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'Ang Lee would demand a lot but bring out the best'

Last updated on: March 3, 2011 17:43 IST

'Ang Lee would demand a lot but bring out the best'

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Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

The name Adil Hussain may not sound familiar. And you may not remember him from his brief role in Ishqiya, where he played Vidya Balan's husband.

But the actor has a lot going for him, and it's only a matter of time before he becomes a talent to reckon with.

Adil will play a pivotal role in Saif Ali Khan's production Agent Vinod, and in Hollywood director Ang Lee's adaptation of Life Of Pi. He will play Pi's father in the film.

Adil speaks to Sonil Dedhia about his interesting forthcoming projects, and about himself.

How did you manage to bag Life Of Pi?

Casting director Dilip Shankar, who is my guide and dear friend, asked me to read some scenes from the movie. I acted out the scenes; it was like an audition.

After a week, I got a message from New York and they told me to meet Ang Lee.

How did you react to that?

I got very excited. I told myself it didn't matter if I didn't get the film, at least I would get a chance to meet Ang Lee! I have always loved his movies.

How was it working with him?

He makes one feel extremely comfortable. He considers his actors, technicians and all the unit members as equals, and does not dictate terms. He would demand a lot of things but that would bring out the best in us. He gives you complete space as an actor, without letting you feel what a great filmmaker he is.


Image: Adil Hussain
Photographs: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
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'I haven't been to Mumbai just to look out for work'

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Tell us about your character.

I am not allowed to speak much about the character. All I can say is that I play the father of Pi, who is one of the central characters in the movie. People, who have read the book, would already know about the character.

Why have you stayed away from Bollywood? Is that a conscious decision?

Yes and no. I haven't received the kind of offers I would like. Also, I haven't been to Mumbai just to look out for work (Adil is Delhi-based). Whatever work I have done has come to me. I have not acted many films. Life of Pi is my eighth film since the time I graduated from National School of Drama, New Delhi, almost 18 years ago.

Hindi films haven't inspired me so much that I would put my heart and soul into finding work in them.


Image: Adil Hussain

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'At 16, I decided I wanted to be an actor'

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When did the thought of acting come into your mind?

I started performing on stage since I was five years old. I would gather people from my neighbourhood and do some stand-up comedy (laughs). I performed in school as well, and fell in love with acting.

At 16, I decided I wanted to be an actor.

Was there any kind of hesitation from your parents?

It was against my parent's wishes, especially my father's. I guess many people, who want to get into acting, have faced a similar situation. I left home when I was 18 years old. I come from a very small town called Goalpara in Assam.

I came to Guwahati for my graduation, which I never finished. My main intention was to act in movies and do theatre in Guwahati. So I did a lot of street plays, films, documentaries and telly films. I worked as an assistant director and production controller. When I decided to join National School of Drama in 1990, my parents were at least content that I would have a degree. (Laughs)


Image: Adil Hussain
Photographs: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
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'My stint at the NSD has been an eye opener'

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Tell us about your National School of Drama days.

My stint at the NSD has been an eye opener.

Naseeruddin Shah, Barry John and Khalid Tyabji were some of the faculty members when I was a student. They have played an important role in shaping my career. Naseerbhai has been the most passionate teacher who would demand the best out of each student without any kind of mercy (Laughs). We have been in touch since 1993.

These days we hardly see any talent coming out of premier institutes like NSD and FTII.

There are disadvantages due to being funded by the government. I have been involved in NSD for almost 10 years. It is very tricky to say that NSD will produce good actors. It should, but at the same time the participation of students is equally important in order to impart excellent education.

A lot of people go to top colleges to become doctors but not all of them are good doctors. In the same context, when Naseeruddin Shah passed from NSD, he must be having 15 other batch mates. Where are they? Similarly Anupam Kher, Irrfan Khan etc had so many other batch mates. So it is not only the quality of education that has been deteriorated but the intention and perseverance of people joining NSD has reduced over the years.


Image: Adil Hussain
Photographs: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
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'The fun of acting for me is to be able revisit the scenes hundreds of time'

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You mentioned in a news report that the theatre actor in you would die if you start taking up films. Why is that?

In films, one doesn't get a chance to practise the craft of acting, especially with the kind of films being made in India. The timeline that an actor gets to prepare for the role does not allow an actor to explore its potential to the fullest. The fun of acting for me is to be able revisit the scenes hundreds of time and and rediscover how differently I can do it. I doubt any actor would get to practise this.

Would you stick to serious cinema or there is a possibility of doing commercial films?

I would love to but it depends who is directing and the script. If I think it helps me grow as an actor and challenges me, I would take it up. I am doing Agent Vinod, which is a commercial film.


Image: Adil Hussain

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