Vidya Balan’s tough husband in Ishqiya, a Pakistani ISI colonel in Agent Vinod, Sridevi’s careless husband in English Vinglish and Pi’s father in Life of Pi — promising is an understatement for few-movies-old actor Adil Hussain.
After a two-hour long interview, the man behind the face leaves you smitten. And you’re ready to forget that he is 49.
Back to reality, we get conversing about Oscar-winning film, Life of Pi. “When you are working with Ang Lee, you expect the awards. Unexpected was the amazing business the film did. I haven’t read the novel though. Unfortunately, I’m not getting the time to read books nowadays,” says he and adds, “I love reading. It’s such an intimate moment when the book resonates within you. It’s almost like meeting your lover when you first fall in love.”
Does he feel the same way about acting? “As a kid, I used to act because I loved the attention. Then I got introduced to the feeling of timelessness while being on stage. It’s crazy how time passes. This entire relativity, perception of time, was never experienced by me till I did my first play. That’s the best thing about being an actor; people mistake it for fame. Time stands still and you start living in the moment. The power of now makes you happy for reasons unknown.”
Remembering even happier days, those spent in Hampi (2003 to 2007), before doing Ishqiya (2008), Hussain says, “The best time of my life was in Hampi, a village in north Karnataka, where I went with three students of NSD who wanted to learn acting from me. We needed space and found 22 acres of land generously offered to us by the descendents of King Ramadevan Raya. We made our huts and lived there with the river, rocks, trees, butterflies, squirrels, scorpions, leopards, snakes and bears, without electricity. I lived in harmony.”
Still a visiting faculty at NSD, Hussain humbly shares, “I have a lot of well wishers who think I’m a good actor. Those who have seen my play Othello — which I have been doing for the past 10 years across the world — keep recommending my name to people in India. So, they are practically my bread and butter. The first person to cast me was Jogi ji in Ishqiya. I recorded a video where I asked my wife to play Vidya’s role. Similarly, one of my students asked me to send a video for English Vinglish’s role, and casting director Dilip Shankar, my current guru, cast me for international films such as Life of Pi and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
About his upcoming projects, he adds, “Though I’m a trained clown and a comedian, people think of me as serious actor. Now, I’m finally taking up comedy in an upcoming film by Ranjeet Kapoor. I have also recently shot a Bengali movie, two Assamese movies, a high-profile movie on a great saint, Aditya Bhattacharya’s thriller BMW (Bombay’s Most Wanted), Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Lesson’s in Forgetting and the Indo-American film, Blemished Light.”
Post Agent Vinod, the actor says he ends up saying no to at least one script every week. “I have to be choosy. Otherwise, why would I act if I’m not enjoying it?”
Ask him who Adil Hussain really is and, after a demure smile and a pause, he says, “I’m someone who knows what he feels, wants and aims to get wider, larger, bigger, yet lighter. That’s how the Brihaspati grah is, that’s how stars are — they give you light yet make you feel lighter. This is how the necessity of my life becomes beautiful.”
The actor is currently shooting in Patiala for a film by Oscar-winning Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic, with actor Emraan Hashmi