In love with acting

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In love with acting

One would remember him as Satish Godbole, the snobbish, corporate honcho husband of Shashi Godbole in English Vinglish who looks down on his entrepreneur wife (Sridevi) because she cannot speak fluent English. His roster is impressive but brief with films like For Real, Reluctant Fundamentalist, Life of Pi, Agent Vinod, Lootera, Main Aur Charles and even a Tamil film.

Tall, dark and handsome. Doesn’t that sound like the hero walking out of the pages of an Mills & Boons potboiler? Perhaps, but there’s much more to actor Adil Hussain than this image. He is an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD) where he teaches, too. Here is an excerpt from an interview with the actor with an attitude:

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 were of great interest to me. Here I enjoyed stand-up comedian Ratan Shankar’s act very much, and back home, I’d imitate him. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was regarded as an established actor in school. But my father, a teacher, was opposed to my love for acting.

How did NSD happen?

While in school, I got a brochure of NSD and thought 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 didn’t complete my course and managed to get into the last batch where NSD allowed non-graduates to join. My life changed forever.

How did your first Bengali feature film ‘Iti Srikanto’ happen?

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 in Iti Srikanto. It happened like magic. But I am not a Bengali. I am from Assam. My first film was In Othello, an English film which was a cinema version of the staged play.

You disappeared from view after that debut...

I didn’t get a single film assignment after Iti Srikanto. Thankfully, I worked in a television serial called Jasoos Vijay for a 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. Then Ishqiya happened and life took another big turn.

Among the Bollywood films that you have done, which director has impressed you the most?

I have learnt different things from different filmmakers. 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 can’t do anything about it.

Besides, cinema is shot haphazardly and not sequentially like we do in theatre. You don’t 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, it’s called Crash Test Aglae, directed by Eric Gravel. Basically, it’s 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 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.
Shoma A Chatterji

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