Adil Hussain: In love with the craft of acting
Tall, dark and handsome. Doesn't that sound like the hero walking out of the pages of an M and B potboiler? Perhaps, but there's much more to actor Adil Hussain than this image. He is an alumnus of the National School of Drama where he teaches too. Shoma A. Chatterji in a tete-a-tete with the actor with an attitudeOne would remember him as Satish Godbole, the snobbish, corporate honcho husband of Shashi Godbole inEnglish Vinglishwho looks down on his entrepreneur wife (Sridevi) because she cannot speak fluent English. His roster is impressive but brief with films likeFor Real(English),Reluctant Fundamentalist(English),Agent Vinod(Hindi) and even a Tamil film
Excerpts from an interview:
Let us hear a bit about your background
I come from a family of academics and was brought up in Goalpara, Assam. When I was in school, the cultural programmes organised for the Bihu festival near our house was a great point of interest for me. Here I enjoyed stand-up comedian Ratan Shankars act very much and back home, Id imitate him. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I was regarded as an established actor in school. But my father, a teacher, was opposed to my love for acting.
Why then did you choose Philosophy for your graduation?
I felt I should know how we are what we are; existential questions bogged me. But I didnt enjoy the way teachers taught us and chose to do more theatre than attend classes. I won the Best Actor Award for my comic performance in a play calledShingher Hashi the Laugh of the Lion, performed as part of the Bhaya Mama Group.
How did the National School of Drama happen?
While in school, I got a brochure of the NSD and thought that I would apply in the future. This urge was triggered by a single question why was it that when there are two actors performing on stage, I like one better than the other? This question bothered me a lot. I didnt complete my course and managed to get into the last batch where NSD allowed non-graduates to join. My life changed forever.
You also won the Charles Wallace Scholarship from the British Council to do a six-month course
To be frank, I wasnt very happy with what I was learning in London. I felt I had learnt much more at NSD where the course was more comprehensive and inclusive. The Drama School in London was preparing me for the market and failed to answer my questions.
Which plays you enjoyed most while working at NSD?
The plays that shaped me into an actor are Uttar Ramcharitrambased on Bhavabhutis original Sanskrit play, Dr. Faust, Three Penny Opera, Three SistersandCherry Orchard.
How did your first Bengali feature filmIti Srikantohappen?
I was at the IFFI in Delhi, in 2000, I think, when a gentleman asked me if I was a Bengali. He was director Anjan Das who chose me to play the lead inIti Srikanto. It happened like magic. But I am not a Bengali. I am from Assam. My first film wasIn Othello, an English film which was a cinema version of the staged play.
You disappeared from view after that debut. What happened?
I didnt get a single film assignment afterIti Srikanto. Thankfully, I worked in a television serial calledJasoos Vijayfor one year and the money I made went into a kind of self-introspection with a group of theatre actors. We settled down on a river island in Hampi for three-and-a-half years working on the craft of acting. We were trying to touch the creative reservoir within us. ThenIshquiyanhappened and life took another big turn. I loved working with Abhishek Choudhary. He is a sensible director who knows the craft of filmmaking very well. Vidya Balan was a lovely person to work with also.
You have also done two recent Bengali films
I finished shooting forKaancher Dewaal. Then there is Arindam SilsHar Har Byomkeshin which I do a small cameo. I love Kolkata because it has opened a new window to the world. In the course of my work in Assamese films not only as an actor but also as a producer, I had to come to Kolkata often in the late 1970s and mid 1980s to buy raw stock, equipment for production etc. I would fill my empty hours by practically living in the theatre halls of the city. Watching Sambhu Mitra, Kumar Roy, Utpal Dutt, Rudraprasad Sengupta and the rest was an amazing experience. It was one of the richest learning experiences of my life. I could see how much of hard work and commitment had gone into their work to come up with such historic performances.
Among the Bollywood films that you have done, which director has impressed you the most?
I have learnt different things from different filmmakers and like their individual approaches. I have done both theatre and cinema. Basically, projections in both television and cinema remains the same. Having said that, I find cinema quite scary because whatever I do in front of the camera is frozen for life and you cant do anything about it. Besides, cinema is shot haphazardly and not sequentially like we do in theatre. You dont exactly know how you are being presented by the camera because the end product is made up of contributions of many people and the actor has little control over it.
You are shooting for a French film now
Yes, its calledCrash Test Aglaedirected by Eric Gravel. Basically its a road movie shot in France, Poland and Kazhakistan and now India. I play a transvestite doctor who provides shelter to a French girl who has journeyed to India and suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The two of us the transvestite doctor and this French girl connect on the level that we are two weirdos and find common ground in our alienation from mainstream society. I am the narrator as well as one of the two main characters but the girl plays the lead.