healthy to be so quiet. After some days she began to. I invited her over for a home-cooked meal, a mutton dish which was my specialty. She politely agreed and came over. The dish I had made for her turned out to be absolutely terrible. But she was too well mannered to say so. 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. I rang the doorbell, slightly nervous. 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.
During the early days I wanted to impress her. I was a struggler but by then I had managed to get a car, a second-hand one, but a car nevertheless. She lived in Malad, I lived in Yari Road. There was this time when she had to come to Yari Road for some work. I told her that I would fetch her in my car. I decked myself up in my best clothes, sprinkled cologne and drove off to her place with a song in my heart. She sat inside, we drove off and bam! In the middle of the way, the cranky old car decided to break down. Since then, she blatantly said she would not sit in my car because it was not to be trusted, she would go in her own car instead.
Such last-minute setbacks had become a pattern for me from all ends. My love life had become a Siamese twin of my work life. I worked so diligently on getting girls and films. A momentum would build up and then, bam, lady luck would slap me on the face in both cases. I would be selected for a role, the costumes would be finalized and I would be flying on cloud nine that now I will become an established actor, and then, just like that, out of nowhere, would come a phone call cancelling my part or me in that role, right at the very last minute. I wondered why this happened to me. I still do when I look back.
Anyway, coming back to the story, in the meantime, emails from Suzanne started coming. ‘Why are you not mailing me, Nawaz? What’s wrong?’ I did not respond, I did not have the courage to. 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.’ ‘No, Niharika, nothing is going on between us. Sometimes her emails come, that’s all. Slowly she will realize that Nawaz is not interested and she will stop emailing,’ I explained softly. ‘No, Nawaz! You must maintain clarity,’ she said. ‘All right! I will email her clearly then,’ I said. ‘No, you won’t. So I will email her,’ she said sternly.
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 like: ‘What happened, Nawaz? Please tell me, Nawaz! . . . I am crying, Nawaz! Tell me, please.’ It was absolutely awful. I simply could not endure it! It was as if she was screaming, crying out aloud helplessly in unbearable pain. It was apparent that the emails had some sort of a multiple personality disorder. 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. Somebody else is with you,’ she wrote back. Imagine her plight—helplessly trying to solve a mystery from another continent and her only clues were those few emails. ‘Somebody else is making you write these emails. Tell me who is this person?’ she wrote. ‘Who is she? Who is this bitch?’
‘Bitch!’ That word infuriated Niharika so much that she made me end all correspondence with Suzanne forever, then and there. I was very sad. Then I thought, so be it, it’s all right, I am with Niharika. My melancholy evaporated quickly.
Niharika was an intelligent girl. Being an actor herself meant that she knew and understood my struggle for work. Sure, my life was better but I was still running around from office to office, showing my face, talking, asking for roles, giving auditions. I spent all day hopping around like this. She would call me in frequent spurts throughout the day demanding to know of my whereabouts. She insisted that I tell her all the spots I would be at on that particular day. I was very touched with how much she cared for me. Soon enough though, the romance of the concern faded. The regularity of the questions felt like being nagged non-stop, and I began to get rather annoyed. She, on the other hand, did not have to run all over the place like me. She was being serenaded by several offers; she had the luxury of choice. I did not. So I expected compassion, I expected empathy.
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 bastard. 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. I said I wouldn’t repeat my mistakes again. I would be more thoughtful, a better lover. But she remained adamant. She had had enough. She had been hurt too many times. 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.
Excerpts from An Ordinary Life: A Memoir, by Nawazuddin Siddiqui with Rituparna Chatterjee, and published by Penguin Random House India