Road to Salvation

Hussain had already done four feature films in Assam before joining the NSD and was the lead in the first telefilm broadcast from the Assamese Doordarshan Kendra. NSD would jolt him out of his complacency. The strains of a father-son relationship laid threadbare by the many complicacies of a lower middle class set-up is something Hussain has showcased in his latest film, Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation). I bought a bike for Rs 20,000-odd and saved the rest, plus some cash for the Madhya Pradesh trip with Tyabji,” says Hussain. But, I had questions about that brand of politics as well. Thankfully, acting helped me have a separate identity above all else.”

Assam’s charged political climate at the time resulted in not just the Assam agitation, but also the Nellie massacre in 1983. The wisdom of the tribal people he met during the trip affected his worldview. I don’t know why they give me these serious roles constantly,” he says. He puts me on my toes. “My youngest classmate was 17 and I was 27. He had other issues, too, to resolve, in particular his “huge ego”. It’s basically a concise version of the Gita in ordinary English,” he says. He wanted me to be an English professor at a local college, get married, produce children and die. I was also trained as a clown. Or, should I listen to my inner calling, my swadharma, and be an actor?” he says. “I’m his fan because I think he’s the only actor in India who follows the philosophy that an actor should disappear in everyday life. You’re becoming complacent,’ he says,” says Hussain. Express photo by Abhinav Saha
As Adil Hussain settles down in his Greater Kailash apartment in Delhi for a conversation, his seven-year-old son Kabir bounds into the room. Early in his life, he moulded his identity as a performer, choosing to assert what he felt was his true calling over a safer, more conventional “role” of a settled man with a secure job and a family. NSD happened in 1990 and, afterwards, he went to Drama Studio London for a six-month acting course. “I think I was the first to mimic Amitabh Bachchan in the country at the time. It wasn’t exactly a small-scale success story. Again, he had to choose. I owe him a lot and I keep going back every year. There’s an island on the Tungabhadra, near Hampi, where Hussain is hoping to spend some days, working on his voice for a play directed by Dilip Shankar in collaboration with his guru from Puducherry. After his stint in London, he felt “like I didn’t know anything at all about the craft.” He sought out Khalid Tyabji, his NSD mentor, and asked for help. “Yes, it had been a strained relationship. My father didn’t want me to be an actor. His trips to Madhya Pradesh in 1995 and 1996 remain close to Hussain’s heart. It was very disturbing. “I went to Aurobindo Ashram to work with my acting teacher. I was coming from a culture where, even if you are a year older, you are addressed with the suffix ‘dada’. While growing up, almost all his friends were non-Muslims and he never felt the need to assert his faith. One is tempted to ask if Hussain consciously wants to normalise his acting career, with all its frills, to his young son, in ways his father never did. It was a role tailormade for Hussain. “So, I always had a blurry line in terms of my identity. Hussain’s father passed away in 2003, but “he saw a bit of what I had achieved before that.” The BBC had interviewed him when he went to England for a play. “I am a born comedian. Hussain chose the latter, but when he first began, he had taken a circuitous route to acting. As recently as in 2014, Hussain was offered the chance to contest elections by the ruling party in the state. That Goalpara lay on the border of Bangladesh and West Bengal also meant that Bengali cultural influences were predominant. He didn’t speak to me for years,” he says. Born in Goalpara, Assam, Hussain was always aware of his Muslim identity. “The essential understanding of Islam is that your ishq-e-illahi — the love for the divine — shouldn’t be shown off or displayed,” he says. First, I’m going to learn the traditional way of establishing connection between breath and emotion from a Koodiyattam guru in Kerala. Directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani, the film has gotten Hussain a special mention at the National Awards this year. ‘You think you’re a good actor? Does he still have the same problem? It was humbling to act alongside him,” he says. From ’85 till the ’90s, just before he left for National School of Drama (NSD), Hussain was part of the very popular group. My eldest brother practised communism, I was part of IPTA. Here, they would go, ‘Aye Adil, tu idhar aa!’ or a 21-year-old would say, ‘Arey, tumko nahi samajh mein aa raha hai!’,” he says. 2017-04-16T00:29:50+00:00″>
Updated: April 16, 2017 12:29 am

Actor Adil Hussain at his Greater Kailash 1 Enclave residence in Delhi, on Monday, April 03, 2017. Hussain asks him if he wants to sit in on the interview, but Kabir wants to play badminton instead. He spent some time in Puducherry, too, in between. “It’s a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the brink of war. He joined Dhrubojit Kishore Chowdhury, a well-known stand-up comedian who had formed a group called Bhaya Mama. His maternal grandfather was from Iraq. “I’m sure some of it is still there, but, hopefully, most of it has gone,” he says, with a laugh. Imitation, I guess, is the first step towards acting,” he says. Afterwards, he took off to the river island of Hampi — first, in 1998, and, later in 2004 — where he gave lessons in acting. With a slew of releases lined up in multiple languages, from Norwegian to Tamil and Bengali, Hussain already has his next few travel plans in place. I rebelled. It was travel, he says, that brought him the clarity he needed in life. This was besides his theatre work and the raging success of his stand-up comic group. “Almost 10,000 people would be waiting at even two in the night for our shows,” he says. For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App now He will also soon be seen in Enthiran 2, with Rajinikanth. Though the idea of death runs through the film, the director “also wanted it to be about life and its quirks”. “I’m taking a break from May 14 for a year. “I was definitely at the receiving end of the politics of the time back home. Every actor draws from personal relationships, he tells me in response. “I asked myself if I am an activist, would I be helping someone by my political work? His father saw it and said, “You must be doing something good.” “I told him, ‘You trust the BBC, but not your son!’ He laughed, but I was definitely a bit sad,” says Hussain. There will be a family vacation afterwards, and then, it’ll be time to spend some time alone,” he says. “He told me to go and earn Rs 100,000 in one year, and get a motorbike. There’s one more project that has Hussain excited — a biopic on Rabindranath Tagore, talks for which are still on. I realised that those who were heading the political agitations had very little wisdom about life itself, let alone politics,” he says. However, his father was “allergic to the orthodoxy of religion.” “My father couldn’t believe how his dear friend Mr Biswas — who was a very nice and honest man — wouldn’t go to heaven, but other Muslim acquaintances, who were pretty dishonest, would go to heaven instead!” he says. In 1971, when the Assam agitation started, it was the first time that I was made to feel that I was a Muslim. I went back to Assam, joined the mobile theatre for a year, did some terrible plays and managed to save Rs 160,000. However, the play which was “damn serious” would go on to decide the “grim” roles that casting directors would pitch for him. Eventually, I left home and ended up becoming an Assamese in Delhi. But vocation apart, his life seems like a curious case of reconciling and grappling with conflicting identities. Surrounded by people and family, who associated themselves with one ideology or the other, Hussain was left thinking, briefly, if he should reassess his priorities. Back home, he was quite a celebrity. It was much later, in 1999, that Hussain’s performance as Othello, in the play Othello — A Play in Black and White, directed by Roysten Abel, pitched him in the big league.