A chance meeting in Delhi brought Adil Hussain and Bengali filmmaker Anjan Das, who passed away on June 2, together.
Subsequently, Das cast Adil as the lead alongside Soha Ali Khan in the film Iti Srikanto (2004).
It was Adil’s first Bengali film, and he remembers his director as a gentle but determined man, with a great deal of respect for his actors.
The year was probably 2001, and the National Film Festival was being held in New Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium. I was just a humble theatre actor then, and my friend and I didn’t have passes.
As we stood at the registration desk and tried to figure out how to get in, I became aware of someone standing next to me and listening, without really looking at me.
Eventually, this gentleman asked me what I did, and I said I was a theatre actor. He told me he was a Bengali filmmaker, that his name was Anjan Das, and declared he would get in touch should he ever have a role for me.
As an Assamese, I am fairly familiar with Bengali films, music, and literature, and I speak Bengali fairly well. I was quite intrigued by the gentleman’s promise, but didn’t think too much about it.
Then I got a call from my National School of Drama classmate and filmmaker Anindita Sarbadhicari, who said that a producer was looking for someone to play Srikanto in a new film, and the director had recommended me.
You can imagine my surprise when I found that the director was the same gentleman I had met in Delhi.
Imagine him remembering me after all, and actually casting me as a character that had once been played by the great Uttam Kumar!
Plus, this was an iconic work of Bengali literature, so I had to really convince myself to not be afraid. After all, my only screen experience before that had been the obscure art house film based on Shakespeare's Othello.
It helped that Anjanda was the kind of person that he was — genuine, sincere, quietly determined. He was totally passionate about his work, but his passion was never aggressive, always gentle.
I had a great time, because he obviously had tremendous respect for acting and actors, as well as an appreciation for literature, and a willingness to work very hard to adapt it for film. This is not something you see very often in this age of shortcuts and plagiarised scripts.
Once the movie released, however, I was disappointed to find that my voice had been dubbed by someone whose voice was a complete mismatch for me.
Actually, I had been given just a day-and-a-half to finish dubbing, which I said I couldn’t do.
I never did find out who took the call to dub my voice, and I didn’t take up the issue with Anjanda, who I looked up whenever I was in Kolkata. He shared my concern about the dubbing, but we let the matter rest.
His passing is a personal loss for me. He belonged to the school of filmmakers who seek out the subtler aspects of life and relationships.
The vacuum he has left behind will be difficult to fill.
Image: Adil Hussain. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images