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Danish Husain: I’d mimic my professors at Delhi School of Economics and people liked that a lot

For actor-director Danish Husain, acting came as a way to enrich his life; the artist gets talking.

bollywood Updated: Apr 12, 2018 19:29 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
Danish Husain,Bollywood,Theatre
Danish Husain recently visited Delhi and Gurugram to perform Qissebaazi, a multilingual story project.

Ditching a corporate job to try his hand at acting is a decision that Danish Husain is proud of. The actor-director, who featured in Rajkummar Rao-starrer Newton last year, says he had nothing to do with acting till the age of 30.

“I worked in banks for five-and-a-half years. It wasn’t something I enjoyed doing. I was quite mediocre all my life; there wasn’t anything I was good at. I couldn’t sing to save my life, couldn’t play any instrument or sport. That’s when my exploration to do something else began. I realised, when I was in college (Delhi School of Economics), I’d mimic my professors, and people used to like that a lot. I was great at freshers and farewell parties... I thought, maybe I could perform and act (smiles),” he says.

Husain recently visited Delhi and Gurugram to perform Qissebaazi, a multilingual story project, where each story is performed bilingually — core language of the text and other a bridge language. Hindi and English invariably become the bridge language. Stories include The Episode of Ijlal Jadoo and Amar Aiyyaar (Tilism-e-Hoshruba), Unniarchha: The Female Warrior.

“If I have to do storytelling, [then] why do just two stories? And I wanted to expand on the work that I had done during Dastangoi (storytelling) days. So, I picked up stories from every language of this country and brought them to stage, whether [from] oral tradition or literary tradition. I didn’t want a story to be performed in a language followed by a translation, but a seamless performance, [like] how we are in real life. Besides Sanskrit, Hindi, Malyalam, and Urdu, we have a Marathi, Punjabi story, and are in the process of developing a Bengali story,” says Husain, who has taken the production to several Indian cities, and also to University of Michigan (USA), Columbia University (New York), and Harvard University, Boston.

A still from Qissebaazi.

Husain started his career in theatre with director Barry John and went on to work names such as Habib Tanvir, MS Sathyu, MK Raina, Sunil Shanbag, Sabina Mehta Jaitly, and Naseeruddin Shah. “I had not followed theatre and did not know where to go. In 1998-99, Barry John had become famous and (his disciples) Shah Rukh Khan and Manoj Bajpayee had become great stars by then. I could just think of fame and called him. I was lucky that each time I’d perform on stage, somebody would notice me and offer me a role,” says the artist.

Credited with Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar for reviving the lost art form of Urdu storytelling Dastangoi, Husain says people shouldn’t confuse storytelling with a “standardised” way of someone sitting and telling a story. “It is essentially about how you spin the narrative. It’s not about understanding stories in a limited form — beginning, middle and an end. It’s about a narrative that holds you, has a canvas, and a storyline. At some point, you realise the power of words, speech, truth and how do you bring that effectively in what you are doing, whether it’s performing on stage, writing, or a social gathering,” he says.

Looking back now, from writing, directing theatrical productions, namely Guards At The Taj, Qissa Urdu Ki Aakhiri Kitaab Ka, Qissebaazi (2016), to starring in films such as Ankhon Dekhi (2013) and Peepli Live (2013), Husain has done it all. Asked about his go-to medium as a creative person, he responds, “Nature of things changes as you dabble from one medium to another. But, If I’m enjoying a dessert, I wouldn’t necessary be thinking about Nihari or baigan bharta at that time (laughs). I wouldn’t be mixing that flavour with what I’m doing right now. I enjoy all the work I do, right from stage acting, storytelling, poetry performances, writing to cinema acting.”

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First Published: Apr 12, 2018 19:28 IST