Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Actor Adil Hussain talks about nepotism and ‘Boycott Bollywood’ trend (Exclusive Interview)

Naba Kumar Sharma

Robin Bhuyan (Editor-in-Chief)

Adil Hussain, a popular figure in Indian cinema hailing from Assam, is someone who has made his mark in regional, national, and international cinema. With roles in movies like English Vinglish, Life of Pi, Main aur Charles, and Love Sonia, he’s known for his exceptional acting. He is also a recipient of a National Film Award (Special Jury) for his work in Hotel Salvation and Maj Rati Keteki. A graduate of the renowned National School of Drama, Hussain is known as an advocate for meaningful storytelling. In this interview with Enigmatic Horizon, Hussain shares his journey, his thoughts on Assamese cinema, and insights into several other important issues.

Today, you are unquestionably counted among the most established actors hailing from Assam. Firstly, we would like to inquire about how you ventured into the realm of acting.

From my early days, I harboured a deep fondness for acting. Eventually, I learned about the National School of Drama in New Delhi. Following an application to study there, I was able to secure admission. Thus began my journey into the world of acting.

Are there any actors or filmmakers whose work has had a significant influence on your craft?

Absolutely. There are several individuals who have had a profound impact on me. Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Tapan Das, Arun Nath, Balraj Sahani, Amol Palekar, Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray, Naseeruddin Shah, and Om Puri are among those artists or filmmakers whom I hold in very high regard. At the same time, I’ve always been cautious not to inadvertently emulate anyone’s acting style. It’s crucial for an actor to establish their own distinct style, a principle I imbibed during my time at NSD.

Could you share some insights about your experiences while studying at the National School of Drama (NSD)?

NSD stands as an institution where you will find instructors from all corners of the world. The institute integrates elements from regional theatres across the nation as well as European theatre traditions. This is a distinctive aspect of NSD’s approach. However, it is important to remember that gaining admission to NSD doesn’t guarantee success automatically; it demands consistent dedication.

You are the only actor from Assam to have gained such prominence in the Hindi film industry, and you’ve also worked in Hollywood. This achievement certainly fills us with pride. Yet, why do you think actors from Assam have failed to make much of an impact beyond the region?

Ambition plays a pivotal role. Aspiring for national and international recognition requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone, and you need to aim higher as well. Moreover, proper effort is also required. Proficiency in language is also a critical factor, given the diverse dialects across different parts of the country. Even English is spoken differently across regions. If you wish to be accomplished as an actor, these factors must be acknowledged. I’d also like to emphasise that there is a difference between gaining fame and becoming a true actor.

You’ve been a part of numerous Bollywood productions. Is there a particular movie through which you’ve been able to showcase your Assamese identity?

This depends solely on the script. In most instances, I’ve portrayed characters from other regions of India, which doesn’t make it possible for me to showcase my Assamese identity. Nevertheless, there is an unreleased film where I suggested to the filmmaker that I would like to portray an Assamese character from Majuli rather than a character from Kerala. Fortunately, the director embraced my suggestion.

Your career spans Bollywood, Hollywood, and South Indian cinema. Could you highlight the similarities and differences you’ve observed among these diverse film industries?

The way most Indian film industries operate is rather similar. In Assamese cinema, there’s room for refinement and professionalism. An important issue across all film industries in India is the neglect of quality scripts and storylines. However, filmmakers such as Rima Das from Assam made a difference. I feel that directors should prioritise scripts that resonate with the common audience and where they can connect with the main characters. Both Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Jahnu Baruah are good examples of this approach. Presently, Mumbai’s film industry is focused on entertaining mass audiences through “masala” films. However, I have always felt that a film shouldn’t merely appease or entertain the masses; it should possess depth. In terms of work culture and professionalism, South Indian cinema would be in the top position, in my opinion.

In the past few years, Assamese cinema has shown signs of improvement. In your view, what are the challenges that persist within this industry?

The biggest hurdle is the lack of cinema halls in the state. How can an entire industry thrive with just fifty cinema halls in one state? This is why filmmakers usually resort to producing mass-pleasing films instead of ones with depth or substance. I feel that the government should take steps to support our filmmakers. Moreover, cinema that emphasises our societal duties and responsibilities should be promoted, rather than focusing solely on films that are filled with action and violence. Our film choices impact our youth and generations to come. If we create only shallow movies devoid of depth, this trend will ultimately harm us. Cinema serves as a powerful tool to guide humanity in the right direction. Hence, I believe that this tool should be used responsibly.

In your opinion, why is the Assamese film industry not on par with other regional industries in India?

I believe our films should possess greater depth, and our filmmakers should extensively research their subjects before they begin working on their film. There are times when movies are centred around an actor, regardless of their acting skill or proficiency. No matter how much of an interesting story you have, proper knowledge is very important.  

What is your opinion about the “Boycott Bollywood” trend that has emerged in the past few years?

The problem with people is that they focus more on differences than similarities. We are today engaged in disputes over trivial matters such as caste, religion, and language. I feel that some movies in the Hindi film industry reflect this negativity, contributing to the “Boycott” movement. However, we can see that occasionally unimportant motives, frequently with political agendas, are behind such trends. I feel that in many cases, there is a hidden agenda behind the Boycott Campaigns as well, which is a tragedy.

What are your thoughts on nepotism in Bollywood?

Nepotism is prevalent everywhere, and it is not just exclusive to the film industry. Nonetheless, I find it unjustified. All artists deserve equal opportunities. Nepotism should find no place in places such as cinema and politics, due to their substantial impact on society. Plus, when people see nepotism among influential people, they may receive the wrong message.

You were among the cast in the Hollywood film Life of Pi, which won an Oscar and gained significant attention all over the world. Please tell us about your experience with the film.

I consider it a privilege to have been a part of the cast. Apart from Irfan Khan, the film did not feature any major stars, and yet it managed to captivate audiences and become a huge hit. Even in Assam, it had a five-week run in movie theatres. This proves that people do watch films with depth, if you know how to present them. The experience of being part of Life of Pi remains one of the most profound moments in my cinematic journey.

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