‘I don’t understand the term ‘saleable’ actor’: Adil Hussain

EYE FOR DETAIL Adil Hussain understood the patriarchal mindset of the character | Photo Credit: AFP
Adil Hussain on playing a Pakistani father in What Will People Say and the feudal concept of stardom in Bollywood

Adil Hussain is a man for all seasons. Whether it is the staunch husband in English Vinglish, or an obedient son in Mukti Bhawan, his nuanced portrayal of characters sets him apart from other supporting actors in the country. His film What Will People Say, a Norwegian-Urdu drama, directed by the Oslo-based Iram Haq was screened at the recently concluded Dharamshala Film Festival where he also conducted a masterclass. Story of a Pakistani teenager growing up in Norway whose parents are conservative and old-fashioned, the film shows the relationship between the father played by Adil and Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) as they grapple with issues in the adopted land.
Excerpts:

How did you get involved with What Will People Say?

I was informed by Sikhya Entertainment regarding a filmmaker from Norway after which I had a video chat with Iram Haq. I could sense the honesty and transparency she possesses through the call. The way she had written the story of a girl and her relationship with her parents, the tortures she went through, would have taken courage and that is why I instantly said yes.

Was it difficult to play a Pakistani man?

I do not see much difference in the cultures. Growing up in India or Pakistan would have been same unless you go to extreme West of Pakistan. Iram’s father was born in Rajasthan and Iram was born in Oslo and there was no difference in the way they would have understood the situation. The challenge was to make sure that I should be strict and loving at the same time to my daughter in the film. Fathers, everywhere in the world, think that they have to have the last word and that no one can dare to disobey them. I am also a father I know that it comes from the patriarchal mindset that we imbibe. Emotional responses are also constructed and that is what I have portrayed through my character in the film.

How different the experience was in comparison to working in India?

I have worked with humble directors like Danis Tanović and Ang Lee. In India too, I was fortunate that I did not face any dictatorial directors. But I keep hearing stories of such directors here (laughs). The reason is that in India, we live in an almost feudal system and film fraternity didn’t come from Mars. It is the product of our own society and that is why these things keep happening.

Do you consider yourself a director's actor?

I am a director’s actor especially in cinema because a film is a director’s medium. Every little fraction in the film has to be there on the director’s call. On stage, I am a very autonomous person and I experiment with myself. The director has to be a collaborator as there are various people working at the same time which needs to be coordinated.

How do you see the concept of stardom in Bollywood?

As long as glamour and gloss are associated with films, we cannot expect it to shape into something meaningful. In society, there is a criminal difference between the rich and the poor in terms of opportunities. In such a country, you cannot expect anything but stardom. They consider stars to be gods as only gods can have that kind of opulence that a star possesses in the country. Stardom mystifies cinema, and we have to demystify it. The fact that a film needs a lot of money to be made is a fundamental flaw in the medium. Until it becomes cheaper, we cannot expect a revolution.

Do you consider yourself as a bankable actor?

Absolutely not! (laughs) I just do not understand this term ‘bankable’ or ‘saleable’ as if I am a commodity. It is a fact that I am getting respect from Bollywood filmmakers. The respectability that I have got is because of the kind of films which I have done here and most of the time, people approached me for it. I decide to work in any Bollywood project because of the money that they offer me and also who all are associated with the film like I did Aiyyari because of Neeraj Pandey and Robot 2 because of Rajnikanth as I always wanted to share screen space with him. I know many actors who pretend to be humble but Rajinikanth is the humblest star. I have not met anyone who comes even close to him.

You also got a National Award for Mukti Bhawan. How important are awards and recognition for you?

Getting an award does not mean that suddenly I become a better actor but at the same time, it is how it works (laughs). Recognition is like cherry on the cake and if it comes, it helps.

But there were some controversies around them this year…

The trouble is that the National Awards are not given by computers but by human beings. Mrinal Sen as the head of a jury will select one kind of films and Priyadarshan as the head will allow his taste to decide — which is acceptable. It is about perspectives and nothing more than that. If someone asks my opinion, I would say that the awards should go to independently made meaningful cinema.

Shed some light on your upcoming projects…

I have done a small role in the film with Danish Renzu titled The Illegal which deals with the issue of illegal immigrants in the US. Love Sonia is an eventful film which starts here goes to Los Angeles via Hong Kong and it is an important story of child trafficking which is something happening around us and we really do not talk about it. And in Aiyyari and Robot 2, I am playing small but integral parts which I love doing as they pay a lot! (laughs)
Source-The Hindu

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