Graduating from National School of Drama (NSD), Nawazuddin started working in films from 1999, picking up small roles like a 'terrorist', 'waiter' or a pick pocket.
Things changed post "Kahaani" and "Gangs of Wasseypur" both of which came in 2012 and put him in the mainstream cinema space.
"My struggle is still on. There are so many things that I can't tell you here but I do struggle even today," Nawazuddin says.
"There are a lot of people who want to make films with me, but there are certain things where I still have to put in a lot of effort. The struggle hasn't gone," the actor told PTI.
Post the two movies, Nawazuddin went on to do more off-beat projects, but it was the 2014 release "Kick" which was the first big movie he bagged opposite superstar Salman Khan.
The duo worked again in "Bajrangi Bhaijaan".
Today, the 42-year-old actor has worked with the who's who of Bollywood, including megastar Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and has a film with Shah Rukh Khan, "Raees", due for release.
Yet, Nawazuddin insists, he does not feel like a star.
"I don't feel like a star. The instinct from which I began, I still work with that. I just love the process of filmmaking. When I get a role, the problems I face in it's execution, the struggle, that is interesting to me.
"I still want to keep myself involved in that. I never walk with the baggage of being a star. 'Now look I am doing this scene, because I am a star.' I'll become corrupt then, whatever little I know I won't be able to do."
It is difficult to keep the same intensity alive after almost two decades in the industry, but Nawazuddin says, it is not impossible.
"It is very difficult but one can do it. Even during my theatre days, I used to work exactly the way I do today. I just cannot work thinking 'Oh people look upto me, wow!'. All these are pollution and I don't want that.
"I am an actor, have got a task so even if I have to reherse a 100 times, I'll do it. This is my job, to achieve the extreme possibilities of a scene."
In the process of following his instinct, the actor has developed a strong fan following who might consider watching an out-an-out commercial film just because he is starring in it, and Nawazuddin is aware of that.
"Yes, I do get know that there is a fan following, I won't be that modest. They like me because I didn't do it keeping in mind the fan following I have. People will keep appreciating me as long as I stay loyal to my job and instinct.