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Versatile Adil

Adil Hussain says theatre is his first love but it is cinema that gave full play to his enormous talent in over 40 films, the latest being Love Sonia

The critically acclaimed actor Adil Hussain is in the spotlight again, this time for his brilliant acting in Love Sonia, a film on trafficking of girls. He was earlier in the news for his excellent work in films like Life of Pi, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mukti Bhawan and English Vinglish.

Hussain is a 54-year-old veteran of over 40 films made in as many as eight Indian and foreign languages— English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and French. This is no doubt a rare feat for an Indian actor. He hit the limelight after he acted with veteran late actress Sridevi in English Vinglish, playing her husband.

A theatre enthusiast with some television also under his belt, Hussain says his first love continues to be the stage, which has thrown up many talents in the cine industry all around the world.

Mohammed Adil Hussain was born into a Muslim family in Goalpara, Assam. His ancestors were private tutors to the Mughal emperors. His father was a teacher.


Since his school days, he has been active on stage. He left his home at the age of 18 to study philosophy at B. Borooah College in Guwahati. He acted in college plays and performed as a stand-up comedian for six years before he moved to Delhi to study at theNational School of Drama (NSD).

He also trained at the Drama Studio London on a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship. Due to his brilliant acting skills he got global recognition by appearing in two English films by noted directors: Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi.

Adil made news by receiving a special mention at the 64th National Awards for 2016 for his impressive work in the Hindi film Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation). Earlier, Adil had acted with Randeep Hooda in a film based on the life of Charles Shobhraaj, the notorious bikini-killer now languishing in a prison in Nepal. His earlier hits include Kaminey, Agent Vinod, Lootera, Nanak Shah Fakir, The Violin Player, Dobaara, See Your Evil and Ishqiya. He bagged the best actor’s award at a US festival for his role in Unni Vijayan’s Lessons in Forgetting.

The modest fame he has achieved has not gone to his head. He is very down to earth, lives a very simple life, and travels by motorbike in Delhi.

Adil has been chosen as the Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Norwegian Film What Will People Say by Iram Haq and received the Norwegian equivalent of Academy Awards called Kanon Prisen Award in March 2018. What will People Say also won the Audience Dragon award for Best Nordic Film in Sweden’s prestigious Göteborg Film Festival.

His latest Love Sonia tells the real-life brave story of Sonia (Mrunal Thakur), a young village girl whose life irrevocably changes when she is entrapped into the vicious global sex trade network. The trailer of the film has received 11,700,700 views since its release earlier this week. Excerpts from an interview:

How do you define cinema?
I believe that all art forms play a very important role in the process of evolution of human consciousness, if practiced diligently, honestly and with a pure heart. Cinema is one of the most powerful mediums of art in the history of human civilisation because of the potential intimacy that it can create between the audience and the content. Depriving audiences of meaningful cinema is a disservice to society.

Which directors have you enjoyed working with?
I have been acting in meaningful films directed by Mira Nair, Shubhashish Bhutani and Ang Lee — and enjoyed all of them. Tabrez Noorani is the famous producer of Slumdog Millionaire but this is the first time he is directing, and he made a great film

It seems to have a star-studded cast.
Noorani has taken all famous actors and selected wisely. Richa Chadha, Freida Pinto, Anupam Kher, Rajkumar Rao, Manoj Bajpayee. Sai a well-known television actress of ‘Kum Kum Bhagaya’ plays Anjali. Apart from such a strong star cast, Indian and foreign film-makers have come together for the film under the banner of Zee Studios. It is two hours long.

What kind of role are you playing in Love Sonia?
I am playing Shiva, a fictional character, and worked very hard to give my best. I enjoyed my performance under Noorani, who has made this film based on a personal experience. The film depicts the plight of a 17-year-old teenager named Sonia. It will display an abundance of emotions, both positive and negative.

What is the story line?
Sonia’s life turns upside down after she is trapped in a vicious cycle of the global sex trade. The film touches a sensitive yet most talked about issue in India and all across the globe. The trailer of the film is already out.

What kind of publicity is being done?
I’m very happy to say that makers of Love Sonia decided to release individual posters of all actors, each of whom carries a drama of their own.

Besides acting, how do you manage working for theatre?
The stage continues to be my first love. I have been active in theatre since my school days and left home at the age of 18 to study philosophy at B. Borooah College in Guwahati. There I acted in college plays and performed as a stand-up comedian for six years before moving to Delhi to study at the National School of Drama (NSD). I also studied at the Drama Studio London on a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship.

Would you like to tell us about your favourite actors?
Om Puri was my favourite actor. Then Naseeruddin Shah. Both are theatre actors. Incidentally, Naseeruddin Shah was my teacher and mentor. I am fortunate that I still receive his advice from time to time.

Do you believe in the training imparted by professional film institutes?
Yes, I believe getting professional training is important for going into films. Training helps by teaching you the basics of cinema and acting. You can hone your natural acting skills.

Besides acting and theatre, how do you spend your time?
You know, life is not easy as an actor. There is always pressure and I have to work 24×7 but when my shoot is over and I get some free time, I love to cook for my son and wife (Kristen Jain). Cooking is my favourite hobby!

What was your experience working with late actress Sridevi?
I have been fortunate enough to work with many famous actresses — Tabu and Vidya Balan, for instance — but acting with Sridevi was entirely different. She was always smiling on the sets of English Vinglish and I enjoyed a lot. Her untimely death is a loss for all of us.

Do you enjoy getting awards?
At my age, it’s great to gets awards as they give satisfaction and recognition. It’s a great feeling and after every award I feel good that my work has been in the right direction and has been recognised.