That, Adil Hussain, the actor can stir up a whole lot of excitement at an event is not a very surprising thing anymore. But a few years ago, we would have gone, ‘who?’ Well, things have changed since then. Agent Vinod was when the film-going public first noticed him and then, after he kicked up a storm in the Abhishek Chaubey directed Ishqiya with his anti-hero act, he became the darling of the Indian media and the public alike.
Lootera, Parched, Force 2, Mukti Bhawan and many films in regional languages followed. His international works include the Italian production Gangor, Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalistamong others. Varied acting experiences such as with the mobile theatre in his home state of Assam to the prestigious Edingburgh Festival where his portrayal of Othello was termed the best piece of acting by The Scotsman, did much largely to hone his craft and put him up there with the best.
I met him recently at the very interesting second edition of the Tasting India Symposium’s Tiffin Talks curated by my former boss, reputed food journalist, Sourish Bhattacharya and film critic Kaveree Bamzai, held at the Chanakya mall’s stylish bar, Noi. When I reached there, Adil was taking a small smoke break outside the venue but was prompt to come inside the moment the session started. That he was already present and did not make a starry late entrance immediately raised him in my esteem.
I think the first film I saw of Adil was the Gauri Shinde directed English Vinglish, about a nervous, anxious housewife played by Sridevi, who doesn’t know English and her attempts to overcome that, rouse much mockery and sneers from her family, especially her husband. Adil played the mean spouse to perfection, something he attributes to his being a follower of the Stanislavski method which makes actors draw upon their personal experiences to deliver a genuine performance. “I grew up in a family of practising misogynists headed by my father and in fact it took me years and many relationships later to emerge from these ideas of the man being superior to a woman. Thankfully my reading of self-discovery books too helped,” he says with a smile.
Endearing, intelligent, passionate, forceful and very erudite were my first impressions when I heard Adil speak. Being in the front row has its advantages, as I could get the best view of the man in action. He spoke about both cinema and cuisine; his prime passions and a bit about reading, another of his interests, as is evident by the tomes of books he has devoured so far. At one point, he got a bit tired of sitting on his chair, so he stood up, apologising and saying that since he is first and foremost a theatre actor, he needed to stand up, as he’s most comfortable doing that. We didnt mind, of course, being in rapt attention to what he spoke about. He not only talked about his fascination for cooking but also gave some insights into the ubiquitous alkaline preparation, ‘khar’ that is so basic to Assamese food.
Born and brought up in Assam’s Goalpara district, Adil always wanted to be an actor and later on came to Delhi to join the National School of Drama and as expected, excelled in his craft under teachers like veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and theatre guru Barry John. Post the session, when I and a few fellow journalists hung out with him, outside the venue, we got yet another glimpse into what this talented man was all about. Easy-going, humble and absolutely not Bollywoodish.
He still lives in Delhi, despite all his work being in Mumbai. Reason being, ” I love it here. I wake up in the morning to the sound and sights of peacocks when I open my windows. You dont get that in Mumbai. Do you?” he asks. He also tells me to watch him in his latest series, Delhi Crime, on Netflix based on the infamous Nirbhaya rape case that sent shockers through the entire nation. When I say, it will probably be too gruesome and that I dont have the stomach for it, he assures me that it’s all fact without any sensationalism or graphic details.
I promise him that I will probably give it a shot. He would be excellent there too, I think, as I say good bye.