Sunday, December 16, 2012

Homegrown star’s homecoming

Adil Hussain needs no introduction as he has been able to book a sizeable space of his own in the world of acting — be it theatre or cinema. In addition to winning the best actor award in the New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Festival (NJISACF) for Lessons in Forgetting, he has the rare honour of featuring in three films, including Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, which were screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa, including the opening and closing film.

A scene from his latest Assamese film Sringkhal with co-actor Badal Das. Pix: Abdul Gani
The actor, who is the face of the region in the national film scene and beyond, is set to work in an Assamese movie after 22 years. In an exclusive conversation with Abdul Gani, while shooting for the Prabin Hazarika directed Sringkhal*, Hussain recounts his experiences.

Q. What does it feel like doing your first ever Assamese film as lead character?
A. It feels like coming home after a long hiatus. I have started my life with Assamese films way back in 1982. The last one was in 1988 — Pita-Putra. I’m returning to the scene after 22 years. I don’t have to act here — all I need to do is be myself. I’m so deeply attached emotionally with the atmosphere here in Assam that characters like these come naturally to me. And of course, playing the lead feels good. When I entered the film industry, I never expected to be in the lead, al- though I wanted to be, because I was just a 19 year old guy then. My understanding of acting was not enough during that period. Now, I think I’m equipped to do a decent job — to bring a three dimensional character into a role. The expectations w ill be high. People have seen m e in films all these years, so t hey will definitely be watching c ritically. I hope to bring a deg ree of reality to the film.

Adil Hussain. Pix: Abdul Gani
Q Why did you choose to do Sringkhal?
A. I THINK I’m lucky to be a part of a film which has such a beautiful and simple storyline. At present, I have not seen many similar movies anywhere. Story telling which comes from your heart is the key. This is the kind of the film in which Prabin da’s heart is urging him to tell a story. I have known Prabin da for a long time. When I read the script I was blown over. It is a script like Artist. It has that kind of simplicity. It has always been very difficult to write a straightforward script. Prabin da has been involved with the story for a long time so he could prepare it so lucidly.

Q. How has the transition from Life Of Pi to Sringkhal been?
A. As an actor my job is to respect and to accommodate different kinds of situations, roles, ideas and people. The inner flexibility of ideas is important. And now I’m Kalidas, an Assamese guy. Every character I play is always more of me. The character is not outside of you. When you are playing different characters, you are merely discovering unexplored sides of your personality. The areas which we do not get to encounter in our day-today life, we do it through our roles in films. That’s the fun part, and that is why I act.

Q. How do you cope with your newly gained celebrity status?
A. I think it is part of my profession. When I used to do theatre, I was known to people who were associated with theatre and the people who watched it. But film being a farreaching medium, the public began recognising me. When I was at the Chandigarh airport before coming to Guwahati, I was giving autographs and photographs for one hour. I have to face my consequences gracefully. But I have faced more such situations in Delhi, Mumbai or in Chandigarh than in Guwahati.

Q. How has working with Ang Lee and Mira Nair been like?
A. The first thing I noticed about them is their meticulous planning and precise execution. Their eyes are so trained that they notice the details in everything. They will go to any extent to get it perfect in every sense of the word. The second and the important part is that they are so humble. Ang Lee is the most humble person I have ever met in my life so far. He does not even consider himself as director. That was indeed a great learning period for me. I think every director in India should attend a workshop to understand what direction means.

Q. What do you think of Assam as a film destination?
A. Let me just say that I will try my best to project it in a positive light. Assam, and the entire Northeast, is a fantastic place to shoot films. There are innumerous locations here. But the government should also take responsibility in this regard. The first thing is to project Assam as a safe place. There are number of bandhs taking place every month. So such an unpredictable situation is not very good for any production company. The professional groups of outside would rather prefer other places where the government takes responsibility to clear permissions and red tape. The government here abdicates this responsibility.

Q. You did an ad for Tanishq right?
A. They called me and I asked them to send me the script. I liked it and did it. But I’m very particular about the product. I’m not going to advertise for drinks like Pespi or Coca Cola because I do not believe in these products. I will endorse products in which I believe.

Q. Tell us about your next projects?
A. Recently, I shot a film based on a 12th century story set in Punjab. I’m not allowed to speak about it. Then, there is Blemish Light, an Indo-American production for which shooting starts from December 11. It has a very strong story. Besides that, I’m also featuring in a Bengali film — Kasher Dewal with Rupa Ganguly. After that there is another film called Feast of Varanashi, a British-Indian production. The shoot of Sunrise starts from March next year.
* Sringkhal is based on the story of Bhabendra Nath Saikia by the same name.


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